“Panhandling” ordinance moving forward

FLINT TWP. — A Traffic Safety Ordinance passed first reading by the township board Monday night and is headed for a public hearing, second reading and adoption at the board’s January 5 meeting.

That may sound like something new but actually is the outcome of a yearlong effort to alleviate a growing panhandling problem in the township. The Traffic Safety Ordinance was recommended by an advisory committee formed in August to weigh the pros and cons of a previously proposed Begging and Soliciting Ordinance that would have placed stricter limits on where panhandlers can operate. The board has not acted on that ordinance which passed first reading in July and was then tabled.

Trustees Belenda Parker and Barb Vert voted no in the 4-2 decision to approve first reading of the transportation safety ordinance. Parker said she voted no because the name change is like “playing games” and also because she received the board informational packet too late to digest the information. Township Clerk Kim Courts was absent.

The advisory committee presented the proposed ordinance language to the board in October. Based on an existing Michigan Vehicle Code, the township’s proposed Ordinance to Promote Public Health, Safety and Welfare regulates interference with vehicles on public streets and provides penalties for violation.

It reads in part: “It shall be unlawful for any person, with- out authority, to receive or to attempt to receive money or any other object or thing for an occupant of a motor vehicle that is operating on a public street, provided, however, that this subsection shall not apply to services rendered in connection with services supplied by emergency responders or repairs requested by an occupant of the motor vehicle.”

The ordinance also makes it unlawful for “any one not a passenger in a motor vehicle” to give money or other objects out of the vehicle while the vehicle is in traffic.

The ordinance deems violations as a municipal civil infraction with fines up to $500 plus costs.

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said a public hearing will be set for Jan. 5 and the entire ordinance will be posted on the township’s website for residents to read through prior to the next board meting.

The board passed the first reading with no discussion. However, Miller said she if the measure passes in January, she will ask the board to delay implementation until spring to allow time to inform the public. She compared that precaution to when the township previously passed an ordinance banning overnight parking on streets and police immediately began issuing violation tickets to uninformed residents.

She said a committee also will be working to reach out to street beggars to let them know that the ordinance has taken effect and to provide them with information on community resources where they can go to get help.

It is uncertain how the ordiance will impact future street collections by charitable organizations such as the Old Newsboys because it is unclear which “authority” can grant permits. Township officials have said that the Genesee County Road Commission is the authority.

Miller also noted that the ordinance simply bans street beggars and anyone else from standing in or near public right of ways where they interfere with traffic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *