Friday, June 24, 2005

Can't ban beggars in Atlanta because it's racist!

Politics: If you forget that the city is majority black and the political base is majority black, trying to keep a handle on beggars is just wrong.

"....Hoping to boost convention business and tidy up downtown, the City Council is considering a measure to prevent visitors from being hit up for money by homeless people around Olympic Centennial park, CNN Center and some of the South's finest restaurants. But most of the panhandlers are black. And earlier this week, the council sent the proposal back to committee after activists likened the ban to the "Negro removal" policy that they say white downtown business elites pursued in the 1950s. "This is a mean-spirited continuation of what they call the `sanitation' of Peachtree Street," said Joe Beasley, a 68-year-old Atlanta native who heads the regional office of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. "The white folks, their position was that black people were bad for commerce, and if you were black, you just didn't go on Peachtree Street unless you were cleaning up or something." But in the self-proclaimed "City Too Busy to Hate," the panhandling ban's sponsor - who is himself black - said it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with business. "Our No. 1 industry in Atlanta is tourism and conventions. If we don't do something, we run the risk of our downtown becoming a ghost town after dark," said Councilman H. Lamar Willis."
This isn't about race, its about beggars creating an unruly, filthy, disgusting environment to a city/area that businesses,workers and the people of Atlanta depend on for a paycheck. The activist argument is so hollow, it was idiotic to send back the proposal, which is stupid to begin with.
"The Rev. Murphy Davis, a white woman who runs Open Door Community to assist the homeless, dismissed the argument that the panhandling ban cannot be racist because it is backed by black council members and the black mayor, Shirley Franklin, in a city of 425,000 that is more than 60 percent black. "The white business interests still run this city," Davis said. Downtown business owners back the ordinance, complaining that some streets and parks are so overrun with beggars that customers won't visit. "My own wife doesn't come down here," said Alex Nader, owner of European Kitchen Express, which overlooks Peachtree Street and a park. "We've had panhandlers come inside and actually solicit money from people who are eating." He added: "If we call the police, basically they don't do much. They tell them to leave the area, and as soon as the police are gone, they come back. It is very bad for business." Kenneth Strozier, a 46-year-old panhandler sitting in the park across from Nader's restaurant, said: "I understand people don't want to be bothered, but what are we going to do? We got no affordable housing, for one thing. This new law or whatever isn't going to change it." Under the ordinance, beggars could still sit on sidewalks with signs asking for money, but they could not approach people for money downtown. In other parts of the city, panhandling would still be allowed, except within 15 feet of ATMs, bus and train stations and public toilets. The ordinance also makes it a crime for panhandlers to make a "false or misleading" solicitation, such as faking a medical condition or pretending to be from out of town. A first offense carries just a warning, a second offense a possible month of community service, and subsequent violations up to a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail. Marty Collier, a white activist who opposes the ban, said: "Maybe the problem is that seeing panhandling arouses people's guilt. We're just hoping they'll go somewhere else. We need to deal with the underlying problem and not penalize the poor."
No, the problem is people are pissed off that beggars are allowed to harass people and businesses who are working to provide for themselves. How about the city buy the beggars one way bus tickets to the homeless mecca of San Francisco with some spending money. It would cost less in the long run.

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