Our Voice: Thumbs up to Kennewick's panhandling ordinance

July 1, 2013 

Missionary Church Solicitor

June 23, 2013 - Fernando Negrete of Pasco, a volunteer with the Missionary Church of the Disciples of Jesus Christ, solicits donations from motorists in November 2011 at the intersection of West Kennewick Avenue and Highway 395 in Kennewick. Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg says the city’s new restricted zones, including this intersection, for panhandling appear to be having the intended effect.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE Buy Photo

Kennewick's new law banning panhandling at certain intersections in the city took on a major safety issue that needed to be addressed, and it sounds like the new restrictions are working, according to Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.

He said word has gotten out that there are some corners in Kennewick that are off-limits to panhandling. If police do find someone begging in the area, warnings seem to be sufficient to keep them from coming back.

The ban has been particularly effective at intersections near Highway 395. Those areas were particularly dangerous, as there is no safe place for motorists to pull over if they wanted to make a donation.

There probably are other areas where bans may need to be added. It doesn't help if one corner is cleared and problems arise at another.

But so far, it appears that panhandling at the busiest intersections of town, especially along the highway, have been eliminated.

That's good news for motorists and those folks seeking assistance. The new law protects drivers and panhandlers alike.

Bureaucratic malaise

Thumbs down to the Army Corps of Engineers Portland office for not cooperating with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife's effort to construct a concrete boat launch near Patterson, where a shallow earthen ramp is the only river access for 27 miles between Plymouth and Crow Butte Park.

The project has been in the works for years, and Fish & Wildlife officials thought the ramp might become a reality through a $494,000 grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office.

But Fish & Wildlife officials have to get a land-use agreement from the Army Corps of Engineers in Portland by the end of July or it will lose the grant.

Fish & Wildlife officials thought a 2003 land-use agreement gave them the ability to build a boat ramp, but learned last December that Corps officials didn't see it that way.

Now it looks like there is no way an agreement can be reached before the July deadline. Corps officials have said they are evaluating the request and it typically takes a year to complete the application process. The Corps also would charge Fish & Wildlife a $50,000 administrative fee to cover the environmental review, staff time and outside help.

The application process also requires reviews by the public and clearance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

It is hard to believe so much time and money is necessary to build a concrete slab. This kind of situation is exactly why people are frustrated with government bureaucracy.

The earthen ramp is likely used by boaters anyway, so making safer access in that area is just common sense.

But, unfortunately, common sense often gets lost in the political maze of government agencies.

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