Thursday, May 15, 2003

Beggars won't need to register

Cranley changes mind on proposal

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A proposal to register panhandlers in Cincinnati appeared to die in City Council on Wednesday night when supporters lost a key vote.

Councilman John Cranley, who voted for the plan in the Law & Public Safety Committee on Monday, said he "saw the light" and now believes the plan to be "fundamentally and totally flawed."

"It's a license to beg. It will create a permanent industry of panhandling in the city," Cranley said.

He said "scammers and schemers" would be first in line to get registered, hoping the license would convey an air of legitimacy to their activity. Those who are down on their luck and unable to afford bus fare would be most likely to run afoul of the law, he said.

Cranley also opposed a companion measure to spend $50,000 on a social service program to help panhandlers find shelter, food, jobs and substance abuse treatment. He said $50,000 to deal with only 30 problem panhandlers seemed expensive, and he worried that the program would set up "a permanent bureaucracy and advocate for panhandling."

Supporters' arguments

The sponsors of the ordinance, Pat DeWine and David Crowley, hoped to bridge the ideological divide by combining the registration with the social services.

The registration proposal was modeled after a similar ordinance in Dayton, where merchants say it's been effective in curtailing the most abusive beggars.

DeWine said it would give downtown officers another tool to go after problem panhandlers by allowing the police to revoke their licenses, and then cite anyone begging without a license.

The registration system would also give social service agencies more information on the panhandlers and their needs, Crowley said.

But Cranley said another DeWine-sponsored measure enacted last year - which made it illegal to beg near automated teller machines, bus stops and store entrances - has already been successful in curbing the most aggressive panhandling.

Cranley joined Y. Laketa Cole, Minette Cooper, Chris Monzel and Alicia Reece in opposing the measure.

Not having the votes to pass the registration ordinance, DeWine sent it back to his Law Committee on Wednesday. Crowley said they would "build some more fire" under the ordinance and bring it back in a week or two.

But Mayor Charlie Luken, who had threatened to veto the $50,000 in spending on a social worker, predicted it would be holed up in the Law Committee forever.

"It's going to sit on the agenda right next to the item pricing proposal that Pete Strauss introduced in 1983," Luken said.


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