Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Calgary poised to ban public urination

Calgary's promotional slogan is "Heart of the New West." And to distinguish it from the Old West, a few new rules are about to apply. There'll be no fighting, spitting or urinating in public, unless you want the city to relieve you of hundreds of dollars in fines. And don't even think about defecating, loitering or putting your feet up on public benches.

These proscriptions aimed at "regulating public behavior" were expected to become law in this sprawling Prairie city when the city council adopts a new bylaw Monday.

It is a matter of trying to curtail those who are disrespecting the community, says Bill Bruce, Calgary's director of bylaw services.

"We're not after people who get caught short and have to sneak into the bushes and take care of business," he clarified. "We're after people who are out and out disrespectful in full view of the public doing this kind of stuff."

The British Columbia capital of Victoria announced late last week that it would place two portable, open-air urinals each night in downtown Bastion Square. The experiment, which will run until the new year, is designed to give bar patrons an alternative to relieving themselves in doorways and on street corners.

If successful, Victoria might install permanent pop-up urinals that sink underground in the early morning, to look merely like an oversized manhole cover during the day.

Calgary's new public behavior rules have been criticized as a heavy-handed attempt to make it illegal to be homeless.

Rebecca Sullivan, a communications professor at the University of Calgary, said it typifies the growing pains of a place quickly moving from medium-sized to big city.

"There's a whole host of issues that they've just never had to deal with before, and it's responding to this seismic shift in Calgary's urban culture, but not in a really progressive way," she said. "And rather than respond to the larger problems, they've reacted by just making it illegal to do anything that you would do if you were homeless and stuck in the city."

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

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