Camping in public places could become illegal (copy)

Dan and Edyie Van Deusen walk to Christ’s Kitchen with their dog, Lucy, in August 2019 in this Advocate file photo. The Van Deusens said they have been chronically homeless for the past three decades.

When it comes time for Victoria City Council to vote again on an ordinance aimed at the homeless, Councilman Mark Loffgren said he hopes the council will be able to separate emotion from the matter at hand.

“It’s a tough subject; it’s a very complicated issue,” he said Friday. “When we discuss issues with this much emotion, we need to try to make decisions logically and without so much emotion involved.”

Tuesday, Victoria City Council is scheduled to take a second vote on an ordinance that would prohibit camping in primarily residential areas and historic districts in the city.

Since it was first introduced in mid- July, the potential ordinance has created heated conversations among many demographics and has left many questioning its effects.

Loffgren and Councilwoman Josephine Soliz were both absent at the early August meeting when the first vote on the ordinance took place. At that meeting, the ordinance passed 4-1, with Mayor Rawley McCoy voting against.

When it came to the council for a second vote on Aug. 20 – Loffgren asked that the second and third votes be separated – the council voted to table the issue until Sept. 17 to allow more time for its members to research and consider it. Councilman Rafael De La Garza proposed delaying the matter after saying it was “really getting confusing.”

De La Garza and Soliz did not return calls for comment Friday.

Council members Andrew Young, Jeff Bauknight and Jan Scott have been unwavering in their support of the ordinance since it was first introduced. Young has said that while the conversation has evolved, he thinks the ordinance it achieves what it was originally intended to do: address the public safety and private property concerns of residents in Victoria.

Loffgren, on the other hand, said Friday he said he thinks the council would benefit from a work session to discuss both the ordinance and homelessness at large.

“We need to talk about this more and work with the homeless coalition to help get people off the street,” he said.

Discussing options for affordable housing, how to care for residents with mental health issues and how to look at the overall situation of homelessness in Victoria would be beneficial he said.

Loffgren said he is unsure of what the result of the vote will be Tuesday and did not share how he plans to vote in advance.

Also on Tuesday, Victoria City Council is scheduled to pass the budget and tax rate for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The proposed budget of $139,621,785 is up about $6.7 million from the city’s current budget of $132,892,379.

The proposed tax rate is 61.15 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The proposed rate is down from the current rate of 62.24 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Few comments have been offered by council members or the public during multiple public hearings about both the proposed budget and tax rate.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, mtheophil@vicad.com or on Twitter

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