EDITORíS DESK: Panhandling: Time for a united front
Listening at the community meeting on the no-panhandling ordinance Sept. 5, it was impossible not to hear the frustration in many of the comments. A lot of citizens along the Colorado Avenue corridor have had to deal with these yahoos for years now. And some at the meeting took it out on the city attorney, but no
criticism here. Having recommended that City Council only implement the law downtown, City Attorney Chris Melcher had to have guessed he would be facing a cynical audience on the Westside, so kudos to him for showing up and taking it straight on.
For the record, the city attorney's proposed law would not even use the word "panhandler." In order to make a freedom-of-speech lawsuit less likely, Melcher wants language that would prevent anybody from soliciting anything. Ergo, a Girl Scout selling cookies would be denied just as readily as an alcoholic beggar with a cardboard sign.
Personally, I think there are better options. Why not have a beggar permit, requiring them to provide a photo ID, fill out forms and pay taxes on their earnings? After all, they are trying to run a sort of business, right? And the government lays such requirements every day on us folks whose money the bums would like to have. That way, all the cops would have to do, upon seeing a slacker at a street corner, would be to ask for his/her permit. How many do you suppose would actually go to the trouble of getting one? Not many, I'd wager. Too much like work.
What was interesting at the meeting was how many people were uninterested in the actual details of the ordinance. They just seemed to want, as one meeting attendee put it, "a better neighborhood." And they definitely didn't like it that the downtown seems to be getting special favors. Come on, city, we need to be working together on this. Not just tourism, but community spirit is at stake. You/we need to do better.