Monday, August 24, 2009

first, they came for the hot-n-ready pizza guy

yesterday, i wondered whether the indianapolis city-county council is really so scared of panhandlers that it's ready to take away speech rights from church groups, pizza parlors, and community car washes. apparently, as far as the public safety committee is concerned, the answer is yes:

The vote was 5-1 in favor of the proposal, with Councilwoman Mary Moriarty Adams, a Democrat, voting against it.

The ordinance, sponsored by Republican Michael McQuillen, would make it a violation of city code to stand within 50 feet of a stoplight or a stop sign on a public right of way while soliciting, advertising, selling a product or talking to someone in a vehicle.

The measure would strengthen an existing panhandling ordinance that prohibits asking people for money orally or by street performance, though McQuillen pointed out the new ordinance also would apply to activities such as church fundraisers and teenagers' car washes. Violation of the ordinance would be punishable by a fine.

yes, the council has figured out that in order for their precious panhandling bill to be constitutional, it must apply to all commercial speech—from the black muslims selling incense to the firefighters collecting charitable donations to the kid in the cow costume in front of chick-fil-a. and as it turns out, five members of the public safety committee are cool with that.

as if i haven't been harping on about it ad nauseam, in my neighborhood, a lot of businesses these days have kids in front waving signs in a desperate plea for business. it's tacky, and a lousy after-school job to be sure, but a threat to public safety? not in my neighborhood, at least. i have to wonder whether the owners and managers of these businesses even know that this ordinance would affect them.

the bill is scheduled for a full council vote next monday. while i'd like to think it won't pass, i don't exactly have faith in the republican-led council to do the right thing—barring an outcry from local fast-food joints, tax preparers, and non-profit groups.

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