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?