Alarmed by the aggressive tactics of people soliciting on city streets, a Seattle denizen contacted the office of City Council Tim Burgess to complain of a menace. Burgess has recently proposed tougher penalties for "aggressive solicitation and sitting or lying on public sidewalks." Penalties kick in when solicitors are repeating the request near the same person, providing unsolicited services, or make their request within 15 feet of an ATM. According to the blog The Fat-Tailed Sheep, a constituent sent this letter to Burgess:
Sent: Monday, March 01, 2010 3:38 PM
To: Burgess, Tim
Subject: Panhandling ordinance
I was strongly opposed to your panhandling proposal until my experience on the streets of downtown West Seattle yesterday. Now I totally understand where you’re coming from.
Here’s what happened: on the way to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market, I encountered a band of Girl Scouts aggressively promoting cookie sales within spitting distance of a KeyBank ATM where I was withdrawing money. The situation was so extreme that I could actually hear their aggressive, repeated, high-pitched solicitations at the very moment I was entering my PIN. Then as my cash was dispensed and I nervously removed my receipt — trying to stay calm despite this invasion of my constitutional right to not be confronted by my relative class status — I saw two adult women. They were the ringleaders, I assume. They didn’t seem to be doing anything but watching over the whole scene and talking discreetly to each other about god knows what. All in all, a nerve-racking experience.
So there they were, asking for money, repeatedly, despite my lack of interest in what was on offer, all happening well within 15 feet of an ATM. Would this be banned by the your ordinance? I certainly hope so, because there’s a long history of applying laws like this inequitably, almost as an excuse to push poor people out of desirable areas instead of addressing the actual problem.
Thanks for any information you can offer.
And Burgess's office sent this email in reply:
From: Van Duzer, Nate
9:39 AM (1 hour ago)
In answer to your basic question, yes, this ordinance would apply equally to everyone who solicits. If approved, there will be extensive education of the police and people on the street about the new ordinance and what behavior will and will not be allowed.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Nate Van Duzer
Councilmember Tim Burgess