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Panhandling Ordinance Put on Hold

By Laura Spencer

Kansas City, MO – More than a dozen street performers, writers, and others gave testimony yesterday - including music and poetry - about Kansas City's proposed panhandling ordinance. It marked the second hearing in the City Council's Planning, Zoning, and Economic Development Committee for the plan, which calls for prohibiting panhandling on the Country Club Plaza, Westport, Zona Rosa and downtown during designated hours, and at all times within five feet of vehicular traffic. The penalty would be a fine of 500 dollars and/or imprisonment for less than 6 months.

Brett Shirk - the executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri - says the ordinance has constitutional problems and overly broad wording.

BRETT SHIRK: it's unnecessary...almost all the things it's trying to prevent are in the city code. And I think it's bad public policy.

Councilman John Fairfield proposed the ordinance and says it's a matter of finding a balance.

we're trying to protect as much as we can the true street performers out there vs. some of the aggressive panhandling situations that have caused some problems in the city.

The committee tabled discussion on the ordinance for two weeks. Councilman Fairfield says research will continue on the issue, including taking a closer look at similar ordinances in other cities.

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