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The original proposal to limit panhandling or other activities in City of Oklahoma City street medians generated controversy before the city council passed it December 2015.

The Municipal Counselors Office introduced modifications at the Oct. 24 council meeting. The council is set to vote on the modifications Tuesday.

Organizations like Curbside Chronicle opposed the original measure because it limited the ways the poor could make small amounts of money that would be significant for them.

Free Press ran two stories on Curbside Chronicle in August HERE and HERE.

American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Oklahoma City over the matter December 2016. That case is titled McGraw v. City of Oklahoma City.

Proposed modification

The current ordinance limits “sitting, standing or staying” on medians less than 30 feet wide and within 200 feet of an intersection.

The proposed modification of the ordinance changes the basis to the speed of traffic by the median instead of width of the median and distance to the intersection.

Activity would be prohibited on medians where the speed limit is 40 mph our higher.

Critics say the Office of the Municipal Counselor is proposing the change because of the federal case.

Since the basis for the ordinance is now the speed of traffic, the city’s position in the federal case that the ordinance is solely for safety could be stronger.

The city is citing Centers for Disease Control studies that show the speed of surrounding traffic could be tied to death and injury rate of pedestrians.

Controversy

When the original ordinance was considered, critics said the city was simply trying to eliminate what some business leaders considered to be negative appearance of the poor standing on many corners begging for money.

City council members who pushed the measure argued that the issue was one of “safety.”

In her presentation to the council Oct. 24,  Assistant Municipal Counselor Amanda Carpenter cited safety as the reason for the proposed change in the ordinance.

But later, Free Press asked Carpenter if at least part of the reason for the change was from concern that the ordinance would not stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny in the upcoming case.

She said that was not the reason for the proposal, but when pressed, agreed that it was a factor.


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