Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan announced Friday that he vetoed the ordinance that would have banned camping in public parks and other public spaces in the city of Binghamton.
Ordinance 12-9, which passed in the Binghamton City Council by a 6-1 vote on Feb. 8, was a controversial measure that many saw as an attempt to curb future “Occupy” movement protests within city limits.
Ryan stated in a press release that the ordinance needed to be reassessed because it may be in violation of constitutional freedom of speech.
“I believe the Ordinance does not adequately address constitutional issues of freedom of speech,” Ryan wrote in the release. “The Supreme Court requires that any restriction on freedom of speech must take a close look at the issues of providing a reasonable time, place and manner for citizens to have a true opportunity to express their concerns and grievances. I do not believe that this requirement has been met by Ordinance 12-9.”
The ordinance, originally proposed by City Council President Terri Rennia, read, “Camping shall not constitute a normal, ordinary use of city parks, and is specifically prohibited in public spaces.”
The legislation was amended to allow individuals to procure permission to camp in public space from the Parks and Recreation Department if they had the proper liability insurance.
Ryan said that the stipulation in the ordinance “could be construed as being a barrier to allowing someone or some group to express their views if they cannot afford the insurance.”
Ryan told the Press & Sun-Bulletin that he would try to persuade the council not to override his veto at a City Council work session Tuesday. He said he hopes to work with the Council to draft new legislation that would balance freedom of speech with the need to prohibit permanent camping by permitting people to protest in certain areas without allowing overnight camping.
An override vote may be held as early as the next formal City Council meeting on Wednesday, according to the report. Because the legislation was passed on a 6-1 vote, the same margin would be required in order to overturn the mayor’s veto.
Several people who attended the vote two weeks ago expressed concern that the legislation was aimed at the Occupy Binghamton Protest, which had been based out of the grassy knoll on the corner of Court Street and State Street from October 2011 until its eviction on Jan. 13.
David Chirico, a supporter of Occupy Binghamton and a 2001 Binghamton University alumnus, spoke in opposition of the legislation at the Council’s vote.
“Let’s recognize that this is, quite nakedly, a measure aimed at curbing a form of protest that has converted the raising of tents into a mode of political dissent, after a wave of such protest has rapidly spread across the globe,” Chirico said at the time of the vote. “This ordinance should be seen exactly for what it is — an attempt at prior restraint, an unconstitutional attack on First Amendment rights.”
Supporters of the legislation refuted such allegations.
Rennia said that at the time of the vote, the legislation was necessary because the city does not have the resources to accommodate camping in public parks, and was not specifically intended to remove Occupy Binghamton from Liberty Park.
“The notion that this was in retaliation to [the Occupy movement] is patently false,” Rennia said at the time of the vote.
Rennia still asserts that the legislation in no way prohibits people or groups from protesting in city parks or other public spaces and is not directed at Occupy Binghamton, according to a report in the Press & Sun-Bulletin.
Rennia told the Press & Sun that she will vote to override Ryan’s veto and that she believes the other six members of the City Council maintain their initial opinions of the ordinance.