Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New anti-panhandling ordinance passed in Seattle

The Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that aggressively limits panhandling. The ordinance prevents the homeless from asking for money near ATMs or banks, it also claims to restrict aggressive or intimidating panhandling. Advocates for the homeless claim that the bill goes too far, and the language defining aggressive panhandling is to vague.

The ordinance faces a certain legal challenge from the NAACP and ACLU. The city's mayor says he will veto the ordinance if his veto cannot be overridden.

From KOMO, we find out more about the ordinance that Seattle's City council voted on last night.

The idea behind the ordinance is to curb aggressive panhandling by regulating just how and where you can do it. In addition to steering clear of ATMs and pay parking stations, panhandlers also cannot threaten people, swear at them, or block them as they walk down the street.

Supporters have argued the ordinance is aimed at restoring a sense of safety in downtown Seattle.

"The whole ordinance is designed to change behavior on our streets, to make our streets and sidewalks safe for everyone, including the homeless," said council member Tim Burgess at Monday's meeting.

"It is not OK for a person to use menacing and threatening gestures to intimidate someone into giving them money," saud George Allen of the Chamber of Commerce.

Opponents, however, have claimed the rule is too vaguely written and therefore, is susceptible to abuse.

"The idea that we criminalize people because they're poor is very scary to all of our people who are out there, doing the service," said Rev. Monica Corsaro. "We believe in a collaborative way."

A violation of the ordinance is a civil infraction that could result in a $50 fine.

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