Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Panhandling Ordinance Bad Idea Like SB621

Mayor Greg Ballard, depending on who you talk to, was a driving or a passive force behind the debacle that became Senate Bill 621. Now, he must face the music.

Monday night, Ballard’s proposal to sweep panhandling under the rug by hiding it out of sight in the mile square during prime hours was introduced by the normally awesome Republican Councillor Jeff Miller at the City-County Council meeting. It landed with a thud. No Democrats seemed interested in crossing the aisle or even supporting the proposal. That, my friends, is the new reality on the City-County Council.  No Democrats, no love for the Mayor.  It's going to be like this a lot until 2015.

It’s not just the Mayor, either. It’s Council vs. Council. District Councillors Janice McHenry and Will Gooden took the opportunity to stick the metaphorical knife in their At-Large colleagues during the sausage-making process of 621 at the Statehouse. Gooden, who has never gotten one constituent vote in an election, and McHenry clearly had little conception of what their comments about “meddlesome” colleagues would do in the long run.

Let’s step back to Ballard’s panhandling proposal. It’s a dumb idea anyway. In August of 2009, the city passed what was then thought to be the answer to stop the panhandling along downtown streets. It didn’t happen. The current ordinance has not been enforced and has gotten little more than headlines at the time for the Mayor. In the midst of all that’s going on in this city crime-wise, this new ordinance would create an enforcement nightmare for IMPD, which is already short staffed as it is. It would be like, “Drop what you’re doing and take care of this guy that’s shaking a cup at Maryland and Illinois.” Besides, who is someone shaking a cup really harming?

The problem is Mayor Ballard nor the others in his administration want to really tackle the hard issues surrounding panhandling. Issues like the lack of jobs or the lack of strong support services. From the 25th floor’s perspective, it’s just easier to violate the First Amendment and sweep these undesirables under the rug.

The panhandling ordinance is a bad idea just like Senate Bill 621 was a bad idea. Thanks to the Mayor’s power grab, the city’s future and the future of bipartisanship is now in question.

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