Grand Rapids city code to allow people to annoy each other

Katie Callahan Contributor
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In Grand Rapids, feel free to annoy people. At least, that’s what the recent Grand Rapids City Commission decided after reviewing a 38-year-old section of city code, which reads, “no person shall willfully annoy another person,” MLive reports.

The city attorney, Catherine Mish, recommended the change in the language of the code and said that the “variety of interpretations” make it difficult to uphold.

“It’s unconstitutional in terms of being vague,” Mish said to MLive. “It’s simply unenforceable.”

In the City of Grand Rapids Agenda Action request submitted to the city manager, Gregory A. Sundstrom on Feb. 18 by Mish, she said that the city code is “overbroad and impinges upon First Amendment freedoms.”

“In order to provide fair notice, a law must give a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited,” the document stated.“The law cannot use terms that require persons of ordinary intelligence to guess its meaning and differ about its application.”

The commission will decide Tuesday March 11 on changing the language of the code, but  it would still consider assault or battery, molestation, reckless endangerment of life, health or well-being, or purposeful obstruction on a sidewalk or in a public place illegal.

Mish has been recommending other changes in her review of the city’s supposedly outdated codes. Mish would change a rule that drivers can continue driving when police try to pull them over because disobedience of an officer doesn’t include motor vehicles, and the driver is not trying to flee in order to require the stopping of the vehicle.

Mish also suggests that the city should deal with people not paying their food or drink tabs at restaurants by having a more specific code to prosecute this case beyond the current prohibition disallowing people to take or remove property from other owners.

MLive reports that “a 1960s-era ordinance that bans people from carrying guns in the city has caused demonstrations from gun advocates over the past 15 months,” but Mish has not proposed a change to this ordinance.

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Katie Callahan