Salt Lake City Council delays panhandling decision


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SALT LAKE CITY — Concerns about enforcing proposed restrictions on panhandling, as well as educating the public about them, have delayed any action on the matter until next year.

The Salt Lake City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to continue to discuss and perhaps revamp a proposed ordinance that would regulate when, where and how people solicit donations in the city.

"I'm not comfortable that we've put our entire brain around this issue and looked at it from a very comprehensive perspective," Councilman Stan Penfold said.

The lack of action came as a disappointment to downtown residents who've been working with city officials for roughly two years to bring the proposed commercial solicitation ordinance to a vote.

"Tonight was an opportunity to take a small step, a step that has been two years in the making, and you missed the boat," Christian Harrison, chairman of the Downtown Community Council, told the City Council. "I hope the chance you have to come back and look at this is not wasted."

Councilwoman Jill Remington Love, who joined Penfold, Luke Garrott and Soren Simonsen in voting to delay a decision, said the hope is that more discussion will allow the council more time to come up with "the right ordinance."

"We've heard very loudly and clearly that we do have a problem," Love said. "We know you don't feel safe. I'm committed to work with you and provide resources to the police department to solve the problem downtown."

Council Chairman JT Martin made an emotional plea to his colleagues on the council to approve the ordinance, saying residents, visitors and merchants downtown have made it clear the city needs to address aggressive panhandling.

"Our residents, in vast numbers, by the thousands, have said we want this ordinance," Martin said. "We're just turning our backs on them. We are sending a message to our residents that your concerns are not important."

As proposed, the ordinance would have prohibited people from asking others for money within 10 feet of specific areas, including sidewalk cafes or outdoor dining areas; places where people are lining up to purchase tickets or get into an event; bus or train stops; and ATMs.

It also would have made it illegal to panhandle throughout the city after sunset and before sunrise. In addition, anyone who intimidates, threatens or causes "a reasonable person to fear bodily harm" when asking for donations would have been in violation of the ordinance.

Such action would have been a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The City Council is not scheduled to meet again this year.

E-mail: jpage@desnews.com.

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