Archive for Wednesday, December 10, 2008

City nixes tougher panhandling regulations

City commissioners decline to enact tougher downtown panhandling regulations.

December 10, 2008


City commissioners Tuesday balked at placing tougher regulations on downtown panhandlers after being told the new rules could land the city in a risky lawsuit.

Up for approval was a new set of regulations that would make it illegal for anyone to ask verbally for an immediate donation of money on a downtown sidewalk or street. The proposed ordinance drew a sharp response from an American Civil Liberties Union attorney, who said he thought the regulations would be found unconstitutional by a court.

A staff attorney from the city told commissioners he couldn’t give them much assurance that the city would win a lawsuit challenging the legality of the regulations.

“Until it is tested in court, there are no guarantees,” Scott Miller, a staff attorney for the city, said. “The ACLU probably has some pretty valid arguments it can advance in court about why it is not lawful. We have arguments we can advance in court to respond to those.”

Commissioners instead agreed to table the proposed regulations, and directed staff members to meet with downtown merchants who have expressed concerns about panhandlers frightening customers. Commissioners also asked staff to talk with the police department to determine whether more officers could patrol the downtown area.

Commissioners held open the possibility of bringing the regulations back up for approval if conditions did not improve in the downtown. Commissioners Mike Amyx and Sue Hack indicated they were ready to give the new regulations a try, but they did not find a third vote. Commissioner Rob Chestnut, though, made a point to say he thought the city would be within its legal rights to implement the new regulations, but first wanted to try greater enforcement of an existing ordinance that bans aggressive panhandling.

In other business, commissioners:

• approved the Farmers Turnpike Plan on a 4-1 vote. The sector plan spells out how approximately 4,000 acres of property along the Kansas Turnpike northwest of Lawrence should be developed. Commissioner Boog Highberger voted against the plan. The plan now must be presented to the Douglas County Commission. A date hasn’t yet been set for that hearing.

• agreed on a 4-1 vote that a proposed extension of 31st Street from Haskell Avenue to County Road 1057 should be designed for speeds of 45 miles per hour. Highberger voted against the design, saying the road should be designed for 35 mile per hour speed to better accommodate pedestrians.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

Commissioners and taxpayers,This 31st plan will impact Prairie Park Nature center. Taxpayers have invested way over a million dollars in this jewel. Taxpayers should demand a lot of respect for their investments. Why not avoid the nature center completely?This is also going through heavy residential. This indicates a 3 lane roadway would be more appropriate than a 4 lane speedway. Peterson Road between Iowa and Kasold is a perfect example of what not to repeat. According to some DOT's 3 lanes in this situation as opposed to 4 lanes: save taxpayers money yet move traffic efficiently Keeps speed under control Accident rates are way lower Safer for pedestrians crossing the roadOther considerations:This road may as well include marked cross walks with lights in the plan. Residents will come asking for such safety measures. This is heavy family residential.Build travel ways under the highway for safe wildlife passage. Avoiding deer accidents should be a high priority.LRM and Martin CAT will likely make tons of dough since they located themselves where the road must travel. This road design has been known for a few years. Rumor has it that taxpayers will be held responsible for cleaning up after LRM.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 10 months ago

"...downtown merchants who have expressed concerns about panhandlers frightening customers."+++"Build it and they will come" is what I hear often on this board.Merchants,why are they not coming?Because some drunk hangs out on Mass or because they know where they can go to get more bang for their buck and can be treated like a paying customer?This strategic whining(as in whining for a purpose)falls just shy of asking the city to MAKE people come to your stores and spend money.Try customer service and community friendly prices.You may be amazed.And I am sure the bums would appreciate it too.Attract more people downtown and they will have a broader panhandling base as well.It is a win/win.

Sharon Aikins 6 years, 10 months ago

Why have we worked so hard to maintain the downtown? I haven't been there in years. The last time I was, it was scary at best. Can't imagine what it's like now. Why should I go downtown to buy something for a higher price in a store that is not user friendly usually to someone who uses a walker? It's hot, cold, windy, rainy, uneven walks with lots of curbs, old buildings that I've stumbled going into when I could walk. There appears to be no "charm" left there, a hangout for panhandlers, the homeless, drunks and who? I would never go there after dark, not even a restaurant. Give me a nice store, well lit and climate controlled, with merchandise that is affordable and accessability, I can do without the different, the exotic and the overpriced. If not, I can order it online and have it delivered directly to my door. It's sad but I feel that in our efforts to protect downtown we have made it an undesirable destination. Wonder how many people still come here from other places to shop this quaint street? I for one am grateful for shopping malls, larger stores away from downtown and mostly the internet for shopping. In my opinion, we have protected downtown Lawrence into oblivion. I'm assuming downtown sidewalks are public domain so how can all the panhandling be stopped?

Quigly 6 years, 10 months ago

Maybe we should build the stocks right down in that little park by Papa Keno's. Maybe a little "bastinado" will keep those darn homeless away from our great and wonderful Larrytown. Or maybe those cages they used to hang from trees, what are those? A pillory I think, that way other "bums" will have a fair warning before they make it downtown. What a waste of time and effort. There are so many other problems and we are wasting time and taxpayer money for this. Man, I love Johnson oops I mean Douglas county. What a tolerant and welcoming group of people. Our city motto should read " DON'T bring us your poor and hungry. Keep them to yourselves"

Linda Aikins 6 years, 10 months ago

Good job Merrill. I like to support the local merchants. And if you haven't been downtown for lots of years, I'm not sure how you can comment on it. You wouldn't know that it is always packed, and parking is hard to find. There are lots of people that shop there; I don't know if they are buying, but they are there. And charm? That's in the eye of the beholder.And I see lots of walkers/wheelchairs/motorized carts there. I grew up in a small town and learned to support the locals.

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