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Can City Ordinance “STOP” Panhandling?



Photo of a woman receiving money from a person in a car
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UPDATE, 3/20/2019: Councilmembers Miguel Arias, Esmeralda Soria and Nelson Esparza formally announced their opposition to the ordinance written about below. They are holding news conference Wednesday (March 20) afternoon.

With councilmen Steve Brandau, Paul Caprioglio and Luis Chavez sponsoring the measure, that leaves the seventh council member, Garry Bredefeld as the swing vote.

“I’m listening and will make my decision tomorrow,” he tells Politics 101.

Original story:

The Fresno City Council will hear a plan to ban drivers from handing anything from their vehicle to a pedestrian. In other words, it wants to eliminate panhandlers from collecting from passing cars.

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 Says Safety is Key Concern

Co-author Steve Brandau (District 2) says it’s about safety.

“It is to stop negative behaviors, which is interactions between moving vehicles and pedestrians — putting people and property at jeopardy,” Brandau said.

Reaction has been mixed.

“The City must pursue solutions to Fresno’s housing insecurity, not police acts of kindness of residents,” wrote Ashley Werner of the Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability on Twitter.

Councilman Miguel Arias (District 3) indicated he would not support the bill.

“Government shouldn’t have a role in telling me who or how I should give my charitable contribution to. So much for the GOP’s smaller government platform. I hope that is clear enough for you!” he wrote on Twitter.

The ordinance, called STOP (Safe Transfer of Objects to Pedestrians), would make it an infraction to give or relinquish “possession or control of any item of property to a pedestrian.”

It applies to vehicles either waiting at a stoplight, within 200 yards of a “signalized intersection,” or illegally stopped. It would not apply to parked cars.

Could the ordinance apply to one of Fresno’s top fundraising events, Kids Day, the annual Valley Children’s Hospital fundraiser, which sells newspapers from the streets of Fresno?

Brandau and the foundation that runs Kids Day says no. STOP exempts groups who have a valid permit to utilize city medians. However, the ordinance does not specifically address giving money (or other possessions) to someone on a sidewalk.

Councilmen Paul Caprioglio (District 4) and Luis Chavez (District 5) are co-sponsors. It is scheduled for a 3 p.m. hearing at council chambers on Thursday (March 21).

From left to right: Nathan Alonzo, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, and Fresno councilmen Paul Caprioglio and Steve Brandau at the 2019 Kids Day in the streets of Fresno. (Image/Valley Children’s Healthcare Foundation)

Mayor Holds Closed Door Meeting on Parks Future

Mayor Lee Brand and other city officials held a closed-door meeting with supporters of the failed Measure P parks tax on Monday (March 18).

Participants from both sides of the issue said the meeting went well, though none were willing to talk on the record. While the group discussed how to potentially proceed with a modified tax initiative in the future, nothing tangible was agreed upon.

Measure P garnered 52% in the November 2018 election from city of Fresno voters, short of the required two-thirds needed to pass. However, that threshold is being challenged in Fresno County Superior court. The next hearing is in June.

Measure P would have raised the city’s sales tax three-eighths of a cent, with proceeds directed toward parks and related programs.

Fresno Special Election Plans

A special election for the soon-to-be-vacant Fresno city council seat of Steve Brandau will likely occur in August.

Brandau says his last council meeting will be April 4. He will be sworn in as a member of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors on April 9, after winning a special election for that office two weeks ago.

Neither an exact date nor a cost estimate is available yet. The Fresno city council can’t declare a special election until Brandau officially resigns. They have up to 30 days after to call for a special election, and that election can be held no sooner than 90 days thereafter.

While those variables would allow for a July election, August appears more likely.

Fresno elections clerk Brandi Orth certified Brandau’s March 5 special election win on March 14. So, why is Brandau not leaving sooner?

“I have loose ends at City Hall to tie up,” he tells Politics 101. He added that he would not be sufficiently up to speed on agenda items requiring his vote at the next supervisors meeting on March 26. He wants more time to study the issues and speak with department heads.

Three candidates who intend to run in the special city election have already filed paperwork to run for Brandau’s council seat: financial planner Phil Arballo, businessman Mike Karbassi, and security firm operator and city planning commission member Lawrence Garcia.

Their filings are based on the original expiration of Brandau’s term in March 2020, which permits them to raise money before the special election is declared. More candidates are likely to jump in. If needed, a runoff would take place Nov. 5, which is the date of the next scheduled election on the state calendar.

Brandau hedged his bets when asked if he would be willing to fund the cost of the special elections necessitated by his impending resignation.

“I’ll look at it, but I don’t know if I’ll do anything about that,” he said.

On a side note, this special election will still be conducted using existing voting procedures  — including precincts and vote by mail options. The Voting Choice Act, which Fresno County recently approved, does not go into effect until 2020.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email