Saturday, February 7, 2009

"Poverty is Not a Crime" stops panhandling ordinance

Congratulations! You wouldn't know it by reading the Northampton Gazette article, but skilled and persistent organizing by the new group Poverty is Not a Crime has forced the Northampton, MA City Council to table indefinitely a proposed ordinance which would have restricted panhandling to such a degree as to make it virtually forbidden, and which would have instituted impossible-to-pay fines that could have led to warrants and incarceration.

Thanks also to Bill Newman of the ACLU, who also recently stood up against a Springfield City Council proposal which would have recriminalized possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Mayor Claire Higgins said that the community had become so polarized over the ordinance that it was impossible to move ahead. Efforts by the Business Improvement District to improve business conditions had also become inextricably linked to the anti-panhandling ordinance. You can read Fred Contrada's Springfield republican article here.

The new blog The Invisible People has collected some examples of panhandling ordinances, both passed and proposed. Check it out.

Photo from DTE People's photostream at Flickr.

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