Fresno Mayor Lee Brand is opposed to lame-duck City Councilman Steve Brandau’s anti-panhandling proposal.
The proposal called STOP for “Safe Transfer of Objects to Pedestrians”, which will be taken up at Thursday’s council meeting, would forbid drivers from handing anything from their vehicle to pedestrians.
“I do not support this ordinance because these types of restrictions on panhandling do nothing to address the root causes of homelessness nor pedestrian safety in our city,” Brand said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Fining the well-intentioned actions of good people who are unwittingly enabling a transient way of life is not the way to go.
“I understand and share the frustration, hope and other sentiments of the Councilmembers sponsoring this item, but I believe there are existing laws on the books that our police officers have available to them to combat the vast majority of these concerns when those police officers are not responding to more serious crimes throughout Fresno.
“There are better ways to help those in need, starting with our Street2Home initiative. We need to redirect people who are big-hearted and well-meaning from giving directly to panhandlers to donating to organizations with proven track records of helping those among us who are down and out and need our help. I think we can reduce panhandling without criminalizing generosity.”
Brand is a member of California’s Big City Mayor’s group that is working with Gov. Gavin Newsom on reducing homelessness. On Wednesday, the group pushed for more money to help the homeless on top of the $500 million the state already is spending on one of its most vexing problems.
In Sacramento, joining with my fellow mayors from California’s 13 largest cities to meet with Governor @GavinNewsom and state legislative leaders on issues of common concern such as homelessness and housing #CABigCityMayors pic.twitter.com/Cddu9jKgR0
— Lee Brand (@MayorLeeBrand) March 20, 2019
Arias, Soria, Esparza Join Brand in Opposition
Councilmembers Miguel Arias, Esmeralda Soria, and Nelson Esparza also have announced their opposition to the ordinance.
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) March 21, 2019
The three councilmembers held a news conference at City Hall on Wednesday (March 20) afternoon with members of the faith community to voice their opposition.
“We have to stop policies such as this one, that not only affect the homeless population, but it will affect the residents who are going through a difficult time — who are left no option other than seek public donations for funeral donations, or unforeseen life events,” Soria said.
Arias put it bluntly that police could lose his support for city funding if they have enough time to issue tickets under STOP.
“They have given up their opportunity to make a case to council to allocate money for police resources in this upcoming budget,” Arias said if STOP passes. “I will not support a budget. I will not vote for a budget that misuses public safety resources to enforce this ordinance if it passes.”
The councilmembers noted there is no evidence that giving donations from the car caused any accidents. If the ordinance passed, they urged Brand to issue a veto.
Upon learning of Brand’s opposition, Arias asked Brand to speak to the other supporters council, and ask them to withdraw the item.
“I’m listening and will make my decision tomorrow.” — Councilman Garry Bredefeld
With councilmen Brandau, Paul Caprioglio and Luis Chavez sponsoring the measure, that leaves the northeast Fresno council member, Garry Bredefeld as the swing vote.
“I’m listening and will make my decision tomorrow,” Bredefeld said.
Brandau: Proposal Aims to Keep Public Safe
While the language of the ordinance does not specifically mention panhandling, nor the homeless, that is how many are interpreting the proposal.
It would fine a driver (or passenger) up to $300 for handing out anything — from a bottle of water to a dollar bill.
Brandau has said the proposal is simply about keeping people safe: “It is to stop negative behaviors, which is interactions between moving vehicles and pedestrians — putting people and property at jeopardy.”
Brandau will soon leave the council before his term expires to join the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, a seat he won in a special election.
The ordinance will be debated at Fresno City Council chambers on Thursday (March 20) at 3 p.m.