News Mar 11, 2010 at 4:00 am

Is City Council Member Tim Burgess the New Mark Sidran?

Burgess wants a new law punishing aggressive solicitation. Kelly O


Oh Mary - Sidran lost by a small amount, counting past election night.

Burgess is smooth as silk - and the pan handlers have become a pain in the ass, all social blah blah aside.
Burgess is just like Nickles. This so called "tough on crime" idea does not work, you have to deal with it at it's root, rather than just increasing punishments and putting more cops of the street.

Burgess just lost my vote.
This ordinance is a Downtown Seattle Association ordinance, plain and simple. However, it will be applied CITY-WIDE, including in my neighborhood, Lake City. We have some extremely well-mannered panhandlers who sometimes stand within 15 feet of ATMs. An occasional police officer (and they certainly are occasional, especially in the "crime-ridden" downtown where they should be) may interpret someone as being aggressive (even if the supposed victim disagrees) and warn or cite the panhandler unfairly. And if a panhandler is actually being aggressive but no police officer is there to observe it, then nothing can be done, since there's no witness of the aggressive speech. Neither of those situations is solved by an ordinance: in the first, the panhandler is the victim of the officer's misconception; in the second, the admitted victim has no recourse. This whole show is a waste of time, especially since the ordinance probably won't stand up in court and the City (using our tax money) will have to defend it. I compliment Ms. Bagshaw for her good sense in doubting the ordinance's utility and encourage other Councilmembers to think twice before getting the whole City into someting one Councilmember obviously feels is his right to push through. He may not be aware that he is not the City Council representative of the Pioneer Square merchants, but one of nine for the whole City. We should remind him of that.
In Vancouver, BC, when a law like this was enacted it we called it 'hobophobic' and tossed its sponsor from elected office (although sadly leaving his party in power).

The idea behind legislation like this is that aggressive begging is caused by a lack of civility. But this is false. The actual cause is poverty, need, desperation etc. Solve those issues and a host of social ills disappear.

It's a little mean-spirited to reply to 10% unemployment, with its social and personal stresses, with this kind of civic policy.



Terrible arguments, Dominic. Terrible.

Ad hominem comparison with Sidran. If you're allowed to pretend anyone cares that Burgess kind of reminds you of Sidran, then let me point out that Burgess more than kind of reminds not just me, but everybody, of Bob Mould. Bob Fracking Mould, baby. Game, set and match right there on the ad hominem, Dominic.

And then there's the red herrings like debating whether concern about panhandling is up or down. Should we allow panhandling around ATMs if it is down? No.

Or the red herring that somehow this law is special because it might could maybe be selectively applied to the homeless or leftist "human spam", as Savage rightly calls them. Couldn't any law on the books be selectively used against a group, if the police were corrupt? You could use that to argue against having any laws at all.

Or the suggestion that if this law doesn't resolve every kind of problem with panhandling, then it shouldn't be passed. Another red herring -- if the law promises to improve the situation at all, then why not? A little improvement is a good thing.

Also: red herring that the law doesn't offer more police resources. Since when is that a criterion for what should and shouldn't be legal? Since when is more cops a requirement for every new law?

And then you blur the distinction between poor, homeless, and mentally ill. This is not an attack on the poor, or the homeless. It is an attempt to mitigate the harm caused by all the mentally ill people we have running around. It's kind of insulting to poor people in general to suggest that panhandling next to ATMs is the kind of choice the would make. They're poor, not stupid.

Same goes for the human spam, er, canvassers. The ones with any sense wouldn't be bothering anybody at an ATM. It's only the nutters like the Larouchies that this is about.

Should we get the mentally ill real help? Yes. But until we do, should we let them harass us at ATMs? No. I feel no guilt whatsoever about the lack of help for the mentally ill: I support spending money to help them, and it is not my fault that people like me don't have enough influence in this country. I have no desire to self-flagellate by letting crazy people yell at me around pay stations and ATMs.

Why not? is the question everyone keeps putting to you, Dominic. Basic common sense says it should not be allowed to bother people with their wallets out trying to fuss with some machine. Of course that shouldn't be allowed. Why should it?

Why should we let anybody bother anybody else at ATMs and pay sations?
What do you mean stats are down? It's those fucking aggressive panhandlers that are keeping the rest of us from enjoying downtown Seattle, not just with their aggressive panhandling but hogging and fucking with whatever few available restrooms there are. Guess what? Families with children like to go down there and not have to deal with crackheads giving each other blowjobs in port-a-potties, or taking panhandling *showers* in restroom sinks. Children who still can't hold it in forever.
This is one more useless law passed to make a politician look good in his own eyes. I'm sick of passing laws that are un-enforceable before the ink's dry, then spending $1,000's trying to defend the stupid laws in court, only to have them struck down, which should have happened in the first council meeting they were floated in.
Is Burgess going to be the council's answer to Tim Eyman, for crap's sake? We thought you were a snake in the grass before you were elected Mr Burgess, and this only makes you more of one.
Sounds like #5 and #6 need to move to Bellevue.
Free speech is a right of everyone including poor and homeless. They have a right to ask anything they want. You have a right to not answer or walk away. Burgess is pandering to big money that want to sweep the streets of unpleasant reminders of their selfishness and greed. Fuck them.
The Stranger endorsed Mr. Burgess for his election effort. And, I think we all knew what we were getting in this ex cop. Mr Burgess also did homophobic PR, major client was Concerned Women of America, after he left the cop shop.

Your guy -- editors of the Strangler.

Of course the proposed law is vague and will be thrown out by the court system. But no surprise Burgess is carrying water for law and order.
Darth Burgess looks like Darth Chertoff, yeah that Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and co-author of the USA PATRIOT Act. Put the Googleye on Chertoff, you'll see.

Please don't confuse the homophobe with a true homo hero like Bob Mould.
Plus Darth Burgress follows in a long line of "clean-up-the-city" civility fascists that started with Darth Giuliani in NYC and filtered down to Darth Sidran here in Seattle.

The Libertarian Fools that edit the Strangler will get bit on the ass by this one. Burgess is a stealth Darth, don't even trust the fucker.
Just watch what happens, this guy's bright, but it's the same old civility song and dance.
@6: Haha, what. The Market is experiencing pretty awesome business and while certain parts of the retail core are shivering in the cold of the recession, it's an otherwise fine time to be a tourist in central Seattle.

@5: Hm, a law made for people who are offended that they aren't the only people on the face of this earth? A law that requires you to be nice and not bother folks? A law that lets people feel smug about their lack of social skills? Sounds like they wrote this one for you, elenchos.
Just keep the ad hominem coming, kids. It only proves I'm right.

You got nothing.
So are we now adding Seattle to the list of cities that wants to pretend it doesn't have problems? God forbid all the soccer moms have to be subjected to some unprivileged people on the way to their Nordstrom shopping spree.
Pushing the homeless out of the downtown core doesn't help to end the problem any more than banning malt liquor sales downtown helped to end alcoholism or public drunkenness.
Treat the illness, not the symptom.
Um... does fining panhandlers sound just a little counterproductive to anybody else? How exactly would this work?
"Hello, ma'am, could you spare some change to help me pay my fine for being too aggressive last time? No? Well, nice to speak with you. I hope you have a lovely evening."

I also thought this was pretty ironic.
It's clearly a ploy to keep these "undesirables" in jail even longer. When they cannot afford to pay their fine, the judge can then jail them even longer.
They get out of jail and are right back out on the street in the same shape, maybe even worse than before.
If you can't pay your fines, you get community service. As has been pointed out many times before. Dominic could start mentioning it in these articles but I guess it's the commneters' job to fill in the missing facts.

Advocacy journalism, ladies and gentlemen. Advocacy journalism.
The only proper response to this is the one James Inman gave at a Seattle City Council neighborhood meeting after the WTO protests. It's on youtube.

I hope someone will strap Burgess down as Sidran takes a dump in his mouth while the Inman youtube video streams nonstop. It is the only just and appropriate thing that could happen at this point.
I personally think that the not being allowed to hang out immediately around ATM's and parking paystaions is a good idea, what makes some one, especially a visitor feel less then safe it's not being able to get money or pay for parking with out having people hovering and associating them for money. I would like to see some one with those kind of balls propose a bill like this in the city I live in, it might actually help their effort to revitalize downtown, after all no one wants to shop in the place where all the druggies and panhandlers accost you for money. It's the reason I do not shop down town unless I absolutely have to, not to mention you add the insult of having to pay for the privilege of parking to "enjoy" that experience. (now if the Bellingham city council would ever figure out that actually dealing with the panhandling and soliciting is the big problem they might actually fix things)
Response to Civility War

Tim Burgess’s vision to increase police, foot patrol, and other services would be helpful for the safety of downtown workers and residents, but the idea of fining panhandlers $50 for aggressive solicitation is as ludicrous as saying to a homeless person, “why don’t you just get a job?” Many of us know that it is much more complicated than simply applying a fee to fix a much larger issue.

I work in downtown Seattle on Second Avenue between University and Seneca where I witness a community of regulars on a daily basis that I refer to as “The Professionals”. One of the individuals, let’s call him Buddy because of his social nature with everyone waiting for the bus, uses the area outside of our office as if it were a panhandling cocktail party, though his cup is usually filled with change rather than libations. After drunkenly chatting about current events, bus schedules, directions, and parking meters, he’ll usually give you a knuckle knock and kindly ask you to fill his cup. The other day Buddy did the Nestea plunge into our building and smacked his head soundly on the molding of our window sill. We called 911 and Buddy wasn’t too happy with the Seattle Fire Department picking him up off the ground. Buddy said some rude remarks to the firemen and eventually chased them off his territory. This is a monthly occurrence outside of our office. If it’s not someone passed out drunk in the bus lane then it’s another mentally ill person threatening the safety of the bus riders.

Another usual suspect is Two Bagger. She walks up and down 2nd avenue carrying two bags, asking every person for a dollar. When Two Bagger is not asking for money, you can find her setting down her bags and laughing hysterically to herself, yelling directly at our office windows, or passing her panhandled money to someone that buys her booze. Two Bagger seems to be severely mentally ill and has a love for alcohol, but is capable of asking for a dollar from all passersby. She asks me for money sometimes 4 times a day just because she doesn’t remember our last interaction.

The most aggressive of “The Professionals” is The Cryer. She will walk right into your personal space, kneading her hands with her sobbing act to pull at your heart strings. If you say no then she’ll stop immediately and carry on to the next victim. I once saw her point at the preferred bill in a woman’s wallet while sobbing profusely, “No, not the one, the five.” The Cryer is an obvious drug addict and seems to have the best strategy of the three. She also gets more coverage and can be seen anywhere in the downtown area.

I agree with what council member Sally Bagshaw said, which is that there is a 100% chance of never receiving owed fines from the panhandling community. The only way “The Professionals” will ever part with $50 is if it involved booze or meth and they would need to increase their rate of panhandling in order to come up with the “panhandling fee”. A fine is the farthest from the answer to the question of how these people will change their lives. Tim Burgess will need to look deeper into what is really happening on the street before coming up with an answer. I’m sure there are many people in Seattle that have interactions with fixtures in the community like “The Professionals” and each person has their own unique issues. If Tim Burgess is searching for a platform to run on then maybe he should focus on the availability of mental health services for people like the “The Professionals” within our community, or lack there of, instead of holding out his cup and asking for $50.
Tim Bourgeoisie is an aggressive panhandler who wears a suit when begging for money, power and votes to people on the street and his other corporate greed addicts.

They have more of a negative impact on the streets and on real Americans than the people who might have slipped through the cracks and ended up on the street in this economy. And it only seems to be getting worse, people. Just prosecute those who commit actual crimes like any other day and face the facts of a harsh reality. Next, it'll be you...

As for all these soccer moms crying about not being able to raise your children in a modern American metropolis like downtown Seattle, I have news for you. Nobody cares about your children, that's why they're YOUR children! Why do you think people flocked to the suburbs as far back as the 50's?

Society should start having as much disdain for women compulsively breeding as they do for gay people getting married. It would actually make more sense. After all, where do you think all this surplus population on the street is coming from? Overpopulation!

Get your tubes tied or move to the suburbs, the adults are talking...
After being away from Seattle for over twenty years, I took a vacation here and Vancouver last fall. I was seriously considering moving back. I spent my early childhood in Seattle and my best memories are of running wild all through downtown as a very young child.

As a far less than rich New Yorker, I know all about "street people," but I was stunted by the in-your-face assault by beggars and the staggering number of mentally impaired people roaming downtown Seattle. I was reminded of the time when nearly everybody had declared New York was either dead or dieing.

I believe it is no coincidence that New York's rebirth and its facing the problem of the quality of life for all of its citizens are related. One only has to look to Vancouver for proof of this conclusion.

Vancouver obviously has done a lot of soul searching about how to deal with panhandlers and the mentally ill on its streets. But it has learned what New York has. By declaring that people on street are happy and not that big of deal only ensures that these people will continue to suffer and spread the pain to other communities affecting working poor far more than the protected rich. Do New York and Vancouver have perfect solutions to this problem? No. But a city that it is not vibrant, growing and secure will never have the resources to help itself let alone its most vulnerable citizens.

In short, Vancouver is a city I eagerly recommend to people; and Seattle, a city I recommend to avoid because it would rather let an old problem fester than deal with it as other cities have done so successfully. I still have a great fondness for Seattle. Why else would I read the Stranger? However, this sentiment has become nothing more than nostalgia.
How many hours panhandling will a panhandler have to panhandle to pay a panhandling fine?
I love it how people like "Rip City Hustle" think the solution is for people who don't like agressive panhandling (and the overall degredation of downtown Seattle) should "move to Bellevue". People like that are exactly the problem that we have here in Seattle! They spread misinformation or exaggerations about the continually "homeless" as the problems continue to grow. Hurray for Burgess for trying something! As it stands now, panhandling, perpetual "homelessness" (by choice) and wefare culture are being cemented into the fabric of downtown Seattle. We shouldn't have to go to Bellevue to avoid being hit up for money, drug deals in bathrooms, or people taking "showers" in the public restroom sink.
The Stranger was one of Burgess's main promoters when he was running against David Della in 2007. Even then it was clear Burgess was going to be the spokesman for the Police Guild and the downtown law & order interests. Why don't you do a story on how your editorial staff fucked up and told people to vote for this guy?
I'm sick and tired of the homeless whining and crying discrimination when talk of getting tough on panhandling comes up. This law needs to be passed! I am a liberal who has grown hardened by the harassing, aggressive panhandling that is allowed to go on unchecked downtown. Often by those who have little fear of the law because they know cops have bigger fish to fry. It's not about being mean or persecuting homeless its about making the city safe so that one can walk the streets without fear of unwanted harassment by those who are too damn lazy to work.
As a liberal I'm fed up with the constant gauntlet of panhandlers and aggressive "Real Change" vendors I have to face downtown. Have you ever had to work anywhere near earshot of the notorious real change guy at 3rd and Pike and face his constant dirty looks when you don't laugh at his jokes about accepting a $20.00 if you have no cfhange? When did it become wrong to want to have some civility so that one can walk to work without fear or harassment? I applaud Burgress for this and say to the ACLU which I am a member or and the others so against it, TOUGH we have put up with the pandhandlers having free reign of things for far too long. It's time those of us who try to earn and honest living get a little help so that we can walk to work, use the parking meter or ATM without having to be harassed by those who hide behind freedom of speech laws knowing full well what they are doing is wrong but they know the cops are too busy to come after them.
Let me first state that I am a hardcore lefty... Single Payer Health Care, Kennedy worshipping east coast liberal with socialist tendencies. That being said...

The rights of the elderly, women and children to feel safe while walking down the street attempting to go about their daily business supersedes the rights of aggressive vagrants.

This is a PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUE, not a free speech issue.

My elderly mother refuses to leave her apartment after 3 in the afternoon due to inappropriately aggressive panhandlers. This is in a residential area of Capitol Hill.

It is time to get our priorities straight as a city and decide what kind of town we want to live in.

I for one prefer one in which people feel comfortable walking out there front door knowing that if they are harassed on the street they can call the police and KNOW they can get help.

Up until now the police have had little to no ability to respond to complaints regarding street harassment. Now at least they can fulfill there oaths to SERVE AND PROTECT the citizens of Seattle.

Yeah. Just what we need. MORE laws.

Panhandlers are indeed a pain in the ass. Ticketing them is not the solution.

I've been away from Seattle for some time and am sure it's worse now... but do we really need more law and order band aids?
Tim Burgess is following the line from the "broken window" theory from NYC. As an FYI, NYC hired hundreds and hundreds of new policeman during Giuliani and Bratton time, which was the real reason why crime went down. Civility laws without enforcement by police walking the beat means nothing. Wait for it. Watch for a public safety levy, since it "benefits" the whole city. Come on folks, follow the money. When you see the DSA and GSCC in the same article, you should smell money and bullshit. F.U.D. at its finest.

The DSA and GSCC (and perhaps, the city) are basically afraid, not by panhandlers,
but rather that the downtown core is dying. The DSA and GSCC represent
the largest landowners/businesses in the downtown core. Do not forget that. DSA is grasping at straws at anything, trying to stop the exodus of shoppers and residents from downtown. This is mostly a FUD gimmick and illusion that somehow laws without being to enforce them will make the downtown vibrant again. But of course, a public safety levy
could do wonders to combat panhandlers. Everybody wins, except of course, most
of the neighborhoods outside of the downtown core.

There are reasons why the downtown core is dying:
1. Overbuilt office space - 7+ million sqft of empty space, about 25% empty. Or George Allen from the GSCC would say, "No, no, it is 75% full!"
2. Expensive parking. People still drive, sorry Sierra Club.
3. Updated Suburban/neighborhood malls with free parking. See U village, Bellevue, Northgate.
4. High unemployment in jobs that require office space. Wamu? The FIRE employment cluster is dead in Seattle.
5. The Digital Superhighway - Internet shopping.
6. My favorite: Empty nesters who used to live in Single family homes for 30+ years did not flock to live in a tiny 800 sqft condo downtown. Duh.

The DSA\GSCC followed bad advice and strategy during the last 10 years.
This is just a continuation of the same blind leading the blind, while the poor and weak get kicked around. Well, I will ease my conscience by shopping at the U Village, Bellevue mall, or Amazon.
Panhandlers - annoying as ever

Politicians - bad ideas regularly

No real story here. No sense in getting heated defending panhandlers (let's be serious), nor a politician who has come up with toothless legislation (no cops = no ticket, more cops = less panhandling in the first place). Let's move on.
I'll admit that I go downtown less than I used to since it's become less appealing. Why is it less appealing? Filthy vagrants getting up in my face and my wife's face. Filthy vagrants hassling me with thinly veiled threats if I park a car and don't pay protection fees. Fuck 'em.
I'm sick of watching people give money to the bums and think it's going to buy food. It's not. It goes to drug dealers and malt liquor since they already get fed for free.
Not everyone is a twentysomething hipster that gets ignored by the panhandlers.
In order for this ordinance to really work, Seattle needs to have an area where this behavior can be allowed. This behavior is not poverty or homelessness. This is mental illness and addiction. It is totally irrational to spend your time clowning on the streets when you are homeless or poor. I am homeless and poor, but I don't do this. I look for housing, jobs, and social assistance.
Many mention Vancouver here. Well, Vancouver has an area called Downtown Eastside, where everything is allowed, which gives no reason for addicted/mentally ill to go elsewhere in the city. Besides, police do not allow this behavior in other neighborhoods. Downtown Eastside, however, has a lot of services for mental illness and addiction, which also helps to keep these folks centralized and supervised. Free heroin can be injected there in a clinic under supervision as well, which can not be done anywhere else in the city.
I live Downtown. Not Cap. Hill, not the ID, not any other area The city council seems to think is downtown. I am an actual resident of Downtown. I think that the actual residents need to have a say in this ordinance.
Reminds me of a planning meeting about downtown Seattle a few years ago where I noticed the Landes room was filled to capacity, but when I asked how many lived Downtown, eleven hands went up.
No more outsiders making plans for us.
Almost every day now, around 5PM, on the corner of Cherry and 3rd, a drunken, smelly, dirty man standing on that spot moves out in front of me, sticking a dirty cup in my face. And in a loud, indiscernible growl, asks me for money. I can smell his nasty breath because he gets so close. So close that the first time I encountered him, about a month ago, I tripped as I tried to move out of his way.

I grew up in a bigger, badder City than Seattle, and I'm not fearful of people on the streets or what urban living includes. But this guy pisses me off. Why is it okay for him to do that to me every day, but I can't raise my voice in protest without being labeled a "right wing nut" or just plain insensitive to the plight of the those poor people.

For the record, I'm left-leaning Democrat on most political topics. But this is just dumb. YOU take him to a corner close to your house, and let your kids and spouse and socialist neighbors deal with him. And be totally understanding and have your kids bring out PB&J sandwiches to the poor, drunk soul. You'll feel better, and I have this intimidating pain-in-the-ass out of my face.

Go Burgess Go!! Don't stop with this. Giuliani cleaned up 42nd Street in NYC! Then he stopped the blocking of traffic by pedestrians and cars, and buses. He brought back law and order and it's safer there.

Mr. Burgess, you clean up these streets and I PROMISE to bring 5, smart volunteers for your (hopeful) campaign for mayor.

PS: Build it (more facilities and handouts) and they will come...

Please wait...

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