Big crowd at Boise City Hall for vote on panhandling law

sberg@idahostatesman.comSeptember 17, 2013 

0813 local panhandler

A panhandler, who preferred not to offer his name, said when this photo was taken in 2010 along Milwaukee Street in Boise that he uses humorous signs and big grin in the hope of getting a dollar or two from motorists. "It makes them smile and they appreciate that," the man said.

DARIN OSWALD — Idaho Statesman file Buy Photo

The ordinance that looked to be a done deal has the potential to force Boise Mayor David Bieter to cast a decisive vote.

Tonight is the final reading and time when the City Council would pass the law that makes it a crime to solicit money in an aggressive manner or in a variety of other circumstances.

Perhaps 100 people were in the audience at 6 p.m. — the beginning of Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

A vote on a controversial panhandling law is expected shortly.

Two council members — David Eberle and Elaine Clegg — were expected to miss the meeting. That leaves the vote on the panhandling ordinance in the hands of Ben Quintana, Maryanne Jordan, T.J. Thomson — all of whom are facing challengers in their reelection bids — and Lauren McLean.

At about 2:45 Tuesday afternoon, McLean sent me a statement detailing why she’ll vote against the ordinance. A few minutes later, Thomson said he’ll vote for it.

Jordan and Quintana haven’t returned phone calls yet. If one votes for the law and the other votes against it, the deciding vote will go to Bieter.

Thomson said the ordinance is appropriately focused on curbing aggressive solicitation and without restricting free speech or people’s ability to ask for money in a reasonable manner.

Here’s McLean’s statement:

“Great cities are rich with the texture of diversity. If this ordinance was just about aggressive panhandling, I could vote for it. But it goes too far.

When we have rights bumping up against each other, we need to balance them. It’s important to me when I vote on issues requiring this balance that I make sure that the rights of the less fortunate aren’t sacrificed for the rights of others.

The last five years have been tough on our community. Families are hurting, vets are returning, and a lot of folks are still unemployed or underemployed. I want to make sure we are building a community where we can all succeed.”

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