Council will consider new rules to allow soliciting of money

Council will consider new rules to allow soliciting of money

In the meantime, ban in effect

PAWTUCKET - Members of the Pawtucket City Council say they'll review existing rules that ban people from asking for money on street corners to see if something can be done to accommodate the common practice.

Councilor Tim Rudd said he wants a distinction made between "random people" like those who are homeless or portray themselves as homeless, and the youth organizations that rely on donations. He said he wants to "formulate a document that allows youth organizations to solicit" funds in a safe manner.

Rudd said he can remember from his own time in youth sports just how much he and others relied on cash collections to cover the cost of trips and other expenses, and he thinks the complete ban currently in place may not be fair to those groups. He's not advocating for anyone to be allowed to collect anywhere, he said, but rules that promote safe soliciting could be the answer.

According to Rudd, new rules on "canning" could lend clarity to a practice that has been going on for decades but only recently has turned into an issue as people "have gone about it in the wrong way." Having restrictions on how far people must stay from an intersection and requiring minors to have supervisors could both maintain a vital funding source for groups and enhance safety, he said.

The council forwarded the matter to its ordinance committee, which includes Councilor Tom Hodge, Terry Mercer and Albert Vitali Jr.

At the request of Vitali, members also approved a motion to ask the police department to enforce existing restrictions on soliciting until a new ordinance is formulated.

Vitali agreed with Rudd that youth organizations should be allowed to raise money through "bake sales and that sort of thing," but asking for money at the busy intersections of Newport Avenue presents a safety issue. Everyone will have deep regret about the issue if even one child is injured or hurt, said Vitali.

Vitali would like to see an ordinance that would only allow people to collect money "in certain areas in the city that are safe for everybody" instead of the current situation where groups "set up shop anywhere in Pawtucket."

Hodge, who acts as chairman of the ordinance committee, said he agrees that unlawful soliciting for money presents a significant safety issue, with young people "weaving in and out" of traffic to collect money. The city could have "any ordinance in the world," said Hodge, but if supervision by responsible adults is not part of the mix, new laws will do no good.

Councilor John Barry III also said he was in favor of ordinance committee members reviewing the existing ban on begging. He said he doesn't believe groups should be "interfering with traffic" and should probably be subject to a "series of regulations," including registering and getting permits. Barry noted that many residents are frightened when people come up to their cars asking for money.

Mercer said he agreed both that organizations should be allowed to raise money, but it's dangerous for them to be doing it by walking on busy intersections like the one at Newport Avenue and Beverage Hill Avenue. Mercer said he doesn't want to "open the door for a tragedy" in exchange "for a handful of nickels and dimes" and "a couple of dollars here and there," and may oppose any proposal to relax the rules. The city could be opening "Pandora's box" by making it "even a little bit" easier for these groups to operate, he said.

Councilor Mark Wildenhain said he understands both Vitali and Rudd's positions on the issue. Instead of having groups in the streets, he said, maybe officials should steer them to private businesses to raise their money. Other councilors pointed out that the elected body would not need to create an ordinance to govern begging on private properties instead of public roads.

Mercer said he agrees with Hodge that no ordinance will be sufficient if responsible adults aren't supervising youths. He favors enforcing existing regulations rather than creating leeway for groups to ask for funds.

City Council President David Moran, like other councilors, wants existing rules enforced to promote public safety and "curtail" the practice of soliciting.

Rudd emphasized that the safety issues being observed along Newport Avenue are not being seen on his side of the city, where young people are staying on the sidewalk and regularly being supervised by adults.

Safety is important, said Rudd, but he believes police "have more important things to do" than to be citing children when they ask for extra change from motorists.

"Instead of going overboard, there has to be a gray area," he said.

Comments

Most of us do not like to be accosted by a stranger, whether in our cars, walking, or in our homes. However, as for soliciting as described, there are already pertinent ordinances on the books that are not being enforced, such as the following from http://www.ecode360.com/8131615?highlight=crosswalk#8131615

§ 351-58 Crossing at crosswalk required.
No pedestrian shall cross a roadway, street or highway in the City of Pawtucket, other than in a crosswalk, in any business district.

§ 351-60 Pedestrians walking along roadways.
A. Where sidewalks are provided, it shall be unlawful for any person to walk along and upon any adjacent roadway, street or highway in said City of Pawtucket.
B. Where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a roadway, street or highway in the City of Pawtucket shall, when practicable, walk only on the left side of such roadway, street or highway, or its shoulder, facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.

§ 351-61 Areas where walking is prohibited.
It shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk in the traveled roadway, street or highway, or in the area adjacent to such roadway, or within any portion of the freeway, expressway or any limited-access highway.

Jaywalking or walking along the roadway is a trivial matter on side streets, but can be dangerous on main thoroughfares, whether or not the person is soliciting funds. Roosevelt Avenue near Slater Mill and the bus terminal is like the old video game Frogger, with people crossing in front of parked buses and suddenly appearing in the path of moving vehicles, while Pleasant Street in Oak Hill is treacherous to drive at dusk when many walkers and runners, often in packs two or three abreast, eschew the sidewalks in favor of the roadway.

* * *

Interestingly enough, there appears to be a singular loophole in the above prohibitions. So, flash that Valley Breeze and you are good to go!
§ 351-64 Exemptions.
Hawkers of daily publications and current periodicals are exempt from the provisions of this article.