Vote due Monday on Durham solicitation-rules changes

Feb. 15, 2014 @ 03:21 PM

City Council members on Monday are likely to approve another set of revisions to Durham’s “roadside solicitation” or panhandling rules that loosens some of the changes they made early in 2013.

The move follows complaints from a few ministers who’d argued that the 2013 changes amounted to “criminalizing poverty.” The complaints prompted a review of the issue by the city’s Homeless Services Advisory Committee.

The ordinance on the table Monday incorporates some of the committee’s advice but doesn’t follow it right down the line.

But “generally speaking, it’s a good solution,” Councilman Don Moffitt said earlier this month. “I don’t think anybody’s thrilled with the outcome, which indicated to me it’s probably a reasonable compromise. I will be supporting it.”

The changes span two ordinances, one to specifically address solicitation and the other, new, to regulate contact with occupied vehicles.

The solicitation ordinance will allow people to flag motorists at traffic signals and stop signs, and make a pitch for contributions from the sidewalk provided the vehicle is next to the sidewalk.

It retains the 2013 prohibition on soliciting from medians and at interstate exit ramps, City Manager Tom Bonfield said. But it allows solicitors to work more streets than the 2013 version.

The 2013 revision, though billed by officials as one meant to stop solicitations from medians, actually went a good bit further and barred solicitations on anything except the city’s one-way streets.

There aren’t many of those in Durham. Most, like Duke, Gregson, Mangum and Roxboro streets, traverse downtown or the center city.

The changes on the table Monday remove the one-way street rule.

The contact-with-vehicles law, meanwhile, makes it illegal for a person to “place a tangible thing or any part of his or her body on or inside an occupied enclosed vehicle that is on the roadway,” save with the consent of its owner, driver or passengers.

It includes other exemptions that allow firefighters, police and paramedics to do their duty.

The proposed changes have drawn a mixed-reaction from the 2013 law’s critics.

One, lawyer Scott Holmes, took to his Facebook page last week to urge people to email the council to support them. But in a separate posting, he said they still “seem too restrictive to me.”

As of Saturday afternoon there were no messages in the council’s public email supporters either supporting or opposing the changes.

Another critic, Open Table Ministry Chaplain Carolyn Schuldt, said on Holmes’ Facebook page that it looks to her that the city officials “are just trying to wear us out.”