GJPD Exposed

Panhandling, Parks, and Gentrification: Criminalization of Homelessness in Grand Junction

Posted in City of Grand Junction, Criminalization of Houselessness, GJPD, Grand Junction, Homelessness by GJPD Exposed on January 28, 2010

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In late June of 2009, the City of Grand Junction stepped up its continued criminalization of the homeless by trying to pass two “emergency” ordinances targeted at ‘flyin’ a sign.’ The city tried to sneak these measures through as emergency ordinances; they had to pass unanimously, but could by-pass the normal process. The city released the text of the ordinances the Friday before Country Jam, the area’s largest annual event, and held the hearing the following Monday.

The homeless community, and many from the broader community, came to the City Council meeting to oppose the bill. The crowd was well over one hundred people strong. Even the ACLU sent an opinion letter opposing the ordinances. Both bills were struck down, but were sent back to committee for heavy revision.

The revised bill banned “soliciting in medians,” but also prohibited anyone being in a median for any reason. This measure was eventually put into law on October 2nd. The first arrest was made 22 days later. John Martinez was ‘flyin’ a sign’ at a place know as the ‘wedge,’ at the intersection of First Street and Grand Avenue. The ‘wedge’ is also known as Colorado West Park. But how is a park a median?

Sometime in October, the park sign, picnic bench and trash can were removed and the park became a median. Poof, overnight, gone. The City Manager’s office told TRP that changing a park to a median “would have to be something City Council decided.” Yet, no mention of changing Colorado West Park to a median are in the Council’s minutes.

Granted the park was never much of a park, considering it was jammed in an 5-way intersection. It was probably first listed as a park to create an exaggerated community-image in order to get businesses to relocate to Grand Junction.

When TRP talked to the Parks and Rec department they tossed us around the phone network like a hot potato, but we got some interesting information.

“Council must of designated it as a median,” said Parks and Rec employee Ron Felps. “It’s still part of our regular maintenance.”

“I have very little information,” said Parks and Rec employee Mike Vendegna. He did say that the sign, picnic table and trash can were removed from the park just in the last couple of weeks. “It was never truly a park,” said Vendegna. He directed us to the City Clerk and Recorder’s office for information on who decided to change the park’s designation, but the City Clerk never returned our repeated phone calls.

“There wasn’t any authorization,” said City of Grand Junction Public Relations person Sam Rainguet. Rainguet said that after the City passed the ‘median ordinance’ the city looked at certain parks to see if they were parks or medians. Raignuet said that Colorado West Park was never actually designated as a park, and so no official re-designation was needed. When pressed about who ordered the sign, picnic table and trash can removed, Rainguet said “I don’t know,” and promised to get back with the answer, which she never did.

There are other parks in town that aren’t really parks and are more like a median, but they still remain parks. The main reason is that people don’t panhandle at those parks.

It’s vindictive. The ordinance lost, then they came back with a watered down ordinance that banned people from being in medians, and then they get rid of an entire city park just to keep a few people from ‘flying a sign’ on one corner. This is just a little battle in a war the city has been waging to push the poor and homeless out of sight and out of the city.

From The Red Pill Vol 8 No 1. http://www.gjredpill.org

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  1. […] the cities backdoor shinanigans surround that park should read The Red Pill article on in posted here on […]


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