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Council looking at restricting panhandling activity

7/18/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Summit County Council began looking again at placing restrictions on panhandling at the July 15 meeting.

The new legislation would address panhandling activity in Summit County townships. Though several municipalities in the county have enacted ordinances regulating panhandling, Ohio Revised Code does not give townships the authority to enact similar laws, according to the legislation.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit, in townships in the county, panhandling within 25 feet of any intersecting streets or crosswalks; entrances or exits of commercial establishments, including shopping plazas, churches, schools and libraries; bus stops; banks or ATM machines; restaurants with outdoor seating; and entrances or exits of “automobile service stations.”

Also considered unlawful would be panhandling while using public transportation.

According to the proposed legislation, penalties for first-offense violations would be a minor misdemeanor with fines of not more than $100 for each offense.

Last June, Council considered similar legislation to regulate panhandling in townships.

According to county officials, last year’s proposed legislation would have required panhandlers to wear reflective safety vests and only panhandle from 9 a.m. to sunset, but neither of those items are included in the legislation now being considered by Council.

Also removed from the new proposal are requirements that panhandlers register with the county’s Office of Consumer Affairs, pay a $10 fee and be issued identification badges.

Also at the meeting, Council approved resolutions, on first reading, designating August 2013 in two ways.

The month was declared Child Support Awareness Month in Summit County, as well as Summit Kids Month.

Jill Hinig Skapin, director of communications for the Summit County Executive’s Office, said this will be the first Summit Kids Month. Events will focus the first week on kindergarten readiness, health and wellness the second week, Summit for Kids during the third week and on infant mortality the fourth week. For a list of events planned, visit www.summitcountyfirstthingsfirst.com.

Also on first reading, Council appropriated a total of $220,000 in federal Workforce Investment Act funds for the Youth Employment for Success program through the Summit County Department of Job and Family Services.

Also during the meeting, Council heard from Dick Walters, a promoter for gun shows at the Summit County Fairgrounds in response to complaints made at a previous Council meeting.

Gun shows taking place at the fairgrounds comply with state and federal laws, he said.

Jason Dodson, chief of staff for the County Executive’s Office, also noted the lease that governs the fairgrounds property is through 2017, with gun shows listed as a permitted use.

Council also heard from Akron resident Charles Walker. Walker, who is blind, said he has been renting the home where he currently lives since 2007. The home is being foreclosed on, he said, has been sold to Fannie Mae, and he received a notice that he has 90 days to vacate, he said.

Walker asked Council to consider drafting legislation to protect renters, like him, “who play by the rules.”

Council President Jerry Feeman (D-District 6) thanked Walker for bringing the issue to the attention of Council and asked Walker to stay after the meeting to talk further. Feeman also noted Council can contact its local delegation of state government for help.

Council members Ilene Shapiro (D-at large) and Tim Crawford (D-District 7) also noted they have been in contact with other constituents in similar situations.

Council will meet for committee meetings July 22 at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the seventh floor of the Ohio Building, 175 S. Main St.

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