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Even Lawton is going after panhandlers…


You know what would suck? Being a panhandler. You know what would really suck? Being a panhandler in Lawton!

Seriously, wouldn't that be an awful way to make a living? If panhandling the streets of Lawton doesn't motivate you to get a real job, I'm not sure what will.

Anyway, I bring this up because the Lawton City Council has followed Oklahoma City's archaic lead and recently enacted their own ban and restrictions on panhandling. At least that's what I've gathered from this Kim McConnell report in The Lawton Constitution:

Specific forms of aggressive panhandling will be banned in Lawton, beginning today, under an amended ordinance that the City Council put into effect Tuesday.

While the decision to amend existing code was unanimous, the final decision didn't come until after Ward 5 Councilman Dwight Tanner noted that provisions already in city code made panhandling illegal and that council action at Tuesday's meeting also deleted provisions that exert some control over panhandling.

Ward 4 Councilman Jay Burk, who initiated the item, called Tuesday's action the "second part of more to come." He referred to council action in early February, also enacted with an emergency provision, that placed bans into effect for anyone who stands, sits or stays in roads and highways within the city and in medians, although some exceptions were included. City attorneys said then that the council could not ban panhandling in city streets, while allowing other groups (such as charitable organizations) to solicit funds that way.

Tuesday's decision was specifically aimed at panhandling, banning actions that block sidewalks, doorways, entryways or passage ways in public places; that require the person being solicited to take evasive action to avoid physical contact with the panhandler or any other person; or that mean engaging in conduct that is intimidating, threatening, coercive or obscene, and cause the person being solicited to reasonably fear for his or her safety. Panhandling has been defined to mean knowingly approaching, accosting or stopping another person for the purpose of requesting immediate donation of money or other gratuity.

Well, it's official. I finally found an excuse to send Louis Fowler down to Lawton. We can also have him panhandle for a few hours and review the El Chico where Jesus Christ had dinner. That would be a nice write-up.

Other provisions ban panhandling or soliciting employment, business contributions, or sales of any kind directly from the occupant of any vehicle traveling on a city street when it means stepping into the street to complete the transaction, or when vehicles cannot safely move into a parking area. The ordinance also clarifies that people cannot be solicited while at an automatic teller machine while money is being withdrawn, .

Burk said the council's decision will provide an answer for residents who have complained about panhandling so aggressive that they are fearful or have begun avoiding locations where panhandlers are known to be. He noted that at a city event held last week, a panhandler was approaching participants after dark, sometimes appearing out of bushes and startling people. He said Tuesday's action would address those problem areas, adding "but we're not done."

Great, Lawton is "not done" restricting where panhandlers, homeless folks and the less fortunate beg for money. What's next? Transporting them to Chickasha or Altus?

Anyway, this ordinance makes as much sense as the recent panhandling restrictions enacted by the Oklahoma City City Council. What's the point? Do they think archaic ordinances will make panhandling and homelessness go away? The only thing they're doing is hiding the problem. If that's their goal, they should just train motorists to look at their phone when pulling up to a red light. If you don't notice the panhandler, they can't bother you.

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