While insisting that new proposals will not eliminate panhandling, the Boise City Council is about to take up three new ordinances that "will help curb harassing or unsafe panhandling, sitting and lying on sidewalks" and, according to city officials, "other issues that negatively affect the city's public places."
The Council is expected to first review the proposed ordinances at a work session this Tuesday, May 21, and a public hearing is scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, June 4. After three readings, the Council could vote on the new ordinances as early as Tuesday, June 18.
In 2010, the city of Boise began funding its "Have a Heart. Give Smart" campaign, asking citizens to reconsider giving to individuals on the street and instead divert funds directly to charities.
The newly proposed rules come in the form of three ordinances:
Aggressive Solicitation Ordinance: prohibiting solicitation of money from motorists on a roadway, soliciting from persons who are eating and drinking at sidewalk cafes or standing in service lines, soliciting outside entrances to banks or near ATMs, solicitation within 20 feet of bus stops or taxi stands or solicitation within 20 feet of any parking payment station or within any public parking garage. Violation would be a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.
Civil Sidewalks Ordinance: prohibiting sitting on or lying on a publicly owned infrastructure not designed for sitting, such as planters, trash receptacles or utility boxes, in building entrances or exits, in driveways or loading docks. Violators would be issued a warning before any citation is written. If a citation is written, it would be an infraction costing $61.50. A subsequent violation within 24 hours would be a misdemeanor. The ordinance includes exceptions for medical emergencies, wheelcahirs and strollers, special events and parade viewing.
Public Placement Ordinance: requiring a permit for erecting a tent, stage or placing tables or chairs on public property. The ordinance exempts personal property such as bikes and other temporary items used while visiting a park, attending a picnic, sporting event or parade. Violations would be a misdemeanor.
A statement from the city says "passive solicitation in public areas will remain legal. Courts have ruled that a total ban on panhandling is a violation of Constitutional protections of free expression."