#PLTS: Regulating poverty

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Outside Greensboro’s City Hall before Tuesday night’s city council meeting, people currently experiencing homelessness along with anti-poverty advocates protested the city’s panhandling and loitering ordinances passed a few years ago. The ordinance in question required people to obtain a privilege license in order to legally ask for money in public, which requires a driver’s license, no previous license violations and criminal background check.

Tuesday, council members voted to repeal the city’s laws requiring panhandlers to be licensed. They also voted to replace the ordinance with laws regulating all forms of solicitation, whether it’s panhandling or aggressive fundraising tactics by charitable organizations. The broad law concerning all types of solicitation, the second of the city’s recommendations, passed 6-3 with Johnson, Kennedy and Wells voting against.

Lost in the shuffle is the reason for the ordinance change in the first place: Similar ordinances are consistently thrown out when considered in federal courts.

In other words: You Can’t Do That.

But in its quest to help middle-class folks ignore the poverty in Greensboro while they shop and eat downtown, council will enact a more general ordinance, outlawing not just panhandling but all forms of solicitation: begging, charitable or political soliciting, peddling, commercial soliciting, itinerant merchanting, street performing and, ironically, mobile food trucks.

Bad news for the Girls Scouts and the B-boys. But hey, anything to keep someone from asking for a handout.

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