Panhandlers clogging traffic on Portales’ streets should stop their aggressive behavior.
They might get hurt. Plus, they’re often seeking handouts from hard-working residents who don’t have a dollar to spare.
But enacting a new city ordinance, as the Portales City Council is considering, is not necessary.
The best way to make these people go away is much simpler: Encourage residents not to give them any money.
We understand why Portales Mayor Sharon King and Police Chief Doug Jones want to rid the community of the beggars, who claim to be affiliated with New Life Church of North Dallas.
Multiple residents have reported panhandlers have stood in front of cars, beating on car windows and generally scaring motorists in pursuit of “donations” while backing up traffic.
The City Council is considering an ordinance that would require a soliciting permit. The idea is to allow only “legitimate” groups to ask for money.
But Portales leaders should remember two things as they consider this proposal:
Government intervention seldom solves problems. And such solutions can easily produce unintentional results that will hurt far more than help.
The obvious concern is an anti-solicitation ordinance could hinder Girl Scouts or Little League teams in efforts to collect funds, which nobody wants to see. Just who will decide which groups are “legitimate” permit holders is a concern.
And if fundraising permits are only issued to non-profit groups, will that make it illegal for a young soccer player to seek donations for a summer camp?
Even worse, let’s say New Life Church representatives meet the proposed ordinance’s criteria. Then city government will enable them and protect their rights to be annoying. That might conflict with the city’s current nuisance law, and create a legal conundrum.
The existing law addresses any action that “offends decency,” obstructs traffic, “in any way renders other persons insecure in life or the use of property” and “essentially interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property.”
If that language can’t be used to stop beggars from aggressively seeking money in the street, we doubt any law can.
First, though, Portales drivers should just say no. Lack of success will drive beggars out of town faster than any legal document the City Council can generate.