Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here: http://secondward.blogspot.com/2006/05/disclaimer.html#links

Friday, June 15, 2007

ACLU on the Aggressive Solicitation ordinance

The American Civil Liberties Union has written a lengthy opinion on the constitutionality of the proposed Remington/Ostrow Aggressive Solicitation ordinance that passed today. Their basic interpretation echoes my own: the constitutionality of this amendment is highly questionable. They conclude, and I agree, that Remington and Ostrow, along with the Council majority, have now passed an ordinance that will unfortunately be challenged in court, and there is a good chance that we will lose. This has been reaffirmed by some of our City Attorney's own opinion that certain provisions of the Remington/Ostrow amendment is a "roll of the dice."



Here's the whole opinion:


I. INTRODUCTION
All individuals in the City of Minneapolis, including people who are homeless or appear to be homeless, have a Constitutional right to be in public places for an unlimited amount of time, so long as they are not obstructing pedestrian or vehicular traffic, breaching the peace, or otherwise violating any law or applicable regulations. Courts around the country have repeatedly recognized that solicitation is speech fully protected by the First Amendment. See, e.g., Loper v. New York City Police Dep’t, 999 F.2d 699 (2nd Cir. 1993); Benefit v. Cambridge, 424 Mass. 918 (1997); Ledford v. State, 652 So. 2d 1254 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1995). Courts have also recognized that attempts to restrict solicitation are content-based restrictions on speech that violate the First Amendment. See Loper, 999 F.2d at 705; Benefit, 424 Mass. at 187-189; see also, H. Hershkoff & A. Cohen, Begging to Differ: The First Amendment Right to Beg, 104 Harv. L. Rev. 896 (1994) (arguing that solicitation is protected by the First Amendment). As much as some might wish homeless persons to be seen and not heard, fortunately the Constitution does not permit the government to stifle speech so central to a person’s struggle to survive.



The proposed amendments constitute increased regulation of streets, sidewalks and parks, which are the quintessential public fora. These are crucial places for the free exchange of ideas, a treasured freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment. US v. Grace, 461 U.S. 171, 177 (1983). Though the rights to use these spaces can be limited, the restrictions must be content neutral time, place and manner restrictions that are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and they must leave open ample alternative channels of communication. Restrictions that are content-based are subjected to strict scrutiny and must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. We believe that the proposed amendments fail both of these tests.


II. THE RESTRICTIONS ARE IMPERMISSIBLY CONTENT-BASED
It is important to understand this ordinance is a content-based restriction on speech. Under the ordinance, expressive conduct is criminalized based on the content of the speech. An ordinance that distinguishes between types of solicitation has been deemed content-based because, to determine whether the conduct is criminal, the words uttered must be examined. Burson v. Freeman, 504 U.S. 191 (1992). This ordinance, though prohibiting solicitation of donations, does not prohibit the solicitation of signatures or votes. As a result, the content of the speech has to be examined in order to determine whether it was a solicitation for money or something else. Gresham v. Peterson, 225 F.3d 899, 905 (7th Cir. 2000). S.O.C., Inc. v. County of Clark, 152 F.3d 1136 (9th Cir. 1998).



Content-based restrictions are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires a compelling governmental interest and narrow tailoring of the regulation. Perry Educ. Ass’n. v. Perry Local Educators Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983). Even if the city could show that it has a compelling interest in preventing “aggressive solicitation”; it is unlikely that there is an equally compelling interest in protecting individuals from unwanted “non-aggressive” requests that make them feel uncomfortable.


III. THE RESTRICTIONS ARE UNCONSTIONALLY OVERBROAD
The proposed amendments will carve out wide areas across the city where individuals cannot ask for money, making it nearly impossible for the poor to present their issues to the rest of society. There are at least 99 schools and 182 parks spread across the city of Minneapolis, which will now also cast out the poorest among us. A cursory look at the weather in wintertime also demonstrates the degree to which the poor are being silenced, as there are only about 8 hours of daylight for most of the month of December. After subtracting the half hour at dawn and half hour at dusk, it becomes evident that speech is being severely temporally restricted. This ordinance is aimed at silencing the homeless in their struggle to survive and is a mean-spirited attack on the city’s most vulnerable citizens.


This ordinance is additionally overbroad with respect to the groups of people regulated. The broad definition of solicitation in the ordinance sweeps up all charitable causes, whether individual beggars or organized charities. The First Amendment protects the right of an individual to solicit charitable contributions for personal support, as has been recognized by courts around the country. Loper v. New York City Police Dep’t, 999 F.2d 699 (2nd Cir. 1993); Benefit v. Cambridge, 424 Mass. 918 (1997); Ledford v. State, 652 So. 2d 1254 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1995). Indeed, the Supreme Court has expressly recognized that the solicitation of charitable contributions encompasses a number of speech interests that merit first amendment protection, including the sharing of information and communication of different viewpoints on social issues. Village of Schaumburg v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 444 U.S. 620, 100 S.Ct. 826 (1980). Several courts have held that the interests involved in organized charity and those involved in solicitation for oneself are not fundamentally different. Gresham v. Peterson, 225 F.3d 899 (7th Cir. 2000); Loper v. New York City Police Dep’t, 999 F.2d 699 (2nd Cir. 1993); Smith v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 177 F.3d 954, 956 (1999).


In Minnesota v. McDonald (2004), a Hennepin County District Court also found that there was no meaningful difference between individual solicitation and another person taking up the cause of the poor. In that case, a prior iteration of Minneapolis City Ordinance 385.60 was found unconstitutionally broad because the free speech interests at issue outweighed the state’s interests in silencing the homeless. There has been recognition at all levels, including here in Hennepin County, that there is no distinction between solicitations for organized charity and solicitations to support oneself. It is well established that the first amendment encompasses a right to solicit funds for either of these charitable purposes, and this ordinance clearly hampers the exercise of that right.


IV. THE RESTRICTIONS DO NOT LEAVE AMPLE ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF
COMMUNICATION
When creating a restriction upon the public forum, policymakers must protect alternative channels for communication. Perry Educ. Ass’n. v. Perry Local Educators Ass’n, 460 U.S. 37, 45 (1983). When reading the list of places where solicitation, even if peaceful, will be prohibited at all hours of the day, it is difficult to imagine an space downtown that will not be affected. A walk down Hennepin Avenue or Nicollet Mall, when considering the financial institutions, sidewalk cafés, and public entertainment venues, would demonstrate that there is no longer a place for the homeless in downtown Minneapolis. Under this amended ordinance, the very center of our community will exclude the poor and prevent them from communicating their needs to the general population.


V. THE RESTRICTIONS ARE IMPERMISSIBLY VAGUE AND WILL LEAD TO
ARBITRARY AND DISCRIMINATORY ENFORCEMENT
The breadth of areas that would be off limits under the proposed amendments will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for those affected by this law to know if their conduct fits within the range of that which is prohibited. This is particularly true of situations in which there is an ATM inside an office building, because the ordinance is not only unclear about whether the 80 feet would extend outside, but also because a solicitor may be unaware of the presence of such a financial institution. Even the limited public spaces left untouched by the proposed regulation are unlikely to be known to the would-be solicitor because the rules are so complicated. Those complicated rules will also make it difficult for police to enforce and renders the ordinance susceptible to arbitrary enforcement decisions.



It appears that the ordinance may already be applied arbitrarily. A Star Tribune article from May, 2007 recounts the actions of a police officer who pulled up to two people holding signs that asked for money: "A police car pulled up. A brief staredown ensued between the panhandlers and [the]officer… He was about to ask them to scoot for the second time that day." (Star Tribune, May 27, 2007)


Although holding signs and engaging in nonverbal solicitation is specifically excepted from regulation under the ordinance, it is clear that this officer intended to enforce the ordinance against them again had they not left the area on their own.


This regulation applies to any and all requests for money by any person in large portions of the city and during large parts of the day. Because the ordinance and the proposed amendments are intended only to address individual beggars, this leaves it wide open to the possibility of discriminatory enforcement. Proponents might assure us that an elderly grandmother who locks her keys and purse in her car after dark and asks a stranger for money to use a payphone will not be arrested, or that the prohibition against two or more people soliciting together will not be applied to a mother who is accompanied by her young child. But that is a clear admission that the ordinance is intended to be selectively enforced against individuals who are perceived by police and the public to be a nuisance or a threat. Those individuals are more likely to be poor, homeless and minorities. Given that there are indications that the ordinance is already being misapplied to non-verbal solicitation, it is very possible that the amendments will also be misapplied.


VI. CONCLUSION
Although courts have allowed cities to regulate speech in the form of solicitation, the proposed
restrictions go much further than what is constitutionally permissible. These content-based restrictions are not sufficiently narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. Because the restrictions are so broad, they would likely not pass constitutional muster. The restrictions are complex and confusing, they do not provide individuals with sufficient notice that they are violating the ordinance, and they are likely to lead to arbitrary enforcement decisions by police. Finally, the disconnect between the proposed ordinance on its face and the City Council’s intent will inevitably lead to unconstitutional discriminatory application.

Nick Coleman on Aggressive Solicitation

Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman has also now weighed in on the Remington/Ostrow Aggressive Solicitation amendment.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

National Night Out potluck 6-18

From the notice for an upcoming National Night Out event:


Get ready and get inspired!!


Longfellow and Seward National Night Out Information and ideas Neighborhood BBQ and Potluck


Monday, June 18, 6:00 - 8:00 pm at Brackett Park, 2728 39th Ave S


Have you wanted to have a National Night Out block party but didn't know where to start? Have you had one but need some new ideas for activities? Are you a successful block club that wants to share your experiences with other residents and block clubs? Come join your neighbors to learn more about National Night Out and get ideas for your party! Come eat and visit with your neighbors. We will be grilling outside at Brackett Park. Bring lawn chairs. Meat and refreshments will be provided. Bring your favorite dish to share! In case of rain, we will gather in the large room at the Brackett Park building. Everyone is welcome!


For more information, contact:



Sponsored by Community Crime Prevention/SAFE, Longfellow Community Council,and Seward Neighborhood Group.

Kersten on Aggressive Solicitation

Conservative Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten agrees with Council Members Remington and Ostrow that "[t]he future of downtown is threatened by beggars."

She quotes Sam Grabarski, president of the Downtown Council, describing an incident where a panhandler grabbed him. Like almost every incident that has been described by supporters of the Remington/Ostrow amendment, this is already against the law. He goes on to describe panhandlers trying to "extort money from waitresses at outdoor cafes by threatening to harass customers if they aren't paid off" and following "families down the street and curse them unless they give." Again, these behaviors are already against the law.

True to form, Kersten's article confuses the issue rather than helping educate readers. Unfortunately, so does the proposed ordinance that she is supporting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

City Pages on Aggressive Solicitation

The City Pages blotter has an interesting article today on the public hearing on Aggressive Solicitation last week. I hope we'll see a longer print article on this topic in an upcoming issue, a good follow-up to their recent cover story on "The Neighbors You Don't Know."

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Public Meeting on RNC "Free Speech" Principles

The "Free Speech Work Group" formed to help preserve civil rights and community life during the 2008 Republican convention has drafted a set of Operating Principles. Residents of Minneapolis and the surrounding area are being invited to provide feedback and make recommendations on the principles.

A public meeting will be held on June 26 from 4:30–6:30 PM in the Council Chambers at Minneapolis City Hall. Written comments should be sent to the Office of the City Clerk at: Cityclerk@ci.minneapoolis.mn.us or to:

City Clerk
350 S. 5th Street, Room 304,
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415

Here are the Free Speech Work Group Draft Operating Principles :

"The City of Minneapolis Free Speech Work Group is committed to insuring that all parties-delegates, party officials, visitors, demonstrators, the media and residents who wish to express their first amendment rights through free speech, association and petition during the conduct of the 2008 Republican National Convention - will be treated with dignity and respect.

(a) Security efforts should not result in overly broad restrictions or access to demonstrations and demonstrators by law enforcement personnel.

The Work Group expects that any security plan will be designed to provide a safe environment for all participants during the week-long event. This includes an opportunity for lawful demonstrations, the exercise of free speech and association rights and minimal disruption by unnecessary street closings or access restrictions to people who live and work in the City.

(a) The City of Minneapolis permitting process will be a timely, coordinated and accessible process for demonstrations, parades, and street closures during the RNC convention developed in partnership with the cities of St. Paul and Bloomington;
(b) Demonstrators will be notified of the permit requirements in a timely fashion to allow demonstrators to plan and brief participants on their rights;
(c) The permitting process will explore and incorporate the best methods for accommodating last minute applications and surreptitious demonstrations.

The Work Group will advocate for all security plans to focus on identified security threats or risk. These plans should ensure that any time/place/manner restrictions are used only as absolutely needed to protect legitimate public safety purposes. These plans should not be used to unreasonably restrict the rights of residents, delegates and demonstrators without specific information or reason to believe that the group is linked to a crime that was or is about to be committed.


Unacceptable restrictions include:

(a) The lengthy and unlawful detention, searching and fingerprinting of demonstrators accused of minor offenses;
(b) The use of pens by law enforcement personnel to detain demonstrators and others in proximity to demonstrators who become part of mass arrest;
(c) Police monitoring and surveillance of political groups and activist who are law abiding citizens engaging in legally protected activities.

The Work Group views any and all acts of violence and unlawful behavior by anyone participating in events during the period of the Republican National Convention as unacceptable."

I encourage people to attend the meeting as well as forward written comments to me and to the City Clerk. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the meeting. Robin will be there in my place and I will be keeping a close eye on what occurs.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bike Walk Twin Cities

Transit for Livable Communities (TLC) has approved several bicycle infrastructure projects in the Second Ward as part of the Bike/Walk Twin Cities grants program - part of the larger Bike/Walk effort nationwide, funded by Congressman Jim Oberstar. For more information on the larger program, please go here.


Here is the list of exciting projects in Ward 2:


- Riverside Avenue will be striped for bike lanes between Franklin Ave E and Cedar. Riverside will be converted from four lanes to three, with the center lane being a "turning" lane. Bike lanes will continue down 4th St S and 15th Ave S to the Cedar Riverside LRT station.


- Bike lanes will go in on Franklin Ave E, over the Franklin Ave bridge and west to the intersection with Riverside. Franklin will be converted from four lanes to three.


- Bike lanes will be added to 19th Ave S, all the way from Riverside across the 10th/19th bridge into Marcy Holmes.


- The University of Minnesota Trail will be built in the rail corridor from Bridge #9 across into Dinkytown.


- Shared bike lanes will go in along Como Ave SE, and the Rollins Ave bike lane will be connected to 15th Ave SE.


- Bike lanes will be added to 27th Ave SE, from University to the corner of 27th, Franklin Ave SE and E River Pkwy.


- New bike lanes will go in along Minnehaha Ave, from 31st St E all the way to 20th Ave S. The existing lanes on 20th Ave S will be brought up to current standards and connected all the way from Minnehaha to Riverside.


For a map of these, and all the other funded projects, please go here.


I'm very pleased with the bicycle infrastructure that will be going into the Second Ward. It is clear that residents want these amenities and will use them. The projects above are crucial steps towards building a truly comprehensive bicycle grid in Minneapolis, which I believe will have a major impact on bicycling mode share.


I think that this does represent a significant shift in how we think about transit in Minneapolis and throughout the country and shows that people really are making connections about how important it is to focus on, and invest in, making walking and biking more appealing and possible and ways to get around in Minneapolis.


Thanks to everyone at transit for Livable Communities as well as our own Public Works staff, especially Don Pflaum and Shaun Murphy, who put in long hours writing the grant proposals for these projects. Thanks also to Congressman Oberstar who helped secure the federal the funding that has made this possible.


I want this to be a beginning and plan to keep pushing to improve our system of bike and pedestrian transit in the City and the region. If we consider what has been done in some areas of the world we still have a long way to go before we have the kind of bicycling-friendly walkable City so many of us hope for.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Unpaid Judgment ordinance

At the next Council meeting on June 15, I will be introducing an ordinance making it possible for the City to revoke or not renew a rental license for any landlord who has unpaid legal judgments against him/her.

This came up after an article published by the Minnesota Daily discussing tenants issues with a local landlord who has come up with a novel way of dealing with judgments against him: just not paying them.

I asked City staff to look into whether there is something the City can do about this.

Interestingly, the City has the authority with all of the other licenses we give (restaurants, etc) to revoke or not renew a license if the owner has an unpaid judgment against him/her. This ordinance will therefore bring our regulation of landlords up to par with our regulation of other sorts of businesses.

Once this is passed, a landlord will have two choices if they want to continue to do business in Minneapolis: pay a legal judgment or appeal it.

Lead Safe Work Practices ordinance

On June 15, I will be introducing an new ordinance that if passed, will require that anyone repairing interior chipped or peeling paint on a pre-1978 housing unit, as required by a City violation order, must have attended a Lead Safe Work Practices training. I don't anticipate any trouble getting the seven votes need for what we call "subject introduction." It already has the cupport of the City/County Lead Task Force, which I co-chair with commissioner Gail Dorfman.


When it is introduced it will be referred to committee for review and a public hearing. This particular ordinance will likley go to both the Health Energy, Environment Committee as well as the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee for review, but only one will hold the hearing.


This is a small, but positive, step towards reducing and, in time, eliminating lead poisoning among children. If this is successful in terms of passage and then implementation I would also like to see it expanded in the future to exterior paint violations as well.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Aggressive Solicitation Part 2

This post will deal with the second main reason I will find it difficult to support Council Member Ostrow's and Council Member Remington's proposed Aggressive Solicitation amendments: my belief that criminalizing homelessness and poverty does not work. For more on my first reason, that the existing Aggressive Solicitation ordinance is more than sufficient to deal with people who are behaving badly, please see Part 1, below.


I agree wholeheartedly with the comments of Cathy ten Broeke, the Homelessness Coordinator for Minneapolis and Hennepin County, in the recent article in the Star Tribune: "I think we're all on the same page that we want to see panhandling end. We have to figure out what's the best way to get there by doing a lot of things and being absolutely sure we're not penalizing people for being homeless."


I also agree with Mayor Rybak that giving to panhandlers is a band-aid solution that will not help to really solve the problems of homelessness, poverty, chemical dependency and mental illness.


However, I believe that the most recently proposed ordinance amendment is another band-aid solution, that will similarly not help to really solve any of these intractable problems. Stating that "we're simply going to have a lower tolerance for panhandling" will not constructively address this issue. Panhandling will continue, and our "lower tolerance" will accomplish nothing but raising unreasonable expectations and wasting limited resources.


We have tried arresting (or ticketing) our way out of this problem, and it hasn't worked. It never will. The proposed amendment will create one more expectation among Minneapolis residents that the Police Department will never be able to deliver on: that the cops will prevent anyone from asking you for money after dark, or in a group, or near the Metrodome, or near the corner store, or anywhere near an intersection.


To come anywhere near meeting that expectation will require a truly drastic increase in the size of the police force. Minneapolis does not have money for such an increase, and given the budgetary environment, I don't expect that we will anytime soon. Even if we did, I firmly believe that these resources would be better spent connecting homeless persons to housing, impoverished persons to jobs, chronic inebriates to treatment, and persons experiencing mental illness to proper care. We have yet to fully and permanently fund the 24-7 Homeless Outreach Workers.


This is the main reason that the "Heading Home Hennepin" report on ending homelessness in Minneapolis and Hennepin County - which gained unanimous support from the Council, as I continue to remind my colleagues - called for the City to "examine local ordinances to ensure that they are not criminalizing homelessness." This proposed ordinance moves us in the opposite direction from this adopted policy document, adding ordinances to further criminalize homelessness. The reason that the report recommends examining our ordinances is not just so that people are treated fairly and decently (though that would be nice), but because all the research and all the data prove what many of us have long suspected: the criminal justice system cannot effectively deal with these problems.


The best example of this is the so-called "Downtown 33." Here is a quote from the Heading Home Hennepin report: "A recent study of the Safe Zone Collaborative revealed that of the 33 top 'livability' offenders downtown, 85 percent of them gave a shelter as their address. These 33 offenders cost the system $3.7 million dollars over the years they were engaged with the system. Approximately 70 percent of these arrests lead to dismissals and do nothing to address the root causes of the problem." When we try to solve the problems of homelessness and poverty with the police department, it leads us to waste money on a colossal scale.


Finally, there is a civil rights argument to be made here. For some reason, my colleagues are extremely resistant to these sorts of arguments, but I feel they must still be made. People who don't have money have the constitutionally-protected right to ask others for money, even if they will use it to buy things we don't think they should have, like alcohol. People with money have the constitutionally-protected right to say "no," and make donations instead to organizations that will use their money to more constructive effect.


The City of Minneapolis used to have anti-panhandling and anti-vagrancy ordinances. These were struck down as being "void for vagueness." This means that the laws as written did not criminalize bad behavior, but speech which some residents and policymakers found objectionable: "can you spare some change?" The First Amendment prohibits government from regulating speech in that manner, so the ordinance was changed to prohibit behaviors that negatively impact others.


The Remington/Ostrow amendment seeks to return Minneapolis to a time before this decision. It would make large portions of the city (downtown) permanently off-limits for speech that some find objectionable, and the whole city off-limits during certain hours.


Interestingly, we would not apply these same sorts of restrictions to other forms of speech that most people would find more objectionable. For instance, one could stand on a street corner and loudly express one's view that members of a certain ethnic group are subhuman, but one could not stand at the same street corner and ask for bus fare. One could proselytize for Satanism outside an evening Twins game, but not ask for money for a hot dog.


I have a problem with us going down this road. Other time, place, manner regulations have clear justifications: we don't allow campaigning within a certain number of feet of a polling place because it might intimidate voters, you can't shout "fire!" in a crowded theater because someone might be trampled, etc. I am hard pressed to find a similarly compelling reason for Minneapolis to prevent people from panhandling at night, if they are doing so in a polite, respectful and non-threatening manner, in compliance with the existing ordinance.


Indeed, I would suggest that these changes might actually criminalize otherwaise positive and good beahvior. For example, imagine this: It is December 23 at about 8 pm in Minneapolis. It is dark. My mother in law, who is 80, is visiting and accidentally locks her keys and cell phone in her car. Most stores are closed, but there is a pay phone across the street. She has no money so wants to ask a passerby for change to call me so I can come help her. According to this law she would be prohibited from doing so.

(It is clear, of course, that this law would not be used against my mother in law. But that means that the proposed ordinance is just another law that will be open to selective enforcement against people of color, poor and homeless persons, etc.)

In summary, I am somewhat frustrated that instead of working to dismantle bad, discriminatory, possibly unconstitutional laws that waste our limited resources, the Council continues to discuss adding new ones. I can only hope that this proposal will meet the fate of last year's proposed ban on walking in alleys.

Aggressive Solicitation Part 1

My colleagues Ralph Remington and Paul Ostrow have introduced subject matter of an ordinance to further criminalize panhandling in the City of Minneapolis. They are seeking to put "reasonable time, place and manner restrictions" on verbal solicitations for money. More specifically, the ordinance would criminalize asking someone for money within 10 feet of crosswalks, convenience and liquor stores or within 50 feet of entrances and exits to a park or sporting arena. It would be illegal to panhandle in groups of two or more, and at night. See the recent story in the Star Tribune here, and the text of the ordinance amendments here.


I will find it extremely difficult to support such a measure, for the following reasons: 1) the disruptive behaviors that folks are using as reasons for this new ordinance are already against the law, by the current aggressive solicitation ordinance; 2) this is not an effective use of our resources, we need to target our criminal justice resources to investigate and convict serious criminals and utilize other researched and proven avenues to find longer term solutions for livability issues.


Criminalizing poverty, homelessness, chemical dependency and mental illness has not made these problems go away and never will.

The rest of this post will deal with the first point, about the existing Aggressive Solicitation ordinance. To be clear about what we're talking about, here is a portion of that ordinance, 385.60:


"It shall be unlawful in a public place to engage in an act of solicitation when the person being solicited is present at any of the following locations:

a. In a restroom.
b. At a bus stop or shelter or light rail stop or shelter.
c. At a crosswalk.
d. In any public transportation vehicle or public transportation facility.
e. In a vehicle which is parked or stopped on a public street or alley.
f. In a sidewalk cafe.
g. In a line waiting to be admitted to a commercial or government establishment.
h. Within twenty (20) feet in any direction from an automatic teller machine or entrance to a bank, other financial institution, or check cashing business.

(2) It shall be unlawful in a public place to engage in an act of solicitation in a manner that incorporates any of the following methods:

a. Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with the solicited person without that person's consent.
b. Intentionally blocking the path of the solicited person, or the entrance to any building or vehicle.
c. Following behind, ahead or alongside a person who walks away from the solicitor after being solicited, with the intent to intimidate or continue solicitation.
d. Using obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures toward the solicited person.
e. Approaching the solicited person in a manner that:
1. Is intended to or is likely to cause a reasonable person to fear imminent bodily harm or the commission of a criminal act upon property in the person's possession; or
2. Is intended to or is likely to intimidate a reasonable person into responding affirmatively to the solicitation.
f. Solicitation while under the influence of alcohol or drugs."

***

The behaviors of the person who asked CMs Remington and Colvin Roy and Senator Higgins were already against the law. 1) He asked for money at a sidewalk cafe and 2) he used profanity.

In fact, I think the supporters of the proposed Remington/Ostrow ordinance amendments would be hard-pressed to find an example of a "panhandler" who was clearly out of line who was not violating one of the many provisions of the existing ordinance. I can agree that "people shouldn't be subjected to of aggressive behavior." However, the sort of intimidation and "aggressive behavior" in the article and that others are talking about is already prohibited by law. Maybe we need to do a better job of enforcing the law and informing people about it.

We should be clear that the new amendments are not going after "aggressive" behaviors. Those are covered by the existing law. They seek to criminalize asking for fifty cents for a phone call after 6:00pm in December. They also seek to make downtown virtually a verbal solicitation-free zone.

If some people do not want to be panhandled, it is up to us to simply say "no." We should not rely on our overburdened police force, who have more important things to spend their time on, to protect us from having to say "no."

And if someone is behaving in an intimidating manner, using abusive language, etc, there is already a recourse for us: the existing Aggressive Solicitation ordinance. If you believe a panhandler has crossed the line and is soliciting aggressively, call the police - dial 911.

More on the other reasons I will find it difficult to support the Remington/Ostrow ordinance to come.

June Roundtable - Increasing Safety by Building Community

Please join me for another of my ongoing series of Roundtable Discussions: Increasing Safety by Building Community.

What are we doing to build community and increase public safety? Meet the Second Ward’s new community outreach interns, who will be helping to organize block clubs and walking groups this summer. Compare and discuss our neighborhoods’ new policing plans, and find out what we can do together to make our communities safer for everyone.

Luxton Park, 112 Williams Ave SE
Tuesday, June 19th, 6-8pm