By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Which is the better way to curb downtown panhandling: spending $50,000 on a social worker to address the "root causes" of street begging, or requiring panhandlers to get a license?
That was the debate Monday night as City Council considered ways to curb aggressive begging and thus help office workers, shoppers and baseball fans feel more comfortable downtown.
The proposal by Councilmen David Crowley and Pat DeWine has both components - a get-tough registration ordinance and a softer social service program.
But Mayor Charlie Luken made clear Monday he doesn't like the idea of spending $50,000 on a downtown social worker when the city already spends millions on social services in downtown and Over-the-Rhine.
"It's time to get serious about coming down hard on this behavior," he said.
"We act in these discussions as if people who engage in panhandling are somehow trying to deal with the issues of poverty and homelessness. Most social workers will tell you - and they've admitted it in these chambers - that most of the time, the panhandling that is going on is to obtain alcohol or drugs."
Luken also used the occasion to restate his criticism of Over-the-Rhine social service agencies - the Drop Inn Center among them - that "aren't giving us the cooperation we deserve" in dealing with aggressive panhandling.
Councilwoman Y. Laketa Cole has problems with the ordinance, too. She questions whether the registration scheme will work.
"I'm just really having a hard time understanding how you're going to expect a panhandler to one, register, and two, be photographed?" And she asked where the Police Department would mail the registration cards if most panhandlers are homeless.
The ordinance would require panhandlers to register - free - at the Cincinnati Health Department's Elm Street Clinic.
The Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless isn't crazy about the proposal, either. But executive director Georgine Getty said the coalition could live with the proposal after council members made compromises to make the registration process less intrusive and "address the root causes of homelessness."
The proposal appears to have the support of at least five of the nine council members, with a final vote coming Wednesday.
TOP LOCAL STORIES
Heimlich blasts police reforms, judges
Council debates panhandling law
Second assault alleged in N.Ky. jail
Pills might protect arteries
Artificial cornea implant done here
LAURA PULFER COLUMN
Married travelers: Agony, ecstasy, baggage
Top lawyer for city suspended
Rock toss puts teen through ordeal
Flooding recalls '01 damage
AROUND THE TRISTATE
Tristate A.M. Report
Schools pilot girls-in-science program
Good News: Marketers of the future compete
Obituary: Jack Wirthlin, lawyer, WWII veteran
Fairfield revises plan to revitalize Ohio 4
Clermont asks for aid to fix storm loss
Zoning board scales down plan
Cuyahoga judge gets seat on top court
Murder charges filed in campus shooting
Ohio Moments: Boy, 9, Civil War hero
CROWLEY: Dem candidates hold rally here
Slaying suspect faces extradition
Worker hurt in trailer fire
Man says he witnessed attack at WKU