FLINT TWP. — After a yearlong search for answers to its growing panhandling problem, the township board is now considering an ordinance that would prohibit passing money or anything else out of or into a vehicle in the roadway, without permission.
Those were among recommendations presented to the board Monday night by a Begging and Soliciting Committee established Aug. 5 to review a proposed, controversial panhandling ordinance.
The board held a first reading on July 7 on an ordinance prohibiting soliciting on public roadways and near other public areas such as bus stops. But a strongly worded objection from the American Civil Liberties Union led to tabling the ordinance while a committee was formed to review options.
The committee met five times including a public hearing, said Jerry Preston, committee chairman. The 13-member committee included clergy, business owners and representatives of nonprofits who would be affected by the street soliciting ban.
The committee’s recommendations include taking no action on the previously proposed ordinance; forming a committee to provide information to panhandlers about agencies that can help them; and enacting a replacement ordinance that would prohibit giving or receiving money or other objects from a vehicle in the roadway and authorize township Code Enforcement Officers to request identification from panhandlers observed in violation of the new ordinance.
The committee’s recommendations are based on several findings including that the Michigan Vehicle Code, already in place, prohibits groups and individuals from blocking, impeding or otherwise interfering with traffic, unless authorized. That applies to groups such as the Old Newsboys who conduct an annual street collection in the roadway.
Another finding is that the township board does not have power to authorize street solicitations in the public right of way because the Genesee County Road Commission has jurisdiction over major township roads. Therefore the permit to solicit process is being referred to the road commission.
The proposed ordinance is touted as a public safety measure. Court rulings have sanctioned street begging as a form of freedom of speech but has also upheld soliciting bans if applied to everyone, not just to beggars.
The township board took no action on the recommendation. Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said she would be meeting with road commission officials to discuss permit logistics.
She also said there was no hurry to bring the proposed ordinance before the board for a vote but that she would like to have the matter resolved by the end of the year.