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Kansas City Council sends panhandling ordinance back to committee

Posted: 4:57 PM, Oct 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-25 22:22:45Z

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a long discussion, the Kansas City Council on Thursday decided to send a contentious public safety ordinance that would essentially limit panhandling back to committee.

The council postponed a vote on the ordinance for three weeks. The proposal would ban anyone from standing at street corners or exit ramps longer than the time it takes to safely cross the street.

The ordinance was previously held for three weeks after Councilwoman Jolie Justus wanted to make some changes to the proposal after the initial version sparked controversy. 

"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 said. 

The ordinance would make it nearly impossible for people to stand at street corners and ask drivers for money. If passed, the penalty for violating the new ordinance would be a fine between $1 and $500, or up to six months in jail. 

"They don't want to hire ex-felons, they don't want to hire someone that is homeless. I don't have an address now. Now the politicians are trying to take out what we have to do to get food," said Shaggy, a homeless man who declined to give his last name. 

The proposal doesn't specifically mention panhandling, but it drew concerns since panhandling is legal.

The idea came about after the city received numerous complaints about panhandling. Last year, the city received 191 panhandling complaints. In the first eight months of 2018, 176 complaints have been made. 

"I've noticed a few more that have been aggressive," said Carrol Marley, a Kansas City resident. 

The ordinance would also impact people such as firefighters doing a boot drive or others who stand on corners to raise money for charities. 

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to send the ordinance to the full City Council with the recommendation of "do not pass." Each member of the council must vote to pass the ordinance before it can become a law. 

KCPD has no position on the ordinance but said if passed, officers will enforce the law.