By Jolene Pohl-Crowell
My first reaction to the city’s panhandling, aka, soliciting ordinance is pure outrage. My inappropriate response is, “Just who the hell do you think you are?” Then I remember that even New York City is not immune to the dictatorship of appropriate public behavior ordinances. I blame NYC for unleashing this ridiculous trend against individual freedom, all because they let a neo-conservative like Giuliani in the driver’s seat. Now every city in the country thinks it can be transformed into a freakish Disney World landscape, void of human suffering (the suffering gets pushed underground in places like New York). How nice it must be to believe that penalizing people for being poor or not living the mainstream lifestyle will make the world a better place!
My first question for the political right-wing: Where is your precious Tea Party now? If someone wants to make a living on the streets and not behind a desk all day, don’t they have this inalienable right? I guess not. There must be some sort of litmus test for whose freedoms are worth saving and whose are worth sacrificing. It is interesting how the conservatives bend the rules where the poor are concerned.
Instead of drawing attention to the homeless rates or lack of education funding to keep people off the streets, the twisted logic of the Dayton mayor is to shine a light on those constituents he has failed to serve. On top of disdain for his own suffering neighbors, he has the nerve to publicly state they don’t deserve a dime from anyone passing by just because they seek help without an attached charity. So according to the mayor, not only are individual freedoms undeserved by the poor but the freedom to help the poor is also frowned upon unless it is tax-deductible. Good to know.
Since the police have so much extra time to ask people on public streets if they have a permit to be there then obviously the budget crunch hasn’t really affected city employees.
This is also a refreshing thought. So even though some services, like protecting Dayton’s children from neglect and abuse are on the budget chopping block, it is good to know our local jails and police have time and resources to ensure the bustling downtown is hobo-free all night long.
In case some of the city officials missed it, we are just starting to heal from one of the worst recessions in decades. Logan Martinez of the Miami Valley Full Employment Council noted there are a reported 700 to 800 homeless in the city each night. He said the poverty issue in Dayton is especially on the rise for children. Martinez explained that “holes” in the safety net for Dayton’s poor have not been addressed despite the support from Commissioner Dean Lovelace. Martinez was pleased that Commissioner Lovelace stood his ground in a “no” vote for the amendment to the ordinance.
Restrictions are not going to make neighborhoods any less impoverished, contrary to some outspoken residents’ reasoning for the ordinance. A street corner mentioned on the news is in my neighborhood. I don’t understand how a person holding a sign is a danger when there are plenty of other actual crime surrounding the community. The energy and time of the city and its residents might be better spent on becoming active members of their communities to prevent the type of poverty which leads to begging strangers for help, instead complaining about the eyesore. It is much easier to dismiss your neighbors in need when you refer to them as “beggars” than it is when you know how they ended up on the streets to begin with. The problem with rhetoric begins with those in power, such as the mayor. Martinez noted that even the mayor has referred to people on the streets as “too lazy” to get a real job.
“The city is making people believe everything will be OK someday,” said Martinez. To him this is purely political rhetoric when what the city needs is people to step up to the plate and take action. The mayor must deal with the unemployment rates, said Martinez. He refers to the poverty problem in Dayton as a complete disaster.
If the city wants begging for money to stop, there should be serious discussions at the highest level about stopping poverty. Everything else is just grandstanding. Adding amendments to a flawed ordinance wastes my tax money. I pay for the sidewalks and I don’t want to limit who gets to use them.
In reply to the residents who are in favor of the ordinance: It seems such a wise choice to advocate at this time in the grand scheme of things (increases in joblessness, homelessness and domestic violence rates, plus local businesses hanging by a thread) because who else is going to stand up and say it? Dayton’s main problem is purely visual.
Just give money to charity and everything will work out. Don’t forget that receipt! Good luck with that.
Jolene Pohl-Crowell is a dedicated Dayton democratic volunteer/activist and a WSU grad student. Her favorite past-times include: banter, debate and laughing out loud. She can be reached at JolenePohlCrowell@DaytonCityPaper.com.