Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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April 18, 2012

City Council kills First Fridays curfew ordinance

GOSHEN — The City Council defeated a proposed curfew for First Fridays and once again postponed debate on a controversial sidewalk ordinance for another month.

The two votes came after another barrage of opposition to the two-pronged approach aimed at stifling youth-related problems at the monthly downtown festival.

For more than an hour, council members debated the sidewalk ordinance that would prohibit people from blocking pedestrian traffic — a problem resulting from the continued growth of the popular festival. Council members voted 5-2 to delay a vote in hopes of seeing whether public awareness and the use of increased presence of police and the use of ambassadors will make an impact at next month’s festival.

Support for the curfew aimed at youth 14 and younger in the downtown business district, though, seemed to evaporate significantly. The proposal was unanimously defeated as numerous people agreed with Goshen Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Daugherty who said the curfew, “sends the wrong message.”

Numerous people said they believed enforcing the curfew in a limited area and identifying whether the youths were subject to the ordinance would be difficult.

Others complained that both ordinances were an affront to their civil liberties.

Officials reported fewer problems during the most recent festival on April 6 when 14 city police officers along with 6 deputies from the Elkhart County Sheriff’s department patrolled the festival. Officers were also joined by nearly three dozen community ambassadors — which is a new program created in hopes of gaining more cooperation from festivalgoers.

Police issued 24 warnings to youth on April 6 for jay walking and blocking the sidewalk, the later of which was based on a state law.

Councilman Jeremy Stutsman proposed passing an amended version of the sidewalk ordinance that would expire later this year and force council members to assess the success of the ordinance. He also expressed concern that officers could cite somebody under the existing state law, which carries a tougher penalty and would require juveniles and parents to appear in juvenile court.

Gina Leichty, director of First Fridays and Downtown Goshen Inc., which proposed both ordinances, continued to support both.

Aside from youths clogging sidewalks and store fronts, merchants have also reported an uptick in shoplifting and vandalism.

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