Thursday, March 21, 2019

Bill would ban panhandling in parts of downtown Nashville

A bill has been introduced in the Metro Council by Councilman Freddie O'Connell that would ban panhandling in parts of Nashville. Here is most of the text of the bill:

Section 1. That Section 11.12.090, Subsection B, of the Metropolitan Code of Laws is hereby deleted and that the following be substituted in lieu thereof:
B. It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in an act of panhandling when either the panhandler or the person being solicited is located in, on, or at any of the following locations:
  1. Any bus stop;
  2. Any sidewalk cafe;
  3. Any area within twenty-five feet (in any direction) of an automatic teller machine (ATM) or entrance to a bank;
  4. Any daycare or community education facility, as defined by Section 17.04.060 of the Metropolitan Code;
  5. Within ten feet of a point of entry to or exit from any building open to the public, including commercial establishments;
  6. Within the DTC and CF districts on (i) Second Avenue North between Broadway and Church Street, (ii) Commerce Street between Second Avenue North and Third Avenue North, or (iii) Symphony Place between Third Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South, or (iv) the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Street Bridge.
The first five places listed above are already in the code that says where panhandling is banned. All this does is add those parts of town listed in item six.  This would effectively ban panhandling in most places downtown. Item six puts large part of downtown off-limits and in many sections almost all of the businesses places are within ten feet of an entrance way.  Places that are privately owned, such as malls, can ban panhandling on their private property already. The tall office buildings that have plazas in front of their buildings can ban panhandling in those open plazas.

Other areas of town such as Hillsboro Village, Five Points and The Gulch and 12th South will likely see an increase in panhandling if this passes. When panhandlers realize they can no longer panhandle in the places they do now, they will move to other nearby places with high pedestrian activity. If I were a councilman of an area with lots of pedestrian activity, such as those mentioned, I would move to amend the bill to include that area. 

Selling of newspapers such as The Contributor would apparently not be banned under this act.  The section of the code that addresses panhandling says, "the sale of an item for an amount far exceeding its value, under circumstances in which a reasonable person would understand that the purchase is, in substance, a donation, shall be considered panhandling for the purpose of this section."  One could argue that The Contributor is not something priced to far exceed its value.

What is called "aggressive panhandling" is prohibited everywhere already. Aggressive panhandling is defined in the code section and includes blocking a person, touching a person or intimidating a person.

I support this bill. Apparently, panhandling has become a bigger problem in Nashville in recent months. There may, however, be a First Amendment freedom of speech issue with the bill. Open Table Nashville Executive Director Ingrid McIntyre has questioned the constitutionality of the proposal. I do not know how courts have ruled on these matters in the past. Since the code already bans panhandling in five of the six areas listed in the bill, I do not see how adding the areas listed in number 6 above would raise constitutional issues if they were not already raised by 1-5.  However, I am not an attorney.   As more information is available, I will follow up.

The bill passed First Reading on March 19th. It should be on  Second Reading, on April 2nd.  It is on Second Reading that most discussion takes place and committees will evaluate the bill prior to that April 2nd meeting. If the bill passes Second Reading on April 2, it would be on third Reading on April 16th.

Stumble Upon Toolbar
My Zimbio
Top Stories

No comments:

Post a Comment