Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Here they go again: Grand Rapids seeks to re-write panhandling ordinance

From an article on mlive: 

Though a federal court has ruled that panhandling is a First Amendment right, the city plans to restrict the activity by making it illegal to ask for money from motorists.

A proposed law up for Grand Rapids City Commission review on Tuesday, May 13, also would prohibit panhandling in certain locations and ban certain tactics deemed too aggressive.

Among the rules:
• no solicitation in an “accosting” manner, or by continuing to beg after a person has refused the request
• no solicitation within 15 feet of a public restroom
• no solicitation within 15 feet of an ATM machine, or a building that has an ATM in it
• no solicitation on a public bus or within 15 feet of a bus stop
• no solicitation from anybody waiting in line to enter a building, like at Van Andel Arena
• no solicitation from any driver or passenger on a public street

Although the City Attorney Catherine Mish supports the proposed ordinance by comparing it to Kentwood's, it remains to be seen how this is different from the earlier ordinance that was declared unconstitutional.

This is a probably an attempt by the city to make the ordinance fall under what's called "Time, Place, and Manner," guidelines. In other words, it's OK for a city to restrict some exercise of free speech, if they only attempt to do it by restricting the time, place, or manner that the exercise happens. To make an example, if protestors want to gather, that's fine, but they can't impede pedestrian traffic (place and manner); or the protests can't happen after 8:30 at night (time). The US Supreme Court has said that these restrictions are OK because they are reasonable (impeding pedestrian traffic would be unsafe, or after 8:30 at night would be infringing another's right to quiet, etc.)

And lastly, in an aside to the City Commissioners and the others behind this ordinance, you can't clean a city by getting rid of panhandlers. If you (Commissioners) think this is a problem, go to another city, where it's really a problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment