Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Takin' it to the streets? Not so fast. They're dangerous, you know.

Last night our city council voted 5-3 in favor of an ordinance prohibiting groups from soliciting donations at intersections, a grand tradition that the ordinance identified variously as roadside collections and roadblocks, and which many others view as sanctioned panhandling.

Mercifully, Bob "CeeSaw" Caesar was absent, or else it would have belatedly occurred to him that we pay for Rent Boy Park with roadblocks manned by volunteers in gaily festooned period costume.

Council members Diane McCartin-Benedetti and Scott Blair voted against the ordinance because they said it doesn’t provide groups an alternative to raise money.

“I’d like to be able to give these groups a way to continue to do their fundraising,” Blair said.

Sometimes these people make you want to scream. Since when is it the council's business to help these groups continue fundraising?

Since when is it the council's responsibility to excuse safety concerns merely because we've always done it that way, which incidentally is the same reasoning that kept raw sewage flowing through streetside ditches for millennia.

Something that seems to have eluded Blair, Benedetti and even John Gonder (who didn't really explain his no vote) is that the council was being asked to consider only one specific factor with this ordinance:

Are such collections safe, or not?

Apocryphal evidence points to the latter. City attorney Stan Robison concurred that they are dangerous. The fire department long ago suspended intersection collections for the Crusade for Children owing to these being unsafe.

The argument in favor of continuing the tradition came down to the tradition itself: We've always done it this way, and it's for a worthy cause. Dan Coffey shredded this, saying in essence that just because wading into a street with buckets is the easiest way to ask for money, it doesn't mean it's the only way. Groups that are sufficiently creative to perform a service (car washes) or pair with businesses for fundraising promotions illustrate that there are other paths.

However, it should be noted that the ordinance's sponsor, Greg Phipps, very nearly (and perhaps unwittingly) offered a reason for me to abruptly flip and oppose the measure when he observed that such middle-of-the-street collections "slow down traffic."

Really? Then perhaps we should have them more often. Perhaps they should become a permanent, 24-hour feature of Spring Street near my house and Greg's.

That's because the final and most annoying obvious truth missed by council on this matter was that with everyone in the room agreeing that city streets are sufficiently unsafe to merit either an outright ban on buckets or at least more stringent safety precautions on the part of panhandlers, that maybe the chaotic traffic situation itself is A PRE-EXISTING DESIGN ISSUE MERITING THE COUNCIL'S ATTENTION BEFORE IT APPLIES BAND-AIDS TO CURBSIDE COLLECTORS?

But, in fairness, how would any of the council members know that? Apart from re-elections campaigns (and maybe not even then), when's the last time you saw any of them walking the sidewalks or riding a bicycle?

What was that?

Oh, sorry. I forgot that in addition to depositing my weapons at the checkpoint before entering the council chamber, I must also secure my rationality at the door.

(This was the 6,000th post at NA Confidential)

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