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Grand Rapids city commission rejects proposed anti-panhandling ordinance

A cup for spare change and a cardboard sign
Wikimedia Commons
A cup for spare change and a cardboard sign

The Grand Rapids City Commission last night voted down a controversial proposed panhandling ordinance.

The ordinance was billed as a pedestrian safety law, but it would have allowed police to give costly tickets to people panhandling at certain intersections at specific times of day.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, who voted against the ordinance, says it wouldn’t have addressed the safety concerns it was supposed to be about.

“Of course we want people to be safe, but criminalizing panhandling at intersections, especially specific ones, isn't the solution,” Bliss said.

Mayor Bliss believes the city has better options for pedestrian safety and homelessness.

“I think we’ve got some great informational programs already planned for increasing pedestrian safety, so we are going to focus more on those,” she said.

Ben Kaiser, one of many residents who spoke against the proposed ordinance last night, says plenty of people panhandle because of the city's housing crisis.

“And if we punish them unjustly for just one petty act, an act of survival, then we're doing ourselves and our city a great disservice,” Kaiser said.

A similar ordinance was approved by the commission in 2012. It was later ruled unconstitutional in court.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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