|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE Panhandlers in Holyoke may have a more difficult time if a new ordinance is adopted.
The proposed ordinance was discussed at a meeting of downtown business owners last week, some of whom had expressed concerns about the behavior of people asking for money.
Kathy Anderson, the city's director of planning and development, explained that panhandling was protected under the First Amendment as free speech. The ordinance specifies behaviors, which go beyond the mere request for money.
Anderson said she would like to submit the draft this week to the City Council for the Ordinance Committee's consideration.
The ordinance reads:
"A. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms in an aggressive manner in any place open to the general public, including nut not limited to any area or building owned, leased, operated or controlled by or on behalf of any government, municipality, public authority, or public corporation in the City; sidewalks, streets alleys, and driveways; parking lots or garages; parks, plaza, playgrounds and other recreation areas; schools; the doorways an entrances to such buildings and the grounds enclosing such buildings.
"B. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms in a false or mis-leading manner.
"C. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms in any public transportation vehicle or within 25 feet of any bus or train station or stop.
"D. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms within 25 feet of any automatic teller machine, check cashing business or bank. When an automated teller machine is located within an automatic teller machine facility, the distance shall be measured from the entrance and/or exit of the automated teller machine facility.
"E. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms from any operator of a motor vehicle that is in traffic on a public street.
"F. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms on private property if the owners, tenant, or lawful occupant has asked that person not to solicit on the property or has posted a sign clearly indicating that solicitations are not welcome on the property.
"G. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms after sunset and before sunrise.
"H. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms as part of a group of two or more persons, I a manner and with conduct, words, gestures intended or likely to cause a reasonable person to fear imminent bodily harm or damage to or loss of property or other wise to be intimidated into giving money or other things of value.
"I. No person may ask, beg, or solicit alms in the median strip of a roadway."
Violation of the ordinance could result in arrest a $100 for each offense.
Ward One City Councilor Donald Welch who attended the meeting reminded the business owners that they can give panhandlers a no trespassing order to help combat the practice on their property.
The business owners also discussed an upcoming initiative to create a Holyoke artist network. Anderson said there are many artists in the city and she hopes to have as many as possible attend a meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Office of Planning and Development at One Court Plaza. She hopes that visual artists, musicians, writers as well as those people interested in fostering the arts consider attending the meeting.
She noted that in a downtown business survey, 13 respondents had said they would be willing to allow local artists to display their work in their shops and offices.
Anderson said she is also interested in putting together a display of all of the products manufactured in the city.