Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2010, 10:22 pm

Alderman questions proposed Silvis assembly ordinance

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By Seth Kabala,

SILVIS -- Aldermen meeting as a committee of the whole Tuesday advanced several new ordinances to the March 2 city council agenda.

The ordinances cover lighting standards for commercial property, truancy, public intoxication, public urination and unlawful assemblage. All but an ordinance on unlawful assemblage were approved unanimously.

Ald. Caryn Unsicker, 4th Ward, voted against the unlawful assemblage ordinance, saying she thought it was unconstitutional and unnecessary.

"'It shall be unlawful to collect, gather or be a member of any disorderly crowd …'" Ald. Unsicker quoted from the proposed ordinance. "I just have a problem with that on several levels."

Ald. Unsicker said city police can arrest criminals for various charges already on the books. She also expressed concerns that bystanders could be charged unfairly if swept into the actions of an unlawful crowd.

"I don't think you're giving enough credit to our police department," said Ald. Kitty Lopez, 1st Ward. "I think they have sense enough to know when and when not to act on our ordinances."

City attorney Dean Sutton addressed the proposed ordinance's constitutionality, noting its title, "Unlawful Assemblages."

"There certainly are lawful assemblies," Mr. Sutton said, adding that the Constitution guarantees the right of any citizen to petition the government for redress of grievances. The people targeted by the proposed ordinance, he said, haven't assembled "to protest some action of the city, state, or federal government so much as to just fight with each other."

In other business, aldermen learned the city is facing a general fund shortfall of $234,860 for the fiscal year ending April 30. Aldermen will "probably start bringing out the red pens"at a Feb. 24 budget committee meeting, said Ald. Barb Fox, 2nd Ward.