[Hpn] "Cities adopt tough stance against beggars"

unclescam unclescam@buskers.org
Thu, 23 Jun 2005 23:06:50 -0400 (EDT)


to the panhandlers makin 150-300 a day, pay the taxes.

On 6/23/2005, "William Charles Tinker" <wtinker@metrocast.net> wrote:

>Click here to read this story online:
>http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0623/p02s01-ussc.html
>
> Headline:  Cities adopt tough stance against beggars
>
>Byline:  Patrik Jonsson Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
>
>Date: 06/23/2005
>
> (RALEIGH, N.C.)As one of 85 licensed panhandlers in Raleigh, Leon Black is
>supposed to
> stay off the streets at night and keep mum as he rattles his cup.
>
> But following that rule would keep him away from his best market -
> late-night club-hoppers. "Got some change?" he asks with a hangdog face
> from the sidewalk, courteously breaking the rules.
>
> It's the plight of the panhandler: silenced, sidelined, and maligned.
> But with up to $150 a day at stake, Mr. Black, who spends $90 a week
> for a bed in a flophouse, says it's a job like any other.
>
> Thirteen years after the courts struck down New York's draconian
> antipanhandling laws, the age-old issue of how to deal with the lowest
> rungs of the American economy is once again at the top of municipal
> agendas as lawmakers focus anew on freeloaders, flimflam men, and
> "unsolicited service providers," who pretend to be tour guides. To get
> around First Amendment protections, cities across the country are
> prosecuting new "aggressive panhandling" rules that focus on public
> safety and the greater economic good, all in order to deal with the No.
> 1 visitor complaint to American urban areas: too many people scrounging
> for change.
>
> But is it really legal for municipalities to corner the market and
> silence street-savvy entrepreneurs who exhibit tenacious tactics
> similar to those that Americans cherish in their corporate boardrooms?
>
>"In general, public parks, sidewalks, and streets are places where
> First Amendment rights are still zealously protected in this country,"
> says Ed Johnson, a lawyer for the Oregon Law Center in Portland, which
> represents the homeless. "The government can make reasonable
> restrictions on those rights as long as there's some kind of compelling
> government interest - but that's where the issue gets blurry."
>
> So far, cities have managed to avoid First Amendment challenges by
> citing broader societal damage from panhandlers - including safety
> concerns. Over concerns of the impact on the local economy, Fort
> Lauderdale, Fla., made its five-mile strip of beach off-limits to
> panhandlers. Orlando, Fla., has swept out beggars from certain parts of
> town, instead setting aside "blue box" zones where soliciting is
> allowed. As a result, the number of panhandlers has dropped to almost
> zero around tourist attractions.
>
> Raleigh and Greensboro, N.C., license their beggars, but admit it's
> mainly a means to control aggressive behavior. Minneapolis, Portland,
> Ore., Nashville, Tenn., and Evanston, Ill., are other cities in the
> process of cracking down on begging that bothers tourists.
>
> For many cities, panhandling is more than a grubstake: Too many people
> asking for a few bucks could cost the city thousands in lost in
> revenue. For instance, tourism officials in Atlanta claim that the city
> this year lost three conventions because of its gung-ho army of
> panhandlers who cluster downtown. At the same time, panhandlers are
> increasingly seen as successful opportunists: One beggar in Atlanta
> boasted on TV last week that he made $300 a day working in the shadows
> of the CNN Center.
>
> On Monday, the issue intensified when Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin
> proposed one of the toughest new anti-panhandling efforts in the
> country. Coinciding with the opening of a new 24/7 city homeless
> center, the proposed rules would create a beggar-free "tourist
> triangle" in the busiest corner of the city. In other areas,
> panhandlers would be able to sit with a cup - but could not make any
> aggressive gestures that could scare tourists, such as following,
> gesturing, or even talking.
>
> The new law, which will be discussed further before a final vote, would
> also outlaw outright street cons. In fact, the man outside Atlanta's
> City Hall who pushes his wheelchair home at the end of his shift could
> find himself being arrested for impersonating a handicapped person.
>
> Despite continued criticism and possible court challenges, business
> advocates say these new ordinances are a breakthrough compromise
> between two compelling interests: the sanctity of public streets and
> commercial interests that keep the local economy afloat.
>
> "We think this is huge," says Dave Wardell, vice president of public
> safety at Central Atlanta Progress, a downtown business consortium.
> "There are still particular spots where you can actually beg and
> solicit and they're reasonably placed to ... satisfy First Amendment
> concerns."
>
>Critics say that the new rules are simply a more nuanced way for
> powerful business interests to sweep the poor out of sight. Others say
> the fight against aggressive panhandling has racial overtones since
> most panhandlers are African-American.
>
>These sensitivities are now being played out in the courts. A New York
> judge earlier this month threw out seven recent panhandling convictions
> against Bronx panhandler Eddie Wise and more than a hundred others,
> because the charges were brought under a law that was found
> unconstitutional in 1992.
>
> (c) Copyright 2005 The Christian Science Monitor.  All rights reserved.
>
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