Council takes no action on Indianapolis panhandling ordinance

Mayor Ballard is disappointed

INDIANAPOLIS - A City-County Council committee tabled a proposed panhandling ordinance on Tuesday evening.

The proposal would ban panhandling within the downtown square mile near Lucas Oil Stadium and Victory Field. It would also prohibit panhandling in the entire city between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.

“The leadership of this council continues to stall passage of a proposal that will make downtown Indy an even better place to live, work, shop and visit,” Ballard said in a statement shortly after the ordinance was tabled Tuesday night.

Council Democrats said cracking down on panhandling was not a critical issue for the city.

"Being short 250 police officers is a critical issue. Hopefully, that comes up again. Having homicides up 20 percent from last year, that's a critical issue," said Councilor Vernon Brown, D-Indianapolis.

Supporters of the ordinance disagreed.

"I mean it's a stated fact from people who have not brought their business, Indianapolis conventions, that panhandling is an issue and one of the reasons we've lost business," countered Councilor Michael McQuillen, R-Indianapolis.

Republicans weren’t confident the council would take up the issue again because it was tabled.

Mayor Greg Ballard said he was disappointed with Democrats for blocking his efforts to strengthen the city's anti-panhandling ordinance.

"What they're saying is they don't care about the downtown workers. I mean, that's really what they're saying. The people that are harassed. But also the hospitality workers whose jobs depend on conventions and conferences coming into town," Ballard said.

Critics of the ban said it was unconstitutional by restricting free speech.

"The  counsel to the council has made it very clear that he's done an assessment of it. And there are multiple aspects of it that are not constitutional. In particular, shutting off a particular part of the city that is simply not allowed to express yourself via the First Amendment," Councilor John Barth, D-Indianapolis, said.

Ballard disagreed. He said the ordinance was modeled after ones in cities that have been upheld in court.

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