Plan would legalize soliciting on city streets, but outsiders excluded

Plan would legalize soliciting on city streets, but outsiders excluded

PAWTUCKET - A plan by a member of the Pawtucket City Council would legalize soliciting for money along city streets, but only for city-based groups and only under certain conditions.

District 6 Councilor Tim Rudd, a police officer in Providence, said he thinks that both public safety and the interests of local youths can be protected under new proposed rules that would allow limited "canning" for money.

"Being a police officer, I understand firsthand the importance of public safety and the safety of our children," Rudd told his colleagues on the City Council last week. "Also being a collegiate coach and father, I understand the importance of youth sports and the positive role they play in our children's social, physical, and moral development."

According to Rudd, "We need to continue to allow our Pawtucket-based youth groups to be able to raise funds and flourish so that they are able to purchase equipment when needed and fund their competitions."

Should Pawtucket groups be allowed to solicit funds? Tell us at www.valleybreeze.com .

Rudd's proposed new rules on soliciting would exclude any groups that are not based within city borders. Also prohibited from would be any people who are homeless, whether they spend their life in Pawtucket or not.

Homeless people and other solo panhandlers would not even be allowed to apply for a permit to beg under Rudd's proposal. He said the homeless are already prohibited from asking for money under the current ordinances, but the ban on them doing so is not currently enforced very strictly.

The Pawtucket City Council's ordinance committee voted to put off a decision on Rudd's proposal during its meeting Monday night. Rudd, Chief Paul King and Public Works Director Lance Hill will continue discussions on the councilman's proposal as they try to work out an agreement.

If passed by the council, Rudd's proposal as constituted would require:

* That only Pawtucket-based groups that register with the city be allowed to solicit.

* That organizations register with the Pawtucket Police Department and request a permit ahead of time stating the location, date, and times that members will be soliciting.

* That adults be supervising panhandling activities at all times.

* That soliciting only take place from the sidewalk and not in the roadway.

* That the permit dates and times need to be updated yearly and the youth organization must be in good standing with the city of Pawtucket.

Failure to adhere to the guidelines on solicitation would result in possible fine and revocation of a permit to solicit, according to Rudd's proposal.

Even under the ban that's now in place, youths are still in the streets asking for money, said Rudd.

"It is for this reason and many others that it is pertinent we codify and legalize 'canning' for our Pawtucket-based organizations that conduct themselves in a legal way according to the law," he said.

Creating parameters for the process will give Pawtucket officers options when responding to complaints about street-level soliciting of money, according to Rudd.

Rudd said he believes a supervised child asking for money from passing motorists is in no more danger than a child taking part in a car wash.

Revised requirements would give police all the information they need, said Rudd, including the name of the organization, the location for soliciting, times and dates and proper safety measures.

"We need to always put our youth first and use balance with common sense," he said. "Nothing in life is black and white. There is and always will be a gray area."

The City Council voted in April to ask the Pawtucket Police Department to more strictly enforce the city's ban on soliciting money, citing in part the safety issue of having young people running out in the roadway to take money through car windows.

But according to Rudd, the "complete ban and enforcement of this ban" on soliciting by youth groups "makes us look anti-youth and not flexible."

An earlier vote to seek stricter enforcement on begging came even as members of the council agreed that revised rules could be in order.

Council members and police officials have said that canning for money can be a lucrative endeavor, sometimes netting hundreds of dollars in one afternoon.

Comments

Who doesn't dislike being hassled for money on the sidewalk, and especially on the street where panhandling is dangerous for everyone, including the guy driving behind you who didn't expect you to suddenly stop? If a grocery store wants to allow a guy with a Salvation Army bucket on its property, fine. If someone plays accordion for our amusement in front of the Visitor's Center with a donation tin in front of him, fine. Old-time comedian Danny Thomas used to talk about grown men selling apples on street corners during the Depression when he was a kid, fine.
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We need more opportunities for casual laborers, like sweeping streets and sidewalks, tending gardens, driving pedicabs.
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A couple of thoughts about the homeless:

1) they can vote here
2) they can be taxed here

If this proposal is accepted, the citizens of Pawtucket will not be perceived as anti-youth, but they will be perceived as anti-homeless. And I think allowing some "citizens" permits to beg for money and not others is a potential violation of the 14th Amendment.

If the youth of this city need money to fund their sports activities, let them engage in activities like some of the ones listed in the comment above, sweeping streets and sidewalks, tending gardens, car washes, bake sales and other activities where they develop a work ethic.

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." Dostoevsky

I think the the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by the way we treat the homeless and maybe some youth projects to raise money for awareness around this issue split with funding youth programs would be a worthy compromise.