Urbana sends panhandling rules back again

Urbana sends panhandling rules back again

URBANA — City council members say a rewritten ordinance regulating "aggressive panhandling" needs to be rewritten one more time before they give it their formal endorsement.

They supported the ordinance on Monday night, but fearing it could attach a negative connotation to the practice, council members want to divorce the language outlawing aggressive behavior from the idea of legitimate panhandling.

When the ordinance returns next week for their approval, it will be a proposal regulating "aggressive solicitation" — not panhandling.

The panhandling term "is targeting those that are disadvantaged," said Alderman Robert Lewis, D-Ward 3. "If in any way the city can address this issue by not putting these folks at a disadvantage, then I think that's what the general populace is telling us."

The council has now spent three weeks and about six hours discussing the proposal and hearing from citizens. Originally, the ordinance was broader in scope and would have put limitations on non-aggressive panhandling. After hearing comments from the public, the ordinance was rewritten to address only aggressive behaviors related to panhandling.

The aggressive behaviors — threatening gestures, abusive language, touching or blocking one's path, according to the ordinance — have become a problem particularly in southeast Urbana, city officials have said.

Many residents who oppose the language have been recurring speakers during the previous weeks' public comment periods, and in general, they said on Monday that the revised ordinance was a slight improvement but still not acceptable.

"The issue is that if we single out panhandling, then the law is discriminating against the poor," said former city council member Danielle Chynoweth.

But the goal has never been to criminalize the poor or even target a certain population, said acting city attorney Curt Borman. Rather, it has been to prevent behavior that could become troublesome.

"If we wait for battery to occur, then we fail," Borman said. "And, I think, if we wait for assaults to occur, then we fail."

Lewis said delineating rules about "aggressive solicitation" is broader in scope and its connotation. The aggressive behaviors city officials are trying to regulate would be viewed as just that, "rather than pin it to panhandling," he said.

He asked Borman if it would change the practical use of the law if the word were replaced.

"We can get to where we need to be with the denotation and change the connotation," Borman responded.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 26, 2011 at 1:07 am
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"legitimate panhandling"

Instead of chuckling at this concept, I say let's run with it. Why not license panhandlers? A small fee entitles the licensed to roam (squat) particular turf at predetermined locations and particularized dayparts.

I expect some attention will be paid to the spending of proceeds. e.g. 35% must go toward organic, whole grain foods. Not more than 25% may be spent on hooch.

cats kradle wrote on July 26, 2011 at 9:07 am

Yes, I believe it was Jesus who said, "If you want to be perfect, sell your possessions and give to the poor. But if they're really annoying about it, throw their butts in the slammer."

BleacherBum wrote on July 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm

It has become so clear now why Mayor Depressing wants more police officers for SE Urbana--it's to rid the city of those pesky panhandlers!!! Never mind the drug use, assaults and shootings. Do we need any more reasons for avoiding shopping or spending time in that part of the city, or the city, itself?

UIUCHoopFan wrote on July 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Perhaps those protesting the ordinance should step up and offer the panhandlers jobs. Let them work in their places of business or at least panhandle on the sidewalk in front of their businesses or homes.

Some panhandlers must be getting the message because business was brisk during lunch time today (Tuesday) on campus. I won't continue to frequent campus restaurants for lunch if I have to wade through a passel of panhandlers.

Yaaqov wrote on July 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Acting city attorney Curt Borman was presented with a specific question: aren't state laws sufficient in addressing the aggravation parts of the panhandling? He never answered. The closest he came was: this is a long and complex distinction. If this is such, enforcing the new ordinance will be a difficult distinction for police officers! two years after C-U police officers shot dead a teenager attempting to enter his own domicile, do we want police officers to try enforcing ordinances difficult for them to understand? perhaps shoot panhandling teenagers? I definitely don't.

Also, if this distinction is long and complex, city attorney better come up with clear and helpful language rather than conclude with panhandling is equal to aggression.

charliecrothers wrote on July 28, 2011 at 6:07 am

Listen People,,, I live in the south now,,, of my own choice. "Panhandling" is forbidden here - it is "against the LAW" and for good reason. "Panhandling" is nothing more than begging". Soliciting ALMS,, which is strictly forbidden by law in the city of Alexandria, LA. It only facilitates additional crime in an area. It pays for liquor and drugs - do not kid yourself,,, anyone who facilitates this is guilty of enabling the weak and downtrodden. You people who think that panhandling is an expression of homelessness??? Follow them home. All you will find is a brown paper bag with cheap wine or worse... STOP the insanity... ANYONE who promotes the practice of panhandling is just promoting people's addictions and "crimes" against them too... DID you know there is a subset of riffraff who preys upon "panhandlers" to deprive them of their ill-gotten gains??? If not - YOU have a LOT to learn............................