Florez Offers Solution To Newport’s Panhandling Problem

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Will Newport follow Providence’s proposed example?

It’s been a problem that’s exploded over the summer. After the ACLU got Cranston’s aggressive panhandling law overturned, every community gave up enforcement on their own panhandling laws. Then, slowly at first, but like a snowball rolling down a mountain, panhandling on street intersections grew and gained momentum.

The traditional destitutes and drug addicts were joined by people who were shameless, lazy and realized they could make more money easier by begging for it than by getting an actual job. Rhode Island’s gig-economy was made up of Uber, AirBNB and looking down on your luck while holding a cardboard sign on the Newport Bridge off ramp. The hours are great, you get lots of fresh air, you can meet lots of people and you can just pop over to the liquor store to buy a liter of vodka whenever you want.

The anti-panhandling laws have been struck down on 1st Amendment grounds. Basically, freedom of speech gives people the right to ask for money, cigarettes, “money for food” and so on. Former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino, trying to find a solution to the Kennedy Plaza problem of panhandling, drug-dealing and the rest, proposed a law to ban making payments on the street from inside an automobile. After all, while speech is protected, commerce is under the full purview of our numerous governments, especially at the local level.

Newport City Councilor John Florez has proposed a similar law for Newport.

It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this.

Rhode Island as a whole and Newport in particular can’t afford its image to become that which is presented to our state’s guests at so many of the intersections they’ll travel through in order to get to get here. It becomes a cancer which spreads, becomes normalized and eventually starts to have an economic impact. Directions that were “Take a left at the old Almac’s” are now “Take a left at the lady who says she’s homeless with four kids”. Drying up the money supply will either force these people to get the help they obviously need…or they’ll move on to more “hospitable” communities.

-Tristan Pinnock, Blast Bridge Off-Ramp Correspondent

Tristan's just this guy, ya know?