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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 25, 2013 4 years ago

Our View: Panhandler paradise no more


At last. A reprieve.

Perhaps even elimination.

Thanks to the crafty law drafting of Sarasota City Attorney Robert Fournier, the Sarasota City Commission outlawed panhandling Tuesday on many of the city’s busiest streets and roadways.

As of April 30, motorists on the busiest streets in the city won’t have to endure the panhandlers trudging by their cars.

No doubt the American Civil Liberties Union will find some way to challenge this ordinance. But Fournier sounded confident with city commissioners that he crafted the ordinance as a public-safety issue and not one of infringing on the right of free speech, of which panhandling qualifies.

The city’s new law prohibits individuals from soliciting for “donations, contributions, employment, business or sales or exchanges of any kind” from an occupant of a motor vehicle that is “on the traveled portion of the public roadway.” By extension the ordinance would prohibit soliciting by standing on medians.

The ordinance does not prohibit people from standing on the sides of streets or sidewalks with signs advertising businesses or urging voters to support candidates.

This was Step One for the city in addressing one of the most vexing issues affecting the region. While panhandling on busy streets is indeed a public-safety issue, it’s also an economic issue. It certainly doesn’t help this region’s most important export business — tourism.

We’ll see, of course, whether the ACLU thwarts the commission’s efforts. If the law stands, the commission’s next challenge will be finding a similar remedy to panhandling on the city’s downtown sidewalks. That will be tougher.

To be sure, panhandling is a fact of life. Beggars have walked the world’s streets since the beginning of time. And they come in all varieties — some truly down on their luck, some mentally ill, some addicted to drugs, some lazy and some troublemakers.

Like most people, though, panhandlers respond to incentives. If a panhandler isn’t able to fill his pockets, he’s likely to go elsewhere. As we said before: Harsh as it may sound, don’t give them a dime. A hand up is better than a hand out.

+ New normal: vigilance
It can happen here.

It did happen here. Terrorists were here.

The story has been told many times since Sept. 11, 2001, that Mohammed Atta, one of the infamous World Trade Center murderers, lived in Venice and trained with one of his colleagues on how to pilot a jet.

Our Longboat Observer reported a few days after the 9-11 attacks that Atta had been seen at meetings at the restaurant at the then-Longboat Key Holiday Inn.

The Longboat Observer also quoted a former Longboat Key fire inspector that a van with several men of Middle Eastern descent tried to get into the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort the morning of the attack to see President Bush but were thwarted at the guard gate and sped off.

It’s easy to forget. It’s easy to become complacent. We complain about the TSA putting us through its torment.

But last week’s Boston Marathon bombings and terrorist manhunt are vivid reminders that this War on Terror — and that’s what it is, Mr. President, accept it! — is continuing and growing increasingly prevalent on our soil. It’s here all right, and has been.

To wit: Since 1990, there have been 19 Islamic terrorist-related attacks — single-person assassinations, shootings and bombings — in the United States, according to a Texas-based researcher. In addition, in the same period, law enforcement officials have thwarted more than 30 Islamic terrorist plottings and attempts in the United States and aimed at the United States.

Terrorism is not going away. Especially when those who plot it see the United States in retreat (pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting military spending) They are emboldened by what the Tsarnaev brothers inflicted on Boston.

Our fellow Americans in Boston responded as we would expect of Americans — with conviction, competence and compassion. A lesson they are sending to everyone is that all of us are now charged with living in a state of heightened vigilance.

Don’t ever think it can’t happen here.

+ Downtown noise pollution
“When environmental goals and controls are politically determined, they are subject to a process that is often driven by groundless accusations, supported by public fear and legislated with special interest in mind. Populist sentiment and pork-barrel politics, rather than actual environmental dangers, currently determine priorities.

We should therefore be prepared to reconsider the free-market solution to environmental pollution, which has worked in the past and could be made to work better now.”

Richard Stroup and Jane S. Shaw
“How Free Markets
Protect the Environment”

Thank goodness common sense prevailed at the Tuesday Sarasota City Commission meeting.

Commissioners rejected the idea of imposing a moratorium on the opening of additional bars and nightclubs downtown, after City Attorney Robert Fournier pointed out a myriad of legal problems with the idea.

Commissioner Terry Turner was pushing the idea on behalf of many downtown condo owners who continue to complain about downtown night life being too noisy.

This is another one of those tar-baby issues that confronts every metropolitan area. On the one hand, most people would agree it’s a good thing to have high-density downtown residences, a key ingredient to a vibrant city. On the other, many people also would agree it’s a good thing to have an active, downtown night life contributing to the city’s vibrancy.

After that, the issue gets complicated. Whose rights take precedence — the property owner whose permitted business includes live music at night or the condo dweller who wants peace and quiet? The property owner who settled on his land first? Where’s the balance?

There’s no perfect answer. What’s more, read the quotation above; it explains the inevitable outcome.

But rather than have government craft more command-and-control laws, the players involved might consider some type of market-based approach, such as emissions fees.

Economists have developed fee schemes for airports that require airlines to pay for exceeding certain levels of noise. The louder the noise, the higher the fee.

The fees are determined in part by figuring out the harmful effects of noise. One way of valuing that is to measure the difference in property values of condos close to the noise versus those farther away.

This approach would give nightclub owners incentives to avoid paying the fees. And they would do this either by outfitting their clubs with noise abatement construction or limiting the times and decibels of their music.

No matter how this dilemma is addressed, nightclub and bar owners and downtown condo dwellers need to recognize they will pay a price for their choices — for loud music and living downtown. Nothing is free.



We heard the sound on the video again and again — the rapid-fire pop, pop, pop of gunfire that occurred between Watertown, Mass., law enforcement officers and Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. In a residential neighborhood no less.

We heard the Watertown police chief describe the horrifying gun battle between the brothers and six Watertown officers.

The two sides exchanged more than 300 rounds in furious barrage. The brothers threw bombs at his officers. And in his apparent final, desperate assault, the elder, wounded Tsarnaev charged a Watertown officer with rage, coming within 10 feet of him.

We heard commentators talk about the Chechnyan terrorists being among the most ruthless killers of their lot.

We heard how Massachusetts gun laws did nothing to stop the Tsarnaevs from obtaining their arsenal.
And then on Sunday, U.S. Sen. Diane Feingold continued to argue in favor of banning “assault weapons” in America.

Use a shotgun, she said.

Yeah, shoot it in the air from your porch. That’ll stop ’em.

Get a grip. This is real.


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