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Jackson City Council says no to aggressive solicitation ordinance

Posted at 5:42 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 17:42:57-04

JACKSON, Mich. — Downtown Jackson business owners are asking city officials to do something about what they perceive as a panhandling problem, but the City Council voted down a proposed ordinance at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The ordinance would have prohibited soliciting for money or goods within 15 feet of a bank, ATM, an entrance or exit of a public or private building without the consent of the owner, soliciting on public transportation or from a person who is in any vehicle on a street in such a way that it would impede traffic, among other things.

It also would have barred panhandlers from making false statements, touching the people they’re asking for money from, following them or using obscenities.

Violations would have come with a $100 fine.

Kevin Harden, who says he can’t afford a place to live, said passing the ordinance would have been kicking people who are already down.

“What would happen if we became like me, if you became like me? How would you feel for people to speak to you like a dog or something?,” Harden asked the City Council during public comment.

“I’ve seen people down there and somebody asked them something like, ‘Why don’t you get a damn job? Why don’t you do this? You just a lazy, no good drug addict,’ this and that. Well, wait a minute. How do you know that? You don’t know anything about me,” Harden said.

Homeless in Jackson

Mayor Derek Dobies along with several council members and representatives from the Racial Equity Commission said in the meeting the ordinance would have been unconstitutional and would have lead to jail time for homeless people as they wouldn’t be able to pay the fine.

Ordinances making it unlawful to disturb the peace, be disorderly and intoxicated or obstruct public ways are already part of Jackson’s municipal code.

City officials say they will go back to the drawing board to find a “better” way of dealing with panhandlers.

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