ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque city councilors have voted on a proposal to outlaw roadside panhandling.
Monday night, city councilors voted to approve the “Pedestrian Safety Ordinance.”
Councilor Trudy Jones’ introduced a substitute to explicitly permit panhandling and speech in medians as long as it was not at a busy intersection. Under the ordinance, it would make it illegal to ask drivers for money along busy streets. Drivers could also be cited for giving money or even food to panhandlers.
However, firefighters collecting Fill the Boot donations and other organizations can still ask for money as long as they are not blocking the sidewalk.
Jones said it’s dangerous for traffic and pedestrians to be interacting on the street.
“I think one of the most important things in our city is to keep it safe and welcoming for all people. And one of our ways to do that, of course, is to make our streets safer and curbs safer,” Jones said.
The ACLU of New Mexico believes the ordinance would violate people’s civil rights, saying soliciting donations is an aspect of free speech on public property. The ACLU has also threatened to sue if the ordinance passed.
Currently, the city has an “Aggressive Panhandling Ordinance,” which bans panhandling in front of certain businesses and in certain areas. This time, the city is hoping to crack down on panhandlers with a law that doesn’t single them out.
The “Aggressive Panhandling” bill was passed more than a decade ago. After it passed, the ACLU sued on free speech grounds and a judge agreed.Editor’s Note: Earlier we reported that the ordinance would not allow panhandling from sidewalks, curbs or medians. We also reported that the ban would apply to firefighters collecting Fill the Boot donations, or Girl Scouts selling cookies. However, the ordinance only pertains to busy intersections and firefighters or other organizations can still collect money as long as they don’t block the sidewalk.