Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lawsuit Targets Arcata Panhandling Law
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
by Daniel Mintz - Eye Correspondent

ARCATA – Having declined to strike aspects of its panhandling ordinance, the City of Arcata will have to defend itself against a lawsuit from a well-known political consultant.

Arcata resident Richard Salzman, who has helped coordinate the campaigns of District Attorney Paul Gallegos and several other liberal candidates, announced his filing of the lawsuit on May 19. It attacks the ordinance’s prohibitions against spoken and written requests for handouts, arguing that they’re unconstitutional.

The complaint, filed by Salzman’s attorney, Peter Martin, states that the ordinance’s ban on panhandling signage and comments “places an impermissible burden on the free speech rights of citizens in a public forum” and “presents an unacceptable risk of chilling and/or suppressing protected speech.”

Salzman is asking the court for an injunction on enforcing the ordinance, a declaration that it’s unconstitutional and recovery of costs involved with filing the lawsuit.

The ordinance’s prohibition of aggressive panhandling isn’t being challenged in the lawsuit.

In a press release, Salzman alleged that the City is violating basic civil rights and targeting the poor. “If first they silence the poor and the homeless, and I say nothing, who will speak up when they try to silence me?” he asked.

The City Council approved the ordinance last year but Arcata Mayor Susan Ornelas and Councilmember Shane Brinton voted against it. The council recently voted not to amend the ordinance, with Brinton casting a lone dissent vote.

In addition to banning aggressive panhandling and solicitations, the ordinance prohibits begging within 20 feet of businesses, parking lots, banks with automatic teller machines, bus stops, foot bridges and intersections.

Its findings section states that other city laws have failed to have an effect on a situation that has “generated an enhanced sense of fear, intimidation and disorder, and has caused many retail customers to avoid shopping or dining within the City.”

In an interview last February, when Salzman notified the City of his intent to sue, City Attorney Nancy Diamond said the ordinance is modeled after what’s been done elsewhere in the state and country, and what’s been tested in court.

“We are not the first community to look at panhandling ordinances,” she said. “This is very widespread and there is a fair amount of judicial law we were able to look at … we weren’t acting in a vacuum.”–-may-25-2011/comment-page-1/#comment-31373

Friday, May 20, 2011

Arcata Panhandling Ordinance lawsuit filed 5.19.11

Arcata, CA – On Thursday May 19th Richard Salzman filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of California against the City of Arcata claiming that their Panhandling Ordinance is unconstitutional.

In March the City of Arcata declined Salzman’s request to amend its panhandling ordinance. ”I requested that they amend their ordinance so as to comply with our guaranteed protection of free speech as outlined in the United States Constitution. Since they declined to do so I felt compelled to file a complaint yesterday in the Superior Court of California against the city” said Salzman.

Salzman has stated that he is a proud lifelong member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and staunch defender of the Constitution of the United States and the First Amendment right to free speech.

As written, the ordinance makes it a crime to merely hold up a sign asking for a hand out. By denying citizens constitutional right of free speech, Salzman contends the City Council overstepped its authority.

“If first they silence the poor and the homeless, and I say nothing, who will speak up when they try to silence me?” Salzman asked. He notes that the section of the ordinance against “aggressive panhandling,” including blocking one’s path, any physical contact or shouting, was left unchallenged by this legal action.

read lawsuit here:

Read article in: The Arcata Eye

Read article in: The Times Standard