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Monday, March 11, 2013

How the Hoosiers handle it

Here's an interesting story out of Indianapolis. They've got a rule against oral panhandling, and the mayor wants to expand it to include panhandling by sign:

In the heart of Downtown, not only would oral requests for money be banned at all hours, but so would the passive solicitations allowed in much of the city under current ordinance. Passive solicitations still would be allowed outside Downtown under the proposal, which would nevertheless tighten restrictions on when and where active panhandling is allowed.

The ordinance currently bans active panhandling after dark and at all times in places such as near bus stops, at sidewalk cafes, within 20 feet of an ATM or bank entrance, and when the person being targeted is in a vehicle on a public street or alley.

Now, we know what Oregonians have been programmed to say in response: "That will never work in Oregon, because our state constitution gives absolute free speech rights to beggars and street people." Maybe that's the way the Oregon courts have interpreted it, but it's curious that there should be any difference between the two states -- and the Indianapolis ban on spoken panhandling has apparently been upheld for more than a decade.

Here's what the Indiana constitution says:

Section 9. Freedom of thought and speech

No law shall be passed, restraining the free interchange of thought and opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print, freely, on any subject whatever: but for the abuse of that right, every person shall be responsible.

Here's what the Oregon constitution says:

Section 8. Freedom of speech and press

No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.

If there's a difference between what Indianapolis can do and what Portland can do, it certainly doesn't come from the text of the respective constitutional documents. Maybe the latest Indy proposal will step over the line, but many Portlanders would be happy with what that midwestern city already has.

Adoption of any such rules in Portlandia will never happen, of course. And between that and the $5 entrance fee that's been set up around downtown, central Portland won't be making a comeback for a long time.

Comments (23)

They oughta just write a law to outlaw panhandlers and homelessness and poverty.

It seems the difference in the laws is the difference between "interchange" and "expression."

For expression, you don't need a receiver.

FWIW, when Oregon was being formed as a State, I recall that the Oregon founders used Indiana as a model for drafting its constitution and other founding docs.

panhandlers and homelessness and poverty

Most of the panhandlers are not homeless, and many are not poor.

Tensk just illustrated why it will not change in Portland. He actually believes those people are homeless and down and out, rather than the societal leeches that they really are. As long as he is conned, the majority is conned and the city council is conned.

I've wondered why we don't take a different tack on this issue. The State of Oregon is hell-bent on banning all sorts of distracted driving. Why not ban the panhandling - at least on streets and freeway on/off ramps - as a distraction to drivers.

And, I would agree with Jack, having worked downtown over the years, sometimes in social services, that many of these folks are not homeless. Even if they are, the funds they collect, I would be willing to bet, do not go towards meals and a room. It is entertaining to watch the shift change take place, especially on the freeway ramps.

I've wondered why we don't take a different tack on this issue. The State of Oregon is hell-bent on banning all sorts of distracted driving.

I think this sentence would be more accurate if the word "distracted" were dropped.

That's fine.

In 15-20 years when Wash County and Hillsboro are bigger/richer/better-schooled than Mult/Portland, all the Portland residents can go downtown and join the existing corner-standers in free speech.

Don't laugh, its happening.

Aggressive panhandling needs to be stopped. It's not free speech when a person physically blocks the path of another and then curses at them for not coughing up their change. Standing to the side, or on street corner/off ramp with a sign should be protected. If you don't like it, don't look.

More should be done by the non-profits who serve the homeless to educate the public by promulgating the message that giving panhandlers money is counter productive. Giving money to these people often enables them to continue in a lifestyle that is seriously harmful to their health, and it's seriously misguided compassion. The money is better spent by sending a check to a homeless shelter, plus you get a write off.

While we're at it, can we add the OSPIRG kids who collect petition signatures on Hawthorne to the list?

If there's a difference between what Indianapolis can do and what Portland can do, it certainly doesn't come from the text of the respective constitutional documents.

The difference is probably case law. Which, as you know, is pretty wacky in Oregon (see, e.g., impairment of unilateral contracts).

The reason Oregon banned common sense in its lawmaking and adjudication is its proximity to California.

For the last several decades, the crystal ball-fortune telling for our state has been available with just a glance to the South. Now we have something that is not the live and let live of the past - it's a dogmatic progressive agenda that doesn't consider any other opinion but its own. And the livability we once had is being ruined.

I hope the City of Portland is monitoring these panhandlers who are 18 and over - they need to pay their Arts Tax just like everybody else. According to our new law, panhandling and cash and gifts received will be counted as income.

My favorite was a bearded guy, standing at a 405 freeway exit and holding a sign that read, "Any change? Too ugly to be a prostitute."

Most state constitutions have roughly the equivalent text, broadly granting rights of speech and written expression, then qualifying that one can be held responsible for the abuse of that right. The Oregon Supreme Court went down the "absolute free speech" path in the 1980s, when Hans Linde was on the court. If you want to know more, please refer to chapters 4 and 5 of my online treatise:

Most of the panhandlers are not homeless, and many are not poor.

Is this true? I wonder what data exists to support this assertion because it would seem to conflict with my observations and assumptions.

The most aggressive panhandlers I have seen in the area are the ones downtown, usually within a few blocks of Pioneer Square and spreading north to Old Town and the Pearl. I'm assuming the panhandlers and "street youth" in this general area are the source of most of the ire here, right? From 2009-2010, I worked at a hotel near Pioneer Square where I spent several hours 3-4 nights/week on or near the sidewalk. I can only recall a handful of times (out of hundreds) where I witnessed someone asking for money that wasn’t obviously poor and/or homeless. Between the drug use and the obvious mental problems I observed, how could they be anything but poor? I don’t know what your definition of homeless is, but I’ve seen many of the Pioneer Square “regulars” bedded down on streets around town or standing in line at the shelters on Burnside. Of course, getting your buddy to tattoo your face with something you found on the street isn’t the best strategy for finding a job, a landlord or any financial security.

The panhandlers standing at intersections and onramps soliciting folks in vehicles seem to be a different group, and less likely to be aggressive (or perhaps easier to ignore) since there’s usually a couple thousand pounds of metal and glass between you and them.

Not to pick nits, but this problem will never be addressed successfully until all parties to the debate can at least agree on a certain set of facts, including the demographic profile of the population we're talking about.

If the city wanted to do something, they'd do it. But there's little will among our leaders to try anything outside the box. Maybe they could make it illegal to give money to someone on the street. Or they could require panhandlers to obtain a license. At a minimum they could start a public awareness campaign to discourage giving money to a panhandler. They could even try to change the state constitution to bring it in line with the US constitution.

Meanwhile our west side downtown streets are literally teaming with vagrants and panhandlers. It's something every visitor to town notices, but our city leaders don't seem to get.

Why not only allow panhandling inside the Capitol building? Doesn't Congress have the same protection as the grifters?

Interestingly enough, I believe you do need a license to busk for money and there are rules about where you can do it. I believe these rules have been in effect for at least 16 years.

According to, City regulations require that each street musician play only for an hour in one spot before moving and leaving the place for someone else. Rules also state that if the music can be heard from more than 100 feet away, it’s too loud. They can play in parks but they can't collect money when they do (except for Tom McCall Waterfront Park).

In 2010 a performing cellist was actually kicked out of Pioneer Courthouse Square.

But you don't need a license to simply sit on the sidewalk all day, exercising your freedom of expression to do nothing and to beg for cigarettes, beer and money to feed your dog.

Darn, the link didn't work again. My html skills have gone to the overheated place of eternal damnation. Here is the link to the very interesting story about the cellist in Pioneer Courthouse Square:

Oh, and guess who is the keeper of the rules for busking?

Portland Business Alliance (Leading the Way!) There's a link called "Downtown Clean and Safe" but it doesn't mention panhandling, assault or even street musicians. And when I tried to abbreviate and follow the base URL for the busking rules (Downtown Services), I got a message that said, "Forbidden: You don't have permission to access /downtown_services/ on this server."

"Tensk ... actually believes." It was satirical, mocking rightwinger talk. Good catch.

"the livability we once had is being ruined." Yeah, impoverishment sure dilutes that quality-of-life thing.

"what data exists to support this ... conflict with my observations and assumptions.
I spent several hours 3-4 nights/week on or near the sidewalk ... where I witnessed.
" Who are you going to believe: rightwing hate-the-neighbor propaganda btch btch btch, or your own lying eyes.

Here is another unsourced statistic I read and judged for myself it is true: The number of empty homes in America is more than the number of homeless persons.

There is for us a ready relief from pandemic poverty, but it can only be seen in the mind's eye that takes off the thick black blinders coated with 70, no, 90 years of propaganda by media despots, and fascists, hating on socialism while, and whereas, world socialism is pretty much inevitable because it's the only sociopolitical condition that will save the world: Sharing.

And, yes, this means the obscene, no, immoral extreme of wealth, such as in the Rothschild family, will all be taken away from them by seizure. Really, how can a person have a billion bucks beside a million people having no bucks? The only question about it is seizure by the State?, as in nationalizing 'private-owned' infrastructures (such as railroads), 'private-owned' institutions (such as the Fed.Reserve), or seizure by mob riot with pitchforks and gallows?

One fresh change is legislators catching onto ideas such as a 'lawful maximum wage,' which means the richest salary at a company must be less than some multiplier, say 20 or 30 times greater than the lowest salary at the company. So the boss is not paid more than 20 (30) times what the janitor is paid. (look it up)

Money for the People: Grillo’s Populist Plan for Italy, Posted on March 7, 2013, by Ellen Brown

"Grillo’s program includes the following:
• unilateral default on the public debt;
• nationalization of the banks; and
• a guaranteed 'citizenship' income of 1000 euros a month.

I emphasize his third point: free money for all us 'citizens' (in need). Because giving it away to everybody is cheaper than the complexity of trying to take it and keep it away from everybody.

Friends, it changed the life of my mind to read the book that lady, Ellen Brown, wrote. See it at the link. Sheesh, I was 60 years old before I learned what money is, as learned in 'Web of Debt.' I gave a copy to my Congressman and a copy to my Mayor.

Common Dreams dot ORG



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