The Richland City Council asked City Attorney Heather Kintzley on Tuesday to put together an anti-panhandling ordinance, though not one as restrictive as Pasco’s.
The discussion at Tuesday’s workshop meeting questioned the legality of the Pasco City Council’s September 2013 decision to ban all panhandling on city streets, as well as at commercial, retail or food businesses. Pasco allows for charities to solicit on streets, provided actual transactions are made in parking areas.
“It’s a very difficult law for a city to enforce,” Councilman Bob Thompson said. “Something like Pasco’s sets you up for all sorts of lawsuits.”
The council was more supportive of an ordinance from Lakewood. The Pierce County city bans “aggressive begging,” where people are harassed for not giving away money, anywhere in the city. It also prohibits all panhandling near major intersections, freeway off-ramps, ATMs, transit stops, parking lots or after dark.
“I really was pleased with the way it was written,” Kintzley said. “It was recently challenged at the appellate court level, and the ordinance was upheld.”
Kintzley also went over an ordinance from Kennewick, which has banned panhandling at certain busy intersections, as well as within 25 feet of ATMs or financial institutions.
The biggest problem to deal with is driver distractions, Police Chief Chris Skinner told the council. He said that he sees problems with a person wearing a costume to drum up business for a pizza joint and softball teams trying to get people to go to a car wash, as well as a woman looking for money at the entrance to the McDonald’s near Fred Meyer.
“This is in many cases a very organized effort,” he said of panhandling. “We’ve seen people drop people off at corners. We’ve seen people switch corners.”
Allowances should be made for programs like the fire department’s “Fill the Boot” campaign, which raises money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Councilwoman Sandra Kent said. People also should be educated about potential problems caused by giving money to beggars.
“I do believe we are a giving community,” she said. “I’d hate to see us put in an ordinance that prevents valid nonprofits from getting community support.”
• Joe Schiessl, parks and public facilities director, discussed a possible tightening of an ordinance that would treat people who jump from boat docks in city parks as trespassers. He said it only takes one fatal accident to put the city at legal risk.
Council members expressed concerns about enforcement of the law, as well as potential excessive punishment for kids. They said swimmers and boaters should be educated about potential dangers.
• City Manager Cindy Johnson told the council that the field for a new community development director was down to two candidates — Brian Davis, who holds the same position in Roseburg, Ore., and Ben Hitching, a planner in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. The person chosen will replace Deputy City Manager Bill King, who is retiring in May.