Saturday, Dec 7, 2013
Carbondale to Consider Changes to Panhandling Ordinance
JACKSON COUNTY -- Carbondale leaders are considering a plan to toughen the city's panhandling ordinance. If it passes, some of the busiest shopping areas would be off limits to people asking for money or other help.
Panhandling can be a touchy issue. However, some business owners that panhandling can chase away customers and hurt sales.
"They know who has money and where they're going to spend it," said small business owner and Carbondale Chamber of Commerce board member Todd Darnstaedt.
Panhandling was one of many issues brought to light in a survey by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and the city. It was focused on finding ways to improve business in Carbondale.
"They have felt that the panhandling issue has gotten worse," said Darnstaedt.
The response was that the actions of some panhandlers were hurting sales and the shopping experience downtown and in other busy areas.
"Distracting customers from the businesses or actually inhibiting customers from going into businesses because of their fear of being hassled," said Darnstaedt.
Darnstaedt believes changes to the ordinance would give police better tools.
"There would be more defined zones that panhandling would not be allowed in," said Darnstaedt.
If it passes, the amendment would add public land and several types of business property on Route 13 and Route 51 to the list of areas where panhandling is not allowed.
It's not just businesses that have concerns. Many shoppers, like Karran Drake, dread running into someone looking for money.
"It's like I'm sorry, I'm having enough trouble trying to make ends meet myself," said Drake.
Drake believes panhandling hurts the city's image, and it's been enough to keep her from a few stores. She's glad to see a new ordinance in the works.
"It's like every corner around the shopping district has got a panhandler on it," said Drake. "It's like it's the same panhandler day after day."
The current ordinance for Carbondale has some restrictions. For example, no more than two people can approach you at a time. Panhandling is not allowed on public transportation or near an ATM or bank. The Carbondale city council meeting is Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
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