KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Leaders in Kansas City, Missouri want to revise a proposed ordinance aimed at curbing panhandling.
After a nearly three-hour long meeting of the city’s transportation committee Thursday morning, Councilwoman Jolie Justus requested her fellow committee members to allow her time to revise the proposal and bring it back to the committee on September 27. At that point, the committee will decide whether to forward it to the entire city council, which will have the authority to adopt or deny the proposal.
As it was presented Thursday, the proposal is geared as a pedestrian safety measure and never mentions the word panhandling. But city leaders acknowledged its purpose is to give police another tool to address panhandlers. They continue to be the number one complaint on the city’s 311 hotline.
The proposed ordinance basically forbids anyone from standing or hanging out on a street corner, median, or exit ramp longer than the amount of time it takes to safely cross the street.
“The crosswalk should get you to your destination, not be your destination,” Captain Doug Niemeier from the police department explained.
Justus wants to add more specifics to the proposal and put more burden on motorists.
“Is there a scenario where we can talk about pedestrian safety and also include the behavior of the motorists who are slowing down traffic, or cutting across traffic, or waving people over and saying come here to my window so I can give you something?” Justus asked.
The police department said the number of cars crashing into pedestrians has gone up the past three years. Leaders think an ordinance like this will send that trend the other direction.
The public was split during the comment portion of Thursday’s meeting. Half told stories of aggressive panhandlers, while others said the drafted law criminalizes the homeless.
Civil rights issues also came up. The proposal would apply to everyone. So while it would basically prevent panhandling, it would also prevent you from holding a “Go Royals” sign at a corner, or keep firefighters from passing their boot at intersections for fundraisers.