[Hpn] Proposed Panhandling Law

Bruce D. Burch bruceb@triad.rr.com
Mon, 7 Apr 2003 22:01:29 -0400


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Greensboro, NC

http://www.rhinotimes.com/greensboro/archives/032703/story05.html

      City To Crack Down On Poor Panhandlers=20
      By Tim Wilkins

      Remember that Great Depression tune, "Brother, Can You Spare A =
Dime?"=20

      If Greensboro ends up passing a proposed panhandling ordinance, =
that old standard may have to be renamed "Brother, Can You Spare Some =
Compassion?"=20

      At Tuesday's Greensboro City Council briefing, Assistant City =
Attorney Clyde Albright presented a proposed ordinance that would =
require all panhandlers to be licensed to beg for spare change. If =
passed by the City Council at its Tuesday, April 15 meeting, folks =
unfortunate enough to be reduced to cadging for loose change would be =
required to present a photo identification to the city's tax collection =
office for a permit that would give them the right to beg.=20

      The fact that the overwhelming majority of street people don't =
possess photo identification makes this a de facto ban on all =
panhandling - reminiscent of the Jim Crow-era laws that required =
illiterate blacks to pass literacy tests before they could vote.=20

      The genesis of this ordinance, according to City Manager Ed =
Kitchen, is the volume of complaints filed by downtown merchants =
concerning "aggressive" panhandling.=20

      There was surprisingly little debate over the issue at Tuesday's =
briefing, with Councilmember Don Vaughan being the most outspoken.=20

      "It's such a problem in Greensboro that I want us to get the =
strongest ordinance we can," said Vaughan.=20

      Vaughan must have a personal vendetta against panhandlers, similar =
to the vendetta he formerly displayed against graffiti. After the =
Dumpsters behind the Friendly Avenue office building he owns were =
defaced by trash-can taggers, Vaughan unleashed his full fury in the =
form of a tough anti-graffiti ordinance.=20

      And now, Vaughan is seeking equally tough legislation against =
nuisance panhandlers.=20

      The proposed ordinance imposes so many restrictions, and requires =
panhandlers to jump through so many hoops, that it will certainly mark =
the end of unsanctioned begging in Greensboro. However, the regulations =
that allow begging by firemen, Boy Scouts, Shriners and religious groups =
remain unchanged. And the ordinance wouldn't have any effect on the =
legion of groups that will be begging for funds during the city's =
upcoming budget review process.=20

      Under the permitting process, panhandlers would have to register =
free of charge with the city tax collector, receiving a permit/privilege =
license that would be good for three months. Panhandlers caught begging =
without a license would be charged with a misdemeanor and could be =
levied a $50 fine - a figure which would probably accelerate the guilty =
party's begging as he or she hustles to come up with enough cash to keep =
out of jail.=20

      Some of the provisions in the ordinance include prohibiting the =
panhandler from coming within three feet of the person being solicited, =
unless that person actually gives the panhandler money (perhaps the =
city's parking enforcement officers will be equipped with yardsticks to =
enforce this section of the ordinance); prohibiting the blocking of a =
person's path to solicit funds; forbidding panhandlers from following =
the person being solicited after that person says no; no using profane =
or abusive language, either during the solicitation or following the =
refusal; the banning of soliciting in a group of two or more people; =
prohibition of the panhandler from wearing a military uniform and asking =
for donations because he or she is a war veteran; stating that the =
solicitor is homeless when he or she is not; wearing or displaying an =
indication of physical or mental disability when the solicitor does not =
suffer the disability indicated; stating that the donation is needed to =
meet a need which does not exist; stating that the solicitor is from out =
of town and stranded when that is not true.=20

      According to Albright, the city is within its legal right to do =
this, based on North Carolina General Statute Section 14-4 and North =
Carolina General Statute Section 160A-17.=20

      But both Albright and City Attorney Linda Miles admitted the =
constitutionality of the ordinance might be in question.=20

      "This is a very complicated legal issue, and we don't know where =
the courts will go with it," said Miles.=20

      So, if approved by the City Council, the ordinance could =
eventually be struck down in court and provide a very costly legal bill =
to Greensboro's taxpayers - a lot of quarters.=20

      Albright said only two other North Carolina municipalities have =
panhandling ordinances - Asheville and Burlington.=20
    =20

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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2>Greensboro, NC</FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><A=20
href=3D"http://www.rhinotimes.com/greensboro/archives/032703/story05.html=
">http://www.rhinotimes.com/greensboro/archives/032703/story05.html</A></=
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  <TR>
    <TD>
      <DIV class=3Dstoryheadline align=3Dcenter>City To Crack Down On =
Poor=20
      Panhandlers</DIV></TD></TR>
  <TR>
    <TD>
      <P class=3Dbyline>By Tim Wilkins</P>
      <P class=3Dstorycopy><SPAN class=3Dstorydropcap>R</SPAN><SPAN=20
      class=3Dstoryfirstgraph>emember that Great Depression tune, =
=93Brother, Can=20
      You Spare A Dime?=94</SPAN>=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>If Greensboro ends up passing a proposed =
panhandling=20
      ordinance, that old standard may have to be renamed =93Brother, =
Can You=20
      Spare Some Compassion?=94=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>At Tuesday=92s Greensboro City Council =
briefing,=20
      Assistant City Attorney Clyde Albright presented a proposed =
ordinance that=20
      would require all panhandlers to be licensed to beg for spare =
change. If=20
      passed by the City Council at its Tuesday, April 15 meeting, folks =

      unfortunate enough to be reduced to cadging for loose change would =
be=20
      required to present a photo identification to the city=92s tax =
collection=20
      office for a permit that would give them the right to beg.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>The fact that the overwhelming majority of =
street=20
      people don=92t possess photo identification makes this a de facto =
ban on all=20
      panhandling =96 reminiscent of the Jim Crow-era laws that required =

      illiterate blacks to pass literacy tests before they could vote.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>The genesis of this ordinance, according to =
City=20
      Manager Ed Kitchen, is the volume of complaints filed by downtown=20
      merchants concerning =93aggressive=94 panhandling.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>There was surprisingly little debate over the =
issue at=20
      Tuesday=92s briefing, with Councilmember Don Vaughan being the =
most=20
      outspoken.=20
      <P><SPAN class=3Dstorycopy>=93It=92s such a problem in Greensboro =
that I want us=20
      to get the strongest ordinance we can,=94 said Vaughan.</SPAN>=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>Vaughan must have a personal vendetta against =

      panhandlers, similar to the vendetta he formerly displayed against =

      graffiti. After the Dumpsters behind the Friendly Avenue office =
building=20
      he owns were defaced by trash-can taggers, Vaughan unleashed his =
full fury=20
      in the form of a tough anti-graffiti ordinance.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>And now, Vaughan is seeking equally tough =
legislation=20
      against nuisance panhandlers.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>The proposed ordinance imposes so many =
restrictions,=20
      and requires panhandlers to jump through so many hoops, that it =
will=20
      certainly mark the end of unsanctioned begging in Greensboro. =
However, the=20
      regulations that allow begging by firemen, Boy Scouts, Shriners =
and=20
      religious groups remain unchanged. And the ordinance wouldn=92t =
have any=20
      effect on the legion of groups that will be begging for funds =
during the=20
      city=92s upcoming budget review process.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>Under the permitting process, panhandlers =
would have to=20
      register free of charge with the city tax collector, receiving a=20
      permit/privilege license that would be good for three months. =
Panhandlers=20
      caught begging without a license would be charged with a =
misdemeanor and=20
      could be levied a $50 fine =96 a figure which would probably =
accelerate the=20
      guilty party=92s begging as he or she hustles to come up with =
enough cash to=20
      keep out of jail.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>Some of the provisions in the ordinance =
include=20
      prohibiting the panhandler from coming within three feet of the =
person=20
      being solicited, unless that person actually gives the panhandler =
money=20
      (perhaps the city=92s parking enforcement officers will be =
equipped with=20
      yardsticks to enforce this section of the ordinance); prohibiting =
the=20
      blocking of a person=92s path to solicit funds; forbidding =
panhandlers from=20
      following the person being solicited after that person says no; no =
using=20
      profane or abusive language, either during the solicitation or =
following=20
      the refusal; the banning of soliciting in a group of two or more =
people;=20
      prohibition of the panhandler from wearing a military uniform and =
asking=20
      for donations because he or she is a war veteran; stating that the =

      solicitor is homeless when he or she is not; wearing or displaying =
an=20
      indication of physical or mental disability when the solicitor =
does not=20
      suffer the disability indicated; stating that the donation is =
needed to=20
      meet a need which does not exist; stating that the solicitor is =
from out=20
      of town and stranded when that is not true.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>According to Albright, the city is within its =
legal=20
      right to do this, based on North Carolina General Statute Section =
14-4 and=20
      North Carolina General Statute Section 160A-17.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>But both Albright and City Attorney Linda =
Miles=20
      admitted the constitutionality of the ordinance might be in =
question.=20
      <P><SPAN class=3Dstorycopy>=93This is a very complicated legal =
issue, and we=20
      don=92t know where the courts will go with it,=94 said =
Miles.</SPAN>=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>So, if approved by the City Council, the =
ordinance=20
      could eventually be struck down in court and provide a very costly =
legal=20
      bill to Greensboro=92s taxpayers =96 a lot of quarters.=20
      <P class=3Dstorycopy>Albright said only two other North Carolina=20
      municipalities have panhandling ordinances =96 Asheville and =
Burlington.=20
    </P></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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