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Councilor: ACLU settlement won't deter panhandling proposal

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The city of Indianapolis reached a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union over enforcement of its panhandling ordinance, but that won't deter a City-County Council effort to pass a more restrictive law, a councilor said Wednesday morning.

“Ultimately, I see that this helps more than hinders,” Republican City-County Councilor Jeff Miller said of the ACLU settlement, in which the city agreed to drop citations against four people who were holding signs outside Circle Centre last August. The agreement was filed Friday and reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Police told them to stop their activity, which was legal under current ordinances and protected by the First Amendment, ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk said.

The city can keep enforcing an ordinance against panhandlers who beg from people in their cars, Falk said, because the existing ordinance applies to all forms of solicitation in roadways and 50 feet from intersections. He said the city misapplied the code when it tried to crack down on people whose signs were aimed at downtown pedestrians.

Miller and Democrat Vop Osili have been working for the past year on a proposal that would apply to begging from pedestrians, and Miller believes it will stand muster in court because it's similar to the existing ordinance on soliciting in roads.

“It’s focused on public safety," Miller said.

Under the proposal, all forms of solicitation, including holding signs, shaking cups and performing for tips, would be banned within 50 feet of financial transactions, as well as pedestrian intersections. Using that criteria, it would affect a large chunk of downtown.

The ordinance would apply to ATMs, banks, parking-meter pay boxes and outdoor cafes.

Miller thinks a court would uphold the new ordinance because it doesn’t try to regulate a form of speech.

“It doesn’t matter how you solicit,” Miller said. “If you’re soliciting, you need to be a safe distance from a financial transaction.”

A proposal was pending before a council committee last year, but Miller withdrew it in January to allow time for more feedback from stakeholders and to start from scratch with cleaner language. He said Osili will sponsor the new proposal, which could be introduced to the council as early as May.

“There were a lot of First Amendment problems with the ordinance that was being considered late last year,” Falk said. “We were prepared to sue if it had passed.”

Miller said he sought but didn't receive feedback from the ACLU.

Falk said one specific problem with the last proposal is that it would have banned solicitations anywhere in the city between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. Miller said the time-of-day language won’t be in the next proposal.
 

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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