Decision Maker Response

Indianapolis City County Councillor, ZACH ADAMSON’s response

Indianapolis City County Councillor, ZACH ADAMSON

Dec 2, 2013 — Thank you all for taking the time to let us know your thoughts on this controversial issue and for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.
I oppose Prop 143 for several reasons.
First let me say that I have lived and/or worked downtown in our urban core for over 23 years. I can not think of a single city councillor who has greater insight into this issue than I do. Because of that insight, I agree with many of the supporters of this proposal when they say panhandling has become more prevalent in the past several years. Even though I have serious doubts when they say we've lost tourism opportunities because of it. I also agree that many of those unfortunate souls are not homeless and a few may even be a part of an organized effort, though I've never seen any evidence of that. However, while they may not be homeless, I do believe they do live in crushing poverty and many are plagued with mental illness and/or addiction.
But even in regard to those places in which we agree, I still must oppose Prop 143 because of several major issues.
First, as I mentioned before, panhandling in downtown has gotten worse over the last few years. But the question is WHY? In 2009, to much fanfare (and fundraising after the fact), the city passed a revised ordinance meant to solve our growing panhandling "issue". Why then, has it only gotten worse? I decided to seek the answer to that. Because no one in an administrative position could give me any answers, this past summer I spoke directly to leadership of the Downtown IMPD Dist. I asked how many offenses had been recorded since 2009 using our new 2009 panhandling ordinance. The answer was quite telling. They told me they couldn't tell because they hadn't kept track of any. So I asked them to clarify. Did that mean we had not had any offenses logged for panhandling since 2009? They said no, that wasn't the case. They said they had literally had hundreds each year but NONE of them were done using our 2009 city ordinance. When I asked why, they said because they use STATE LAW because city code only allows the police to cite (issue a ticket) for violation. State Law allows them to arrest or remove a violator. I imagine the same would be said for the Dept of Code Enforcement. They can only issue fines. And what sense does it make to fine a panhandler? The only folks who'll be hit hard by this will be the musicians, churches, not for profits and others with assets to collect. The rest will go unpaid.So why are they pushing this at a city level when they know it takes state law to move or arrest? Because the issue was never meant to remedy the issue. If it was, they would have picked up the phone and called over to the state house like they do whenever they have a problem they can't solve, and have the state legislators figure it out. No, they didn't do that because then the downtown money bags would be having fundraisers for state legislators and not city folks.
Another reason I'm opposed to prop 143 is because I think its overly broad and wrongly classifies street performers as panhandlers. That means Christmas Carolers, Churches and other not for profits as well as many professionally trained musicians and actors would be illegal. How foolish it is to me to outlaw things that give our downtown so much zest and vibrancy (and no harm at all) to prohibit something else we wish we didn't have to see.
I also have a strong sense that this is a constitutional violation of a persons first amendment right to free speech.
So for these reasons, I'm opposed to proposal 143. Thanks for sharing your views with us!