On Monday we sneak-peeked the ordinance creating those so-called Solicitation-Free Zones in downtown, Deep Ellum, Uptown and Victory; yesterday, with little to say other than "yay," the council approved the revision to the City Code, adding to the existing law a $500 fine for panhandlers and extending its enforcement hours from sunset-to-sunrise to all-day-long. On her blog, council member Angela Hunt explains the why-for:
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Panhandling is an ongoing problem throughout our city, particularly in Downtown Dallas. This type of public nuisance detracts from our efforts to create a safe, vibrant, livable Downtown. Residents tell me panhandlers make them feel unsafe, while business owners tell me they've lost customers as a result of aggressive soliciting.
After working with the Downtown Dallas Association, I'm pleased to report that today the city council voted to prohibit panhandling in Downtown, Uptown, Victory, and Deep Ellum. (We couldn't make the ban citywide because courts have concluded that soliciting money is protected by the First Amendment, so the government must have a compelling reason to infringe on such a basic right. Here, we're trying to protect the region's economic engine, Downtown Dallas.)