Seattle's controversial panhandling law ready for council vote

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by TRICIA MANNING-SMITH / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on April 18, 2010 at 1:10 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 18 at 5:44 PM

SEATTLE - A battle is brewing in Seattle City Hall over a controversial panhandling ordinance.

The full Council is expected to consider the measure on Monday. It would prohibit begging near parking meters or within 15 feet of someone using an ATM.  It would also ban intimidating language or abusive gestures, or following someone who says "no."  Violators face a $50 fine. 

The ACLU  has already sent a letter to the Seattle City Council urging members not to enact a new law banning aggressive panhandling. In the letter, the ACLU says the proposal will not do anything to address the causes of homelessness and poverty. Also, it could be used to target "undesirable" people who panhandle to support themselves.

But the proposal also has a lot of people wondering just how far the law could go. Some worry if passed, it may limit how Girl Scouts can sell their cookies.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has said he will veto the ordinance if it passes with fewer than six votes. 

"We have laws against it, we should enforce those laws.  Adding this new law doesn't add anything to our existing laws, and adds the risk of criminalizing the poor and that's not right," he said.

Downtown businesses have lobbied in favor of the tougher new law, but homeless advocacy groups join others in opposing it.
 

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