The Atlanta City Council approved by a vote of 14-0 a compromise ordinance that will allow the city to regulate aggressive panhandling across the entire city.
|Keisha Lance Bottoms|
The substitute ordinance, which was sponsored by Council members Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) and Michael J. Bond (Post 1 At-Large), expands the definition of aggressive solicitation by prohibiting someone from continuing to ask for money after he or she has been told “no.”
It represents a compromise between the administration and City Council after an amendment to the city’s commercial solicitation ordinance was vetoed by the mayor last month. That amendment, as proposed by Councilman Bond, called for up to 180 days in jail upon conviction of a first offense for an aggressive panhandling violation.
Under the compromise ordinance, upon first conviction, a violator could be sentenced to the performance of up to 30 days of community service.
A second conviction for aggressive panhandling will require the violator to serve a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail. Upon the third or future convictions, the violator will be required to serve a mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail.
The judicial system would have discretion in sentencing and social services options will be available.
|Michael Julian Bond|
“This is not a heartless piece of legislation,” said Bottoms. “A judge will still have the discretion in sentencing and to make available assistance for those in true need of social services.”
“This legislation protects our citizens from those wolves who—to the detriment of those truly in need—cloak themselves in sheep’s clothing,” said Bond. “For those who need it, they will be able to obtain the help and services they so desperately require.”
Supporters say the new legislation combines the successful elements of the city’s previous panhandling ordinances and adds provisions that make it relevant to today’s circumstances. For example:
- Like the 1996 and 2005 commercial solicitation laws, the pending legislation outlaws monetary solicitation within 15 feet of locations where people feel intimidated when someone asks them for money, such as at an ATM machine or at a parking lot pay box.
- Like the 1996 but unlike the 2005 commercial solicitation laws, the pending legislation makes it illegal to monetarily solicit someone who is within 15 feet of a building entrance or exit, or is standing in line to enter a building or event facility.
- The legislation re-defines monetary solicitation so that it applies to all commercial solicitation performed by anyone. This ordinance does not target specific types of commercial solicitation performed by certain city residents.
The legislation applies equally throughout the city. There are no special provisions for tourist areas.
In other news, the City Council, approved an ordinance by Council Members C. T. Martin and Bottoms requiring bi-weekly reports of building permit applications received and building permits issued for commercial development within District 11’s Cascade Heights Neighborhood Commercial Zoning District and within any commercially zoned district within Council District 10’s boundary.
The Office of Buildings is to make the reports to the two City Council representatives so that they may share pertinent information of such development with their constituents.
This legislative comes on the heels of a concern that certain communities are being overly saturated with retail discount stores, specifically Family Dollar stores.