Public nuisance abatement code amendments postponed

An ordinance that would amend the Bethel Municipal Code’s section pertaining to public nuisance abatement, penalties and remedies has been postponed per the request of council during their June 13th regular meeting.

Ordinance 17-23 was introduced on May 23, 2017 and the first public hearing was during last Tuesday’s meeting.

This proposed ordinance came about after advocates from the Tundra Women’s Coalition reported that this public nuisance ordinance has been used against victims of domestic violence and is considered an impediment to the victims who did not want to report crimes for fear of losing their housing and that there were some reports of people actually being threatened with eviction for reporting crimes as victims of domestic violence.

The amendments state that the ordinance is not intended to be a tool for landlords and property owners to discriminate against persons or to impede the reporting of crimes, especially those involving domestic violence, and/or the reporting of injuries or illness.

The City recognizes that public nuisance laws can have an unintended consequence of preventing victims of domestic violence from reporting crime, or making people with significant illnesses afraid to call for help too many times for fear of eviction, the amendments continue.

It also states that the City’s public nuisance abatement ordinance is not to prevent the reporting of crimes, suspicious activity, illnesses or other incidences which a resident may experience and that no property owner may threaten to or may take actual action against a tenant simply because they are a victim of a crime, domestic violence, or illness or injury.

The enforcement of this ordinance is vested only with the city manager and not with property owners or landlords, it states.

There was also some confusion regarding the penalties and remedies portion of the proposed ordinance.

After some discussion, a motion was made to postpone the item which passed unanimously.