Southern Michigan city rejects ordinance to restrict panhandling

Associated Press

Jackson – After hearing from critics, including the homeless, officials in a southern Michigan city have rejected an ordinance that would have cracked down on panhandling.

The ordinance would have stopped people in Jackson from asking for money by speech or sign near banks, building entrances, outdoor dining or on public transportation. A violation would have carried a $100 fine.

Kevin Hardman, who said he’s homeless, told the Jackson City Council that finding solutions to poverty would be a better step.

“To penalize me or anyone because I’m poor, I don’t dress nice – if you see somebody in that condition, why won’t you help them?” Hardman said.

A first reading of the ordinance was defeated, 5-2, Tuesday, reported.

Council member Karen Bunnell, who voted for the ordinance, said panhandling is a serious issue downtown.

“Those are not just my constituents. Those are also my business owners,” she said.

Mayor Derek Dobies, who opposed the ordinance, said it violated free speech.

“The city can’t say it’s OK for the Salvation Army or firefighters to collect donations in some of these places but not allow poor people to ask for spare change,” he said.