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The City of Las Vegas wants to keep people away from food processing plants, so they’ve proposed an ordinance to forbid it.
The city says it’s a safety hazard to have people congregate outside plants. Homeless rights advocates say it’s a thinly veiled attempt to target homeless people who gather around Anderson Dairy in downtown Las Vegas.
Michael Lyle is a reporter for the Nevada Current. He wrote a story about the ordinance. He said under the proposal people would not be allowed to sit, sleep or lay down within 500 feet of a food processing plant.
Lyle said the city's justification is safety.
“Their reasoning is there is going to be a lot of fecal matter, there is going to be a lot of waste tracking into this facility,” he said.
However, officials at the health department told Lyle they weren't concerned about that problem.
Lyle tried several times to speak with the sponsors of the ordinance - Councilmemberes Cedric Crear, Michelle Fiore and Lois Tarkanian - but they wouldn't speak to him. He made a public records request and received emails about the so-called "Anderson Dairy Bill."
Among those emails was a letter from Anderson Dairy outlining why it supports the plan and explains why it wants people pushed back 500 feet.
Lyle can't say whether the city wants the ordinance because it fears the dairy will leave the area but he does know the dairy isn't alone in its concerns.
“I know there is a fear that businesses are unhappy with what’s happening with homelessness in the city,” he said.
However, there is a major problem with the ordinance, according to Tod Story with the ACLU of Southern Nevada.
“Those people have a right to be there," he said. "They have right to congregate. They have a right to be on the sidewalk."
Story explains that people have a constitutional right to be on a public sidewalk and they have a fundamental right to life-sustaining activities.
Lyle said the Anderson Dairy idea is part of a larger effort under discussion in the city known as "sidewalk management." He said he found conversations about the idea in the emails he obtained through the public records request.
“Some of the most disturbing things that I saw in some of the emails were talking about waking people up in the middle of the night to make it as uncomfortable as possible for them,” Lyle said.
The idea is make people so uncomfortable that they will want to go to the city's homeless resource center.
Story argues handing out citations and fines will not help people get out of homelessness or wake them up to some realization they had not had before.
“The way to fix homelessness is to provide these individuals with a job, to provide these individuals with resources, so that they can get out of the cycle that they have gotten in to,” he said.
Lyle said the homeless advocates he spoke with agree. They say Southern Nevada needs to address the lack of affordable housing with long-term strategies rather than a short-term approach.
KNPR News tried several times to contact officials with the city about the issue, but did not get an answer.
Update: The Las Vegas City Council decided not to pursue this ordinance at their Sept. 5 meeting.
Michael Lyle, reporter, Nevada Current; Tod Story, executive director, ACLU of Nevada
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