Dozens come to testify at panhandling public hearing

Credit: Troy Colson/ KTVB

Dozens come to testify at panhandling public hearing

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by Stephanie Zepelin

Bio | Email | Follow: @ktvbstephanie

KTVB.COM

Posted on July 30, 2013 at 10:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 30 at 10:34 PM

BOISE --  The Tuesday night Boise City Council meeting became the center of debate, over two possible "civil sidewalks" ordinances.

The mayor and city council are looking at a pair of ordinances to curb panhandling on city streets. At the meeting, they heard from the public and got their thoughts on the ordinances.

The mayor and city council are looking at two separate panhandling ordinances. One is an expansion of ordinance already on the books, which is to curb aggressive panhandling. The second is about blocking sidewalks and walkways.

Fifty-one people signed up to speak, with most against the ordinance, but that does not include any of the emails that were received before Tuesday night's meeting. The meeting lasted until 9:50 p.m.

The meeting got heated at certain points with a group of audience members booing, cheering and even laughing at certain points. Council member David Eberle had to stop in the middle of the meeting to tell the audience to keep quiet and use "decorum."

"This is not just a conversation about homeless people and panhandling, but about who we are in our hearts," said local comedian Mikey Pullman. Pullman said he interacts with the homeless population in Boise often, and said his experiences have all been positive.

"We are living in this pretty oasis together, and Boise is many things, but it is not a gated community," Pullman said. "Removing the homeless from the streets does not help them, it helps us forget to them. And I for one think the soul of my hometown is too precious to be tarnished by how we treat the least desirable of us."

Josh Gross also spoke out against the ordinances, saying Boise does not have a problem with aggressive panhandling. He asked people who think Boise has that problem, to visit cities like Los Angeles.

"In Los Angeles, they tried a similar law and were quickly slapped with a class action lawsuit for violations of the fourth, fifth, eighth and 14th amendments of their citizens in the Ninth Circuit, which we all happen to be in," said Gross.

Other folks, including members of the Boise business community, came to the meeting to speak out in favor the ordinances.

"Panhandlers give a negative impression and perception of our city," said Cliff Clinger, from the Boise Centre. "They tarnish our image and create a distraction from all that our city has to offer."

Clinger said panhandlers can and have made guests and conventioneers uncomfortable.

"While it is not a daily occurrence, we have seen individuals bathe in the fountain, pass out in the Boise Centre external public restrooms, sleep outside of our entrances and on our loading dock, and use the corners or alcoves of the Boise center to urinate or defecate," Clinger said.

Karen Sander, of the Downtown Boise Association, came to encourage the mayor and city council to pass the ordinances for the sake of Boise's businesses.

"Aggressive and commercial solicitation has a negative impact on the retention of businesses in Downtown Boise," said Sander.

The council decided to not to take any action Tuesday, because they said a lot of good points were brought up during the meeting and they want to review those and the ordinances before making a decision.

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