GREENSBORO, N.C. - Back on the Greensboro City Council table Tuesday: the panhandling ordinance.
For several months, it's been a hot topic, as council finds the best way to overhaul the rules, and make them more specific. They want to figure out where people can panhandle - and how you can go about doing it.
On Tuesday, council members voted to approve a newly amended ordinance, five to four. However, that's not a super majority, so, it needs to be voted on again at the next city council meeting. Between now and then, revisions can still be made to the panhandling ordinance. But as it stands, according to many on council, this panhandling ordinance now focuses more on harassment.
Council member Justin Outling notes this ordinance is to deal with a "small community of aggressive panhandlers."
However, not everyone agrees. There were several explosive comments, and high emotions during the meeting, especially from council member Michelle Kennedy, who called passing this ordinance discrimination.
"You will be in litigation before the ink dries on the paperwork that made it an ordinance," she said, "And when that litigation happens and when we have nothing - remember how we got back to this point."
The community showed up too, mostly to speak against the ordinance. Kriste Zayack felt compelled to speak, because she used to be homeless almost a decade ago.
"Who are protected? The rich people, so to speak. Not the poor people, not the people that have been disadvantaged," she said, "You can try to understand but unless you’ve actually lived it, you’re never going to understand."
Others, including Mayor Vaughan, see a real need for this ordinance. She says countless emails, phone calls and pleas for help to stop the harassment by panhandlers, led to her decision to approve it.
"It is a shame that we have to pass ordinances that regulate harassment. But that's really what it is: harassment and public safety," she said.
This debate clearly is not over. Since the city council didn't approve the newly revised ordinance by a vote of 6 to 3, they'll vote on it again at their next meeting. As for right now, Mayor Vaughan says a placeholder ordinance stands, while they work on the a better version.
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