City Government

Mclean Opposes Panhandling Law, God Bless

Being the a voice for democracy, fair play, and equal rights can be a lonesome role, just ask Boise City Councilor Lauren Mclean.

She was the lone vote Tuesday opposing a city “panhandling ordinance” which was passed despite opposition of homeless advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mclean said the law goes too far and could push people who rely on donations out of Downtown. She also questioned unintended consequences, such as discouraging people from seeking strangers’ signatures on petitions.

The GUARDIAN OPPOSED the ordinance when it was first discussed in July. The major fault in our opinion is forcing the coppers to decide if someone is “aggressive” or qualifies for one of the many exemptions to the rule. Laws which can be equal justice under the law is a major concern.

Here are some instances which are against the law:
• in any public transportation vehicle
• from people waiting in line
• on private property where “solicitation prohibited” is posted
• from roads or from a vehicle on a road when entering the roadway is necessary to accept the donation
• from pedestrians crossing a road
• within public parking garages
• within 20 feet of an ATM, financial institution, sidewalk cafe, mobile or street vendor on a sidewalk, public restrooms and portable toilets, bus stops, taxi stands, valet stations and parking pay boxes or stations (not including parking meters that serve one or two spaces)

UPDATE 9-20-13
Council candidate Paul Fortin weighed in: “I commend city councilor McLean for her vote against the panhandling law. Yes there needs for government groups, business owners and the local charities to find an answer. Just passing a law means these people will get a few warm nights in jail and 3 meals.”

Comments & Discussion

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  1. David B. Hall
    Sep 18, 2013, 6:04 pm

    Bless her heart for being Human. As for the rest, vote their asses out this November and boycott all the businesses that supported this measure. If they think panhandling hurt their business, see what happens when no one will shop your stores because of your fascism.

  2. I am in agreement with Mr. Hall.
    The law would be more simple if it just said where it was now legal to panhandle. Very simple…. where do the members of the oh so too, too city council would just tell us where they and their too too friends do not go.

  3. Grumpy ole guy
    Sep 18, 2013, 7:15 pm

    Why, oh why is behaviour to be regulated? This Council just made it legal to drink in public befor BSU football games, but now I guess if these well greased folks get approached for a hand out it will be illegal. Maybe there could be exceptions. If, oh say bell ringers are passively tolling their bells and not wishing us a too happy a holiday they can direct our attention to the kettle; but, otherwise, not so much?

  4. Maybe these people should put their effort into trying to get a job at one of the many call centers instead of mooching off the system and counting on the people who work for a living to support them

  5. I’m not sure you really know what facism is.

    There are already services in place for homeless or those in need that are privately funded and subsidized by both business and government. Why is it necessary for those seeking further donations to have compete authority without restriction to disturb traffic, business, transportation or private commerce?

    None of these restrictions appear to be without thought or reason and seem to be completely reasonable based on what I have witnessed. Those seeking charitable gains can still do so as long as they do it responsibly. They don’t need to approach people when those wanting to give can come to them if they are holding a sign or whatever they want to do. There is no reason for someone to go person to person on a bus asking for change, waiting at a parking meter, standing next to an ATM or within a business. This is common sense and should be a part of the checks and balances of our society.
    If Ii find out which businesses supported this I may want to go thank each one. There should be a difference between what you view as human and being taken advantage of.

  6. Clem to you not think all those people working at call centers aren’t mooching off the system. Most are paid around $8.00 a hr with no benefits.

  7. Touching. Be careful what you wish for. It sounds harsh on the surface but anyone who has been outside of Boise and to the larger cities of our fair country have seen what happens when transients invade and the street corners are literally packed with panhandlers. Then it will be too late. If you REALLY care then contribute to local charities that help provide for these people. Oh and by the way, the local panhandlers are not all what they seem. It has become a “job” for many of them so don ‘t be naive about it.

  8. costaprettypenny
    Sep 19, 2013, 10:47 am

    foe pa, you are right on. Been there and seen the deeper problems this causes. For once I agree with the city councils vote…Whew, once in 10 years…Wow.

    Support our local charitable organizations not only with money but your time and it will benefit you and them.

  9. I’ve been all over the world, and methinks thou doth protest too much. Sweeping poverty under a rug does little to address the problem. This rule change is merely cosmetic feel good laws for elitists. But it’s actually unAmerican, trampling individual rights in exchange for a false sense of security. Creating an underclass by criminalizing their constitutional rights and enforcing it through force of arms just breeds discontent and distrust for the police and denigrating a sense of community, instead of fomenting it.

  10. I was also opposed to it, from what I understood or actually what I DID NOT UNDERSTAND….
    Here is TJ THOMSON’s Facebook post concerning his vote…. makes a lot more sense to me… Especially the review in a year part….

    Why I voted in favor of the Boise Solicitation Ordinance:

    Make no doubt about it – I was deeply moved by the open, well-attended public hearing we had on this subject a few short weeks ago and, as a result, the Mayor & Council made major changes to the ordinance. There is a lot of misinformation ‘out there’ about this ordinance. It actually modified what is presently “on the books” by de-criminalizing aggressive panhandling from a misdemeanor down to an infraction, which I feel was a good move.

    The focus here was not on where one can ‘sit or lie’ in public. That was done away with. The focus was on aggressive manners used to solicit from the public, on aggressive tactics used – something no person should be subject to. It focuses on the methods used – not the act of soliciting. I believe aggressive methods are rare and not representative of our homeless population. And because it is rare, enforcement of these aspects applying to aggressive manners will rarely even be utilized, in my opinion. But in cases where aggressive tactics are used – this simply places parameters around it, assuring a safe, vibrant city for everyone. Let me be very clear – soliciting in public areas is and will remain permitted. This places limits on aggressive methods used in public areas. Individuals are still free to make ‘the ask’ – just as they do today – but limits aggressively perusing someone after they have received a negative response.

    Rather than make an ordinance too broad for use, this ordinance provided narrow context for ease of application. Limiting solicitation in other limited areas is based primarily on safety – an automated teller machine makes sense. Preventing blocking of an exit makes sense, in terms of safety. Or when someone is within a moving vehicle or within a roadway. Soliciting for donations is and will remain legal – the focus is on the methods used. Not limiting free speech, not limiting street performers. I am a huge fan of street performers and, from start to finish, have publicly stated that we must protect street performers – they add to the wonderful vibe of our city, add additional character. We will protect free speech and street performers in Boise.

    This ordinance took a middle-road from where we were before the public hearing.

    We also added a mandatory 12-month review of the ordinance. We will reassess its impacts one year from now, to determine if it had any unintended consequences and be sure to make any necessary changes. My focus is and will remain on assisting our less fortunate – to get them on a pathway to self-sufficiency.

    This ordinance should not overshadow how much we are committed to assisting the homeless in Boise. We invest thousands into rent concessions to assist folks seeking assistance – places like Giraffe Laugh, Life’s Kitchen, and Jesse Tree. We maintain an extensive amount of rental units, many of which go directly to assisting our most chronic homeless. We provide rent vouchers to those most in need, fund families involved in the CATCH Program, we seek federal grants to obtain medical services, childcare scholarships, domestic violence services, and homeless prevention; we provide motel vouchers during the coldest months if shelter space is not available; winter day shelter for families; and assist through the Allumbaugh House. Well over a million dollars goes towards these activities each year. We have a 10-year plan to reduce chronic homelessness and I give you my guarantee that we will continue to find ways to assist our less fortunate enter the pathway to self-sufficiency. That is my promise to you. I have done just that for four years, as detailed in the ways we have strived to have a positive impact above, and you can count on it to continue going forward. We have continued work to do to assist our less fortunate neighbors, and I will do everything I can to help.

  11. David B. Hall
    Sep 19, 2013, 11:59 am

    “The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the government.” – Tacitus

  12. Constitutional rights? I guess there were beggars in the cities in the 1770s when the Constitution was dreamed up, but I doubt there was anything like the modern day problems faced by Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego and all the other big cities.

    Breeds discontent? I guess you don’t live downtown because there is already discontent. Lots of it, from homeowners and business owners, but it’s rarely spoken in public because few want to be publicly seen as a hater. Thanks guardian for continuing to allow anonymous commenting unlike some local discussion forums.

    I say good for Boise. Look at what Portland and Seattle are going through now because they took the lenient track early on and now they’re paying the price. And a local crackdown is all the more important with Seattle and Portland’s crackdown because you know, like water and electricity, many of the homeless will take the path of least resistance. Straight to Boise.

  13. Not sure which constitutional right panhandling is covered under.Loitering laws have been on the books for years. If you are insinuating that an individual has a right to beg/demand money from others you are just a step away from laws FORCING free men and women to give up cash to those who have none…….and that is called communism. So what is left when an individual simply stands on a corner day after day for weeks with a sign that says “need money for gas to get out of town”. You may see an individual once in a month and it seems meaningless to you. Businesses and homeowners who live in the area and see the same individual(s) day in and day out and then call the police demanding action also have rights. Business can be hindered by transients at the same location day in and day out. To a drive by who throws a 5 dollar bill their way it is a 30 second issue and you feel good about yourself. But to say this is a constitutional right pushes it a bit. There is a greater good served by helping these people in the long run and giving them something of substance rather than the usual liberal feel good moment of throwing cash out the window and driving off.

  14. ….and the final point. All it takes to change a pro panhandler to an anti panhandler is a transient standing in front of THEIR house or business for weeks on end. Seen it happen. Amazinghow quickly a bleeding heart stops bleeding when it becomes personal.

  15. Maybe it would be better if the city just took a percentage from all of the working folks pay checks and sent it over to the homeless. That way they wouldn’t need to beg.

  16. Quoting Thomson:

    … This ordinance should not overshadow how much we are committed to assisting the homeless in Boise. We invest thousands into rent concessions to assist folks seeking assistance – places like Giraffe Laugh, Life’s Kitchen, and Jesse Tree. We maintain an extensive amount of rental units, many of which go directly to assisting our most chronic homeless. We provide rent vouchers to those most in need,…

    End Quote.

    Sounds great on paper TJ, but this seemingly ideal and well written solution is also part of the problem. If we make it so easy on the homeless then what incentive is there to do anything else? And then word gets out that Boise is an easy place to live free or near free (for a while at least), then here come another 1000 homeless. And another, slippery slope which has already proven that it’s sliding.

    What Thomson neglects to mention is that many rental vouchers and other homeless services are being concentrated in one small part of town. The west side of downtown. This is a back door trip down the memory lane of housing projects of the 50s and 60s. I’m pretty sure that even the most ardent socialists will agree that the concentrated housing projects of the late 50s and 60s were an abject failure.

    TJ, Lauren— How many rental vouchers are being used in your neighborhood?

    I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I do know that I see problems and apparently I’m not alone.

    Businesses have moved away from 16th and River due to property damage. I’m not naming names, but this is a fact.

  17. So she wants the people with no money to hang around downtown and beg? Wow, now that’s a progressive metropolitan ideology if I’ve ever heard one.

    So what’s the back story editor? Speculating: Are the folks who get paid big bucks to serve the poor via the government grant money-stream are a bit upset at the though of their perpetual clients moving away?

    More research is needed please: Does serving the poor generate a huge/easy/reliable cash-flow for several local “non-profits” with over-paid executives?

  18. How about a designated “begging box” for the beggars to stand in. Kinda like the “food vendor boxes”. The city can charge a begging fee, provide a pay toilet and cash bar. Any people wishing to contribute can approach and donate at-will without feeling hounded or surprised or set upon by the beggars.

    PS: Next time you give, ask for a receipt for tax purposes. Or just give to a legitimate charity and do some good with your money.

  19. Paul Fortin
    Jan 3, 2014, 3:59 pm

    Just wanted to say during my run against M-A Jordan I supported Ms Mcleans vote as there were no positive ways of identifying people who just want to play some instruments or other non threatening ways in supporting their way of life. For those that either do assault or assault and battery, the laws are already on Boise’s crime list. So the city’s actions just go after all those people who are homeless.

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