Monday, March 27, 2006

Panhandling Debate Begins

Will the Panhandling Ordinance be Renewed?

In October, the City of Cleveland Panhandling Ordinance is set to sunset. We certainly hope that the new Mayor lets this issue quietly die as a failed experiment. If nothing else the law should be revised so that it does not restrict free speech. The current law makes it illegal to even ask for money within certain areas of Cleveland. No one who values free speech could ever claim that this law does not restrict speech. I saw a quote on another blog that boggled my mind...

"I give money all the time to passive panhandlers and Homeless Grapevine vendors (even if I already purchased a copy of Grapevine). I stand by this First Amendment right, which does not include the terribly profane and threatening behavior that I have witnessed."

What is passive panhandling? Is that asking for money in mime? The First Amendment is clear that government shall make no law that restricts speech. It does not say unless the speech is near a bus stop, a doorway, or near a valet station. The legislation was illegal and if tested in court would certainly be found unconstitutional.

The people who testified for the legislation were offensive in that they equated panhandling with homeless people. Then they said we don't care if this tramples the First Amendment as long as it takes care of the aggressive panhandlers. We are destroying so many rights in the last few years that the Bill of Rights is only a shadow of the document that held this country together for 220 years.

By the Way....
There is a great blog that started recently It is a masterful work of spin. The subtitle is "Fact vs. Fiction." In the best Fox News/O'Reilly No Spin Zone language, it proports to give only the facts, but the site is almost entirely devoid of actual hard facts recognized by journalists. It is a long detailed opinion piece about how great Ohio City is, and how much the OCNW has done for poor people. It is a rare opportunity to look through the eyes of a group of people who are completely missing the forest fire around them while advertising the virtues of smoking. If nothing else very entertaining. Check it out.

Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.

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