The Rules and Public Policy Committee of the Indianapolis City-County Council has tabled a proposal that would have banned panhandling in downtown Indianapolis.
The proposal would have created a “No Solicitation” zone in the city’s downtown and would have restricted panhandling elsewhere in Indianapolis between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Indianapolis Council Vice President John Barth says the decision to table the proposal came from potential legal issues and the willingness of downtown organizations, including Visit Indy, to revise the ban’s language.
Indianapolis City-County Council lawyer Fred Biesecker says the tabled version could have faced a legal battle on “First Amendment grounds.” He added the city “would most likely have to pay both sides of attorneys’ fees” if it lost.
But Mayor Greg Ballard voiced dismay at the decision.
“This proposed panhandling ban has been studied since late last year and is modeled after laws in other cities that have been upheld by a federal court and a federal appeals court,” he wrote in a statement. “It is disappointing 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.”
Visit Indy Spokesman Chris Gahl says his group supports the decision to table the proposal and will work to create an ordinance that could pass.
“I understand that the Democrats and the Council want to examine it a little more closely and so get more support for it,” he says.
But he also says Indianapolis has lost the opportunity to host ten conventions over the last two years — in part because of the presence of panhandlers.
That has cost the city an estimated $6.3 million, he says, adding that as many as 15 future conventions could be at stake.