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Panhandling Debate Heats Up…

Our friends at PubliCola did the heavy lifting by attending last evening’s public forum debating Tim Burgess’s proposal to crack down on aggressive panhandling.

During a public forum at Seattle University last night, proponents and opponents of City Council member Tim Burgess’ proposal to crack down on aggressive panhandling made the case for and against the measure…

…Jon Scholes, policy director at the Downtown Seattle Association, and Burgess argued that the legislation is needed to make downtown feel safe again for residents and visitors. “Our members and residents have had encounters with people who will follow them, people who will get in their face … people who are soliciting for organizations as well as people who are soliciting for their own benefit. So it’s a wide area of concern,” Scholes said.

…Tim Harris, executive director of the homeless newspaper Real Change, argued that the people Scholes and Burgess wanted to protect were primarily rich condo owners. “These [panhandlers] are people who are interfering visibly with our cathedral of consumption downtown,” Harris said.

Read the whole thing here…

My view on the legislation is that it’s legislation. What, huh? Legislation is visibly ineffective (as all Belltowner know) to curb crime on its own. Dealing drugs, taking dumps on sidewalks, and public drunkenness are already crimes. What Belltown needs is an increased enforcement of existing legislation.

However, I believe some trust of an elected official is actually warranted in this case. Tim Burgess is a former Police Officer. He knows way more than I do about what is tying the hands of police with regards to enforcement. If this is another quiver in an officer’s arsenal of existing laws that they feel is required, then I’m all for it.

As for Tim Harris, way to go out on a limb and stereotype an entire community. Yeah, we’re all rich condo owners who wish we had a human sized hamster ball to hide in while we walk down the street. Give me a break Tim! Don’t patronize the folks who are walking these streets on a daily basis. Most of us support Real Change. That’s why they’re there. Totally ignoring the issue of aggressive panhandling and intimidation would be an exercise in ignorance.