To be voted off the islands

There were about twice the usual number of panhandlers on, um, duty this afternoon, suggesting that they’re taking this threat from the city seriously:

Proposed restrictions on panhandling are part of a broad effort to attack “explosive” growth in activities that frighten and intimidate many residents, Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer said Friday.

Salyer said the mayor and six of the other seven council members have signed on as co-authors of her proposal to make it a misdemeanor to panhandle from the median of city streets.

If nothing else, this should be an object lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences: the existing ordinance prohibits standing in the street to solicit.

The holdout Councilman, should you be interested, is Ed Shadid of Ward 2.

Salyer said she receives complaints “in the multiples every day” about panhandlers.

She said residents tell her their quality of life is destroyed every morning as they drive through the intersection of NW 23 and Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Why should that have to be in our community?” Salyer said. “We can do better.”

The proposed ordinance makes no exceptions for charitable contributions:

Phil Sipe, president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 157, said Oklahoma City firefighters annually collect about $300,000 to support families affected by muscle diseases.

He predicted donations could drop 75 percent to 80 percent and said it would be a “blow to families” that depend on the money given by the public each year.

Also presumably affected: street vendors of the Curbside Chronicle.

One question remains unanswered still: how do we distinguish the hucksters from the folks who really need help? Or have the hucksters basically pushed away all the competition?

I once suggested that the ultimate solution is purely financial in nature:

[I]nvoke the specter of the Internal Revenue Service. Instead of giving someone a buck, we hand over 60 cents and a 1099-MISC. “By law, we’re withholding forty cents for taxes. Be sure you report this on your return next year.” Odds are, the guy won’t even hang around to get his change, let alone give out his Social Security number.

Then again, what could be more traditionally American than trying to avoid income tax?

Update, 14 September: The Curbside Chronicle responds to the proposed ordinance.



  1. Roger Green »

    13 September 2015 · 6:15 am

    I’m forced to wonder what solution to the underlying they suggest. Maybe they can build barbed wire fences and keep them out, like they’re planning in Hungary.

  2. fillyjonk »

    13 September 2015 · 7:09 am

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with the no-exemption-for-charity. When people set up with boots (or whatever) at four-way stops, it snarls traffic and I always worry about accidents. You’d think firefighters, of all people, would pick some way to raise money that didn’t seem to raise the risk of fender benders.

  3. McGehee »

    13 September 2015 · 8:46 am

    I’m with FJ on this. When I lived in Alaska there was occasionally a firefighter fill-the-boot campaign in the median of a street in Fairbanks or North Pole, but it was only ever firefighters, and eventually even they were told to get off the street and hold their beg-a-thons in the parking lot of a willing commercial property.

    Moved down to the South, and suddenly there were high school students holding beg-a-thons at busy intersections. Thankfully in recent years it’s now down to just an occasional Shriner around here, but my wife and I saw an actual panhandler working the median at a busy intersection in Lithia Springs a couple of weeks ago.

    I will say this: the bona fide panhandler was disrupting traffic less than the worthy causes tend to do.

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