Thursday, March 24, 2011

24 MAR 11: No-Try Zone?

Sometimes I think Columbus convenience stores should paint large gold circles on the sidewalk. Make them the designated places for people to stand and beg for money. If more than one person at a time wants to stand in a circle, you'll have entertaining and spontaneous sumo wrestling matches.

A citywide solution to public begging apparently is still weeks away. Wednesday's Ledger-Enquirer updated efforts to replace the "tramp law" - and revealed there could be places where begging is banned completely. Coaching boxes at sports events will NOT be included, so "begging for a call" will continue.

Reynolds Bickerstaff of Uptown Columbus is proposing a designated "no panhandling zone" in the downtown area. In one way, this only seems logical. Begging for cigarettes or matches outside Club Oxygen might create a dangerously explosive situation.

City Attorney Clifton Fay warned a designated no-begging zone might raise constitutional issues. Courts actually have ruled panhandling is a protected form of free speech - and besides, what if a downtown business used that zone to hold a sidewalk sale?

The newspaper indicated the panhandling proposal has been modified a bit. Instead of a sunrise-to-sunset time limit, beggars could operate 12 hours a day - from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET during daylight time. Even the best panhandler's day starts with a nutritious breakfast....

We already knew the proposal would outlaw "aggressive" panhandling in Columbus. That's defined in part as blocking someone else's path - which gets around specifically saying you can't beg for money by standing outside bathroom stalls.

Long-time blog readers understand why I'm watching this proposal closely. I've documented dozens of encounters with beggars here, from MidTown Columbus restaurants to the Hurtsboro Post Office. I still have NOT met any beggars in 2011 - but the deadline for filing income tax returns is only about three weeks away.

No one officially has asked for my input with the city panhandling proposal. But if they did, I'd say.... hey, wait a minute. That sort of request would come pretty close to panhandling, wouldn't it?

But anyway: I can think of a couple of areas where the begging restrictions could be more specific. How about a rule saying panhandlers only can make one request per "customer"? I've met beggars who turned a simple request for lunch money into a crosstown ride, and even an invitation to meet buddies.

The proposal would bar panhandlers from walking with prospective "customers." How about broadening that language to exclude running as well? A man in downtown Atlanta actually joined my evening jog on Martin Luther King Day - and made his pitch for money over a two-block span. Do you know how hard it is to negotiate with a total stranger while you're at full stride?

It also occurred to me that while the city proposal bans panhandling around bank entrances and outdoor cafes, it says nothing about government buildings. Those lobbyists get a nice loophole again....

We'll keep watching developments on this issue - and now let's check others that we found Wednesday:

+ WLTZ revealed accused Phenix City Councilor Arthur Sumbry Sr. has hired Mark Shelnutt as his defense attorney. Tip one: pack the jury pool with members of your church....

+ The Quitman County Sheriff reported a Georgetown man grabbed a gun and threatened members of his family, after watching Charlie Sheen kiss Jimmy Kimmel on Kimmel's late-night talk show. The only thing he'll be "winning" from that is five years of free lodging in a state prison.

+ Police in Union Springs told WSFA-TV a van filled with inflated balloons exploded, injuring two people. Authorities discovered the balloons were filled with pure oxygen instead of helium, and they overheated in the midday sun. At least the "suspects" didn't attempt to fly away and escape.

+ Fort Benning's Third Brigade participated in a training program known as the "Buffalo Stakes." If Fort Benning wins, does Columbus finally get a Ted's Montana Grill?

+ The top story on WLTZ's "Alabama First News" was the opening day of spring football practice at Auburn University. Not the top sports story - the top story, period. This is how you can tell it's a slow day in Lee County....

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) concluded its season with Alabama's men mashing Miami 79-64. The Crimson Tide advance to the National Invitational Tournament semifinals next week in New York - where Eli Gold probably is already making dinner reservations for the team.

+ Instant Message to whomever created the "BRAC Now" website: Do you realize how confused you've made some people at Fort Benning? People might see your ads about "BRAC Analysis" and conclude base realignment is making them sick.

COMING SOON: Why would a government agency create a website especially for me?....

More than 54,700 unique folks visited The Blog of Columbus last year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment about this blog, write me - but be warned: I may post your e-mail and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 941 (+ 30. 3.3%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-11 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

site stats