Debate continues after Eugene council strikes down panhandling law

Eugene city councilors shared why they voted for or against a proposed panhandling ordinance, and a Springfield resident shares what he thinks Eugene residents could do to fix problems in their area.

Posted: Apr 16, 2019 6:15 PM
Updated: Apr 16, 2019 8:41 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Despite the Eugene City Council rejecting the proposed panhandling ordinance Monday night, the debate continues over whether drivers and passengers should be allowed to give to panhandlers while on a roadway.

During their meeting, several city councilors explained why they voted against the proposal.

RELATED: Eugene to consider ban on traditional panhandling

"These concerns that were expressed won't change with this ordinance, and enforcement would require our officers to spend their valuable time writing tickets, and it's just time they simply don't have," City Councilor Jennifer Yeh said.

Not only did councilors claim it won't solve the issues people said they're having, but Councilor Chris Pryor also brought up that the ordinance might be unconstitutional.

"So, we're back to what 90 percent of the emails and communications that I've had, and even conversations right up here at this table always seem to circle back to panhandling, which is a constitutionally-protected action," Pryor said.

MORE: Eugene City Council votes against panhandling ordinance

However, councilors Betty Taylor and Mike Clark voted in favor of the ordinance.

"There are things we do that enable people who don't particularly want to get well to stay stuck," Clark said.

Though the ordinance was rejected in Eugene, a similar ordinance has been in place in Springfield since 2016. Zack Garber, who works in downtown Springfield, said he thinks it's the people, rather than the ordinance, that's made a difference in Springfield.

"You have to break it down into smaller pieces," Garber said. "You can't have a blanket umbrella law that covers all sorts of situations because it never does. That's never worked."

READ ON: Community weighs in on proposed panhandling law

Instead, Garber said individual areas need to take ownership of their parts of the town and come together to figure out what's right for them, like downtown Springfield did.

"It's also been just a community effort in the way that we -- if somebody comes by or something, everybody puts attention on it and makes sure they're going to a place that's a safer environment than down here in Springfield where there are shoppers and cars and all this other stuff," Garber said.

For now, the debate over what to do about panhandling and homelessness in Eugene will continue with no easy solution in sight.

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