Council members debate panhandling ordinances

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Begging, beer and business...the Memphis City Council spent Tuesday trying to figure out how the three can co-exist without stripping anyone's rights.

One ordinance under consideration by council members would restrict where people can ask you for money.  For instance, trolley stops and business fronts would be off limits. A second ordinance would ban sales of single beers downtown.

Council members discussed the ordinances at a committee meeting Tuesday, where University of Memphis criminologist Richard Janikowski said the new rules are the best way to get rid of bad behavior.

"Yes, we could have more police presence, if we want more arrests," Janikowski said. "Is that really what we want, or do we want to cut off the behavior before it occurs?"

Others think the ordinances go too far.

"It's a civil rights violation to (ostracize) people from one place to another because of our dislikes because of their social-economic condition," council member Joe Brown said.

Some small businesses say banning single beer sales would put them out of business.

"I'm going to lose a lot of business sending our business to neighborhood," store owner Hindia Baker said. "Right next to my business there is a liquor store not far."

Other business owners retorted it's the panhandling that's costing them business.

"If these ordinances do not pass, all of our businesses a far greater number risk going out of business," one store owner said.

Council member Janis Fullilove said she wants to see people compromise.

"That's why I asked people look in two weeks lets come back with some solutions," Fullilove said.

With a show of hands, most people in the room showed they are fed up with panhandling downtown.

Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin said the two ordinances would enhance the police department's ability to do its job.

The City Council committee will discuss the issue again in two weeks, before a final vote is taken on April 13th.

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