Ormond Beach rethinking panhandling ordinances

- Ormond Beach could be becoming more friendly to panhandlers. Nobody likes going where panhandlers are.

“You're going to be harassed basically, potentially,” concluded Damian Richards.

So Ormond Beach passed a law two years ago to stop it. Now there's a US Supreme Court ruling that says cracking down on panhandlers violates their freedom of speech. So the city commission is considering gutting the law.

“We proactively decided to remove some parts from our ordinance that other jurisdictions or courts have found might be problematic,” said Ann-Margaret Emery, Ormond Beach Deputy City Attorney.

Some residents say that's nuts. “If this is what is going to be discussed at the City Commission meeting I just might show up and voice my opinion there,” said Deanie Lowe.

The changes would make it okay in Ormond Beach to panhandle near an ATM, at night, at bus or train stations, in or near restrooms, even after someone’s asked the panhandler to stop. Business leaders also say they're concerned.

“Do we like changing anything like that? Not necessarily,” admits Debbie Cotton, president of the Ormond Beach Chamber of Commerce, “but luckily for the Ormond Beach community and what our city leaders have put in place, we don't have a big panhandling problem.”

City lawyers say they'll still have laws to handle aggressive panhandlers. “Some of these could be considered disorderly conduct, assault, fraud,” Emery explains, “so they could be dealt with in a criminal manner.”

Emery warns if they don't cut much of this panhandling law, the city could open itself to lawsuits.

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