Newport City Councilman John Florez is set to introduce a panhandling ordinance to help combat the proliferation of panhandlers on Newport streets and intersections. The ordinance was written by the former President of the Rhode Island Bar Association, Attorney John Tarantino, and prohibits the exchange of anything between a person standing in a roadway and an occupied motor vehicle. Councilman Florez believes that such an ordinance will pass constitutional muster since an almost identical ordinance has now been upheld twice in the federal courts in Missouri. It’s “content neutral” and this will allow it to hold up constitutionally.
“Signage placed at strategic points in the city discouraging people from giving to panhandlers will then allow more donations to organizations that provide services to our most needy individuals,” according to Councilman Florez. “Anti-panhandling signage has been an effective marketing tool in numerous cities. Giving change to panhandlers is not a compassionate gesture, it perpetuates and reinforces a cycle. Giving change keeps people from seeking real long-term solutions.”
Florez also points to the creation of a new work program that will be offered to those who are panhandling. This minimum wage program will involve beautification projects such as cleaning up litter on city streets: In Albuquerque NM an identical program was created and in one year 70,000 pounds of trash was picked up and some panhandlers were even able to transition to full time work.
Here is a draft of the ordinance: