Tacoma quashes panhandling
Tacoma, Washington has boldly gone where evidently no other American city has gone before, and virtually eliminated panhandling from most traditional public forums. Under the sweeping ordinance passed by the City Council this fall, panhandling is banned within 15 feet of ATMs, bus stops, parked cars, pay phones, gas stations, car washes, and outdoor cafes within the city. Panhandling is specifically illegal on buses, at intersections, and on freeway ramps; nor is it permitted to be any way directed toward traffic. If panhandlers can still find somewhere to ply their noxious trade, they can’t beg anywhere in the city between dusk and dawn.
Hurray. In my fourteen years here, this is the first time I can recall the Tacoma City Council doing something proactively constructive to promote basic civility. I am so tired of moronic narratives of dead cars that just need a few gallons of gas, a job interview but no bus fare, or simply someone blowing “Spare change, Miss?” in my direction on a waff of cigarette breath. High time, City of Destiny.
Tacoma passed the ordinance in response to “numerous complaints from citizens, businesses, community organizations, and others regarding serious public harms caused by panhandlers” (from the Ordinance, linked at the end of this post). Good. That’s the City Council’s job.
I don’t find Tacoma’s law in the least uncharitable. According to this article by Seattle reporter C. R. Douglas, panhandlers are murmuring that if they can’t beg, they’ll just start breaking into cars. They murmur that people should have the choice to give them money.
Huh? If I don’t give you money you’re going to break into my car, and you’re calling that a choice?
Our “choice” has already been pre-empted by taxation for welfare schemes, public mental health and drug rehab programs, and the toll of crime.
You can download Tacoma’s vanguard ordinance here; the text includes panhandling ordinances in effect in other cities for comparison.