Thursday, September 30, 2004

No Panhandling Allowed

Thanks Phil for inviting me to participate in "PolySigh". I'm very eager to discuss politics from the great 'ol political machine town of Chicago. We have lots happening here: the Obama vs. Keyes race (last I heard, Obama was up by 40+ points); the Wal-Mart debate (the City Council is considering two "Big-Box Living Wage Ordinances", the first of their kind in the nation); and the issue of "pushy panhandlers" is high on the city's agenda. Just when Garrison Keillor convinced you that Midwesterners were really nice people, we've decided we will punish those who are poor and homeless.

Just yesterday, the Council passed an ordinance--with no debate--aimed at "aggressive panhandlers". The law prohibits panhandling in the following locations: gas stations, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and within 10 feet of bus stops, ATMs, currency exchanges and banks. What's left? They forgot to add "public restrooms". Is there really any public space left available to marginalized people in the downtown area? In addition, those asking for money can't be "rude", use profanity, touch anyone, and no two (or more) panhandlers can ask for cash jointly. Aside from my obvious disagreement, I have two questions: 1) How will this be enforced? 2) Is this ordinance constitutional?

I'm baffled by the logic behind enforcing this law. It's a $50 fine for the 1st two offensives, $100 for each additional. Hmmm...clearly this can't be one of the Mayor's latest plots to raise tax revenues. Panhandlers on the best of days probably get no more than $20. I don't really seeing the "threat of fines" providing "incentives" for no longer asking for money. But more seriously, is this constitutional? The city already lost a previous lawsuit against a 1991 law banning all panhandling. I suspect this one won't pass legal muster either.
Didn't New York pass a similar ban under Giuliani?


Thomas said...

Is it constitutional? The decisions of the Supreme Court would suggest that it is. See, in particular, Hill v. Colorado (2000).

Looks like a regulation of the time, place and manner of "panhandling" speech, not a prohibition of the speech; as the Court said in Hill, "it simply establishes a minor place restriction on an extremely broad category of communications with unwilling listeners."

The purpose is to protect the unwilling listener, as the Court put it, from disturbance. And the fine need not be collected for the law to be enforced. As it is now, these tactics are legal and thus there's little the police can do to those who engage in them. With the law, that will change.

Anonymous said...

I wish my current location of Newport News, VA would do something like this. Where I live, it's like I can hardly go the gas station, get groceries, and such without some filthy creature with his/her hand out. It's really irritatiing to get out of you car in a supermarket parking lot, and some drunk greet you with "got some change?". I got enough trouble taking care of myself. I work fulltime in the day, have night classes, and even a a second job part time. One time shopping in Dollar Tree, I turned around and an ugly troll was asking me for change. This is something I expected out on the curb, not inside. Dammit, I'm not rich! I worked long and hard for my money, and it's all mine. It's not for some low life to get a 40oz. Earlier this year, there were people coming in my aprtment complex panhandling. Once I was walking out to get my mail, and a guy on his bike was saying something. At first I thought he was a neighbor from another building. THen he gave me his "sad story". I didn't give him any money, and I reported him to the rental office right away. A begging crackhead is not what I want to go home to. Thank the good Lord for mace.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that the good Lord was pleased with everything that you said or that there was anything Godly in your statement at all. If anything the Lord is probably more offended with your comments, thoughts, inner-heart and the manner in which you decided to include God in the situations you described by saying thank the good Lord for mase. If anything, perhaps the good Lord was testing your compassion and the fruits of your spirit in each of those situations you outlined to see exactly how much you really thanked the good Lord on a regular basis and what it meant to know the true love of God in your life and to love others unconditionally as your brothers and sisters. You probably keep ending up in one situation with homeless persons after another because your heart is hardened.