Springfield adopts new panhandling restrictions

Ordinance creates five-foot

The Springfield City Council approved new panhandling restrictions Tuesday, prompting a likely lawsuit from the panhandlers who got part of the city’s existing ordinance ruled unconstitutional.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously on Tuesday evening, prohibits panhandlers from touching people or approaching them within five feet while asking for money. It was introduced on Sept. 8 and sailed through the council’s Committee of the Whole without discussion on Sept. 15.

Mark Weinberg, an attorney for the panhandlers, says he’ll definitely fight the city’s new restrictions on the basis that the ordinance still restricts speech based on the nature of the message. That’s the same reason a federal appellate court in August struck down part of the city’s panhandling which prohibited vocal appeals for money downtown.

Springfield mayor Jim Langfelder said he requested the ordinance to give police more specific parameters for dealing with panhandlers.

Prior to the vote, Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin referenced the possibility of a new lawsuit, noting that the issue of panhandling is an unsettled area of law.

Corporation Counsel Jim Zerkle told aldermen at the Sept. 8 council meeting that he believes the new restrictions will be upheld if challenged in court.

Weinberg says that remains to be seen: “If he thinks it’s going to be upheld, we disagree.”

Read more about the new restrictions in this week’s Illinois Times, out on Thursday.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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