Sunday, February 24, 2008

Alderman Lyda Krewson's Panhandling Law Goes Too Far

In restricting what citizens can say to each other on a public sidewalk, St. Louis City Alderman Lyda Krewson’s panhandling law goes too far. Really, the part of the law which defines, forbids and sets out penalties for a “aggressive panhandling” is sufficient protection of citizens from harassment. If someone says “No!” to a request for money, the exchange should be over. If it keeps on, harassment has begun and the police can step in.

There is no doubt that able-bodied men abuse the charity of others in St. Louis by panhandling. There is also no doubt that these men have hurt city businesses by scaring customers away. So this is a hard issue. Yet I believe St. Louis political leaders should err on the side of freedom and only vote in the aggressive panhandling sections of Board Bill 505.

If we restrict the freedom of citizens on St. Louis public sidewalks to ask each other for help, what speech will we restrict next?