Sixteen Months Later and City Still Hasn’t Passed Panhandling Ordinance

 

Panhandler on Commercial Blvd and University Drive

Panhandler on Commercial Blvd and University Drive

By: Sharon Aron Baron

Sixteen months ago, the City Commission made a unanimous motion to authorize a study for City staff to evaluate street canvassing and soliciting at our most dangerous intersections.

City Attorney Sam Gorin told the commission that they would be bringing something back in the first quarter of 2014. But it’s been well over a year and still nothing has been done.

I have heard from Captain Neal Glassman that the study has been just been done, however, where is ordinance, or even the discussion?

Meanwhile, even though the Homeless Voice has reportedly left town, many of them are still in town roaming throughout traffic.  And it’s not just them, panhandlers and street vendors, use our busiest corners as as well day in and day out.

This is a danger to themselves and our drivers.

In 2013,  December, the cities of Coral Springs and Lauderhill had their studies completed, and by the first part of 2014, they had their bans on dangerous intersections already in place.  

Keep in mind, these are not outright bans on homeless people or panhandling – these ban their activity on certain dangerous intersections in the City.

Tamarac Talk has been writing about the issue with street vendors and panhandlers for several years now and had even brought it to the attention of the commission, however, there was nothing the City of Tamarac could do until pending litigation from the City of Pembroke Pines had been resolved.

In September 2012, Pembroke Pines passed a series of ordinances regulating charitable solicitation. The ordinances barred individuals and organizations from asking for donations from and offering services to drivers engaged in traffic on six major city roads. In November 2013, U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum ruled that a charitable organization cannot sue a South Florida city over solicitation-permitting rules that never applied to it. The ruling allowed the City of Coral Springs and Lauderhill to move forward with their ordinances.

I spoke to Coral Springs Chief Pustizzi who said the City was anticipating the legal ruling, and had their study ready.

It only took them six months.

Last December, the commissioners were very much in favor of the ordinance.

Commissioner Diane Glasser said “It’s been a problem for a good many years.”

Commissioner Harry Dressler said, “I have problems on a safety level with people wandering into traffic….I have concerns about public safety.  I would be very supportive of anything that would prohibit it.”

Vice Mayor Michelle Gomez said, “My concern is not for their safety but for the safety for people in their cars. I look forward to whatever the study is, and I hope it’s not too long, and that we don’t have to wait until someone gets hurt…or dies…”

Until then, the clock is ticking, and meanwhile we have people meandering in and out of traffic in our busiest intersections and BSO does not have the authority to do anything about it.  Not until they finally pass an ordinance.

But how much longer will it take until someone gets hurt.

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident’s a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That’s why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.

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  • Steve

    Why is a study needed by each city for the same problem? It would be interesting to find out how much money is spent (wasted) for redundant studies.

    • commenter8

      A study is a legal requirement because First Amendment rights to free speech are involved. A law interfering with First Amendment rights has to be justified by solid evidence and be written for a valid purpose. You can’t just assume that there’s a problem, guess that there might be a problem, suppose that some kind of problem may someday arise, etc. – you have to prove that there is a real problem and that a law which minimally interferes with First Amendment rights is pretty much the only way to solve the problem whose existence you have proven with solid evidence.

      Having said that, what I see here is lots of “ick” and pretty much nothing in the way of actual harm to anyone. I’ve never seen any genuine traffic collisions, etc. as a direct result of this activity, and I think any study purporting to show that there is such a problem is going to be systematically shredded in court. Fort Lauderdale is already struggling with multiple federal lawsuits against it for its foolish attempts to abuse the homeless via the legal system; does Tamarac really want to be in that same place? Taxpayers will just run up big legal bills, which will basically be money flushed down the toilet chasing after these mythical and nonexistent problems.

      On top of that, the idea that a banning law is necessary seems ridiculous. Look at how new approaches like “Pay It Forward” have worked to give homeless people a better alternative. If this city was innovative and creative it could come up with great ways to better approach the homeless community and gain positive statewide and national publicity in the process.

      • Actually they were waiting for a first amendment case to pan out before voting to go forward with a study back in 2013 so there is no issue with that. Secondly, this ordinance does NOT ban panhandling as I have written. It ban panhandling only on certain dangerous intersections.

        • commenter8

          The outcome of one First Amendment case does not determine the outcome of all First Amendment cases, thus it’s wildly inappropriate to say “so there is no issue with that.” In fact, there are many First Amendment cases in which laws against panhandling have been struck down; here are some examples:

          http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2013/08/17/court-mich-panhandling-law-violates-free-speech/

          http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/federal-judge-puts-halt-to-utah%E2%80%99s-panhandling-law

          Whether the banning law applies to panhandling generally or only to panhandling at specific intersections makes exactly no difference. The entirety of the United States is fully protected by the First Amendment, 24 / 7 / 365. Even a single instance of infringement on a single person’s Constitutional rights is sufficient to trigger Constitutional protection. The ACLU would hit Tamarac with a federal lawsuit, and they would win that case just as they have won so many others. Big legal bills for Tamarac, plus plenty of bad publicity.

          Be innovative and creative instead! Implement “Pay It Forward” and then develop smarter solutions which do not involve banning laws and do not infringe on the cherished Constitutional rights that our Founding Fathers created.