City Council Affirms Anti-Panhandling Law (Updated) – March 25, 2011
Note: The City Council yesterday held a closed session to consider anticipated litigation by political activist Richard Salzman challenging the City’s recently passed anti-panhandling ordinance. This morning the City issued the press release below. – Ed.
ARCATA CITY COUNCIL RECONFIRMS SUPPORT
FOR PANHANDLING ORDINANCE
Following the closed session held on March 24, 2011, the Arcata City Council, by a vote of 4 to 1, confirmed its support for the Panhandling Ordinance enacted in April 2010. Councilmember Shane Brinton was the dissenting vote.
Mayor Susan Ornelas stated, “Because of frequent encounters with panhandlers, many citizens expressed to me and other members of the Council that they felt unsafe in the downtown and other areas of the City.” The Council responded to these concerns with a carefully crafted ordinance that balances the rights of people to freely engage in activities without feeling threatened with the rights of people to ask for donations. Since enacting the ordinance, feedback to the Council has been strongly positive.
“A mother attending HSU told me she now feels comfortable bringing her children to the Plaza,” said Mayor Ornelas.
The Council worked closely with the City Attorney to draft an ordinance consistent with other cities’ ordinances which have been upheld by the courts. Specifically, the ordinance was drafted to address situations in which citizens did not feel free to say ‘no’ because of the manner or place of the panhandling.
According to Police Chief Tom Chapman, the ordinance is clear and well defined. For the first year, the police emphasis has been on helping solicitors comply with the ordinance. As a result, very few citations have been issued.
The Council’s position is that the ordinance is fair and effective in achieving the goals of people of all ages to participate in social, recreational and business activities throughout the City.
Note: Friday evening, Councilmember Shane Brinton issued this response to the above statement. – Ed.
“The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect free speech, even speech that makes some people uncomfortable. Panhandling is a problem that we should address as a community, not by denying citizens their constitutional rights.”
Brinton expressed disappointment that his fellow councilmembers did not take this opportunity to repeal the ordinance and work together to pursue real solutions.