Rick Armonand Nick Glunt
Akron repealed its panhandling law Monday — just a week after the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sued the city claiming it violated the First Amendment’s free-speech protections.
City Council unanimously approved the move, saying it hoped it would end the lawsuit.
The city had been examining the panhandling law ever since the ACLU threatened in January to sue. The civil rights group followed through last week, filing in federal court.
The ACLU claimed that the law punishes poor and homeless people asking for help.
Mayor Dan Horrigan said the legal environment had changed with federal court rulings since the city panhandling law was approved years ago. He said the city would work on developing a long-term solution, including looking at how other communities deal with the issue.
Council President Marilyn Keith also promised that the city would continue to examine panhandling.
“It isn’t a dead issue,” she said. “It’s still going to be looked at.”
But Keith didn’t expect any new panhandling proposals anytime soon.
She said city leaders had been considering amending or repealing the law, but the lawsuit gave the city “the nudge” to repeal it.
ACLU spokesman Steve David said attorneys declined to comment because they had not yet received official word that the city would repeal the law.
The Akron law regulated where and when panhandlers — who approach people and ask for money — could beg in the city limits.
It also required panhandlers to register with the city and display a registration with their name and photograph while panhandling.
As of last week, 32 people had registered so far this year. Last year, 108 registered.
The law noted that panhandling “does not include passively standing or sitting with a sign or other nonverbal indication that one is seeking donations.”
In other business, the council:
•?Approved a $138,000 subsidy to the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau. The group runs the John S. Knight Convention Center and promotes greater Akron.
It has received an annual subsidy from the city for years and the amount has remained the same. The organization will use the money for community marketing.
•?Approved legislation regulating large storage or waste containers, including PODS and Dumpsters, in residential areas. They no longer may sit in a residential area for more than 30 consecutive days or more than 90 days in a calendar year. There also cannot be more than one on the same parcel at the same time.
The new regulations don’t affect waste containers maintained for multi-unit residential or commercial buildings.
•?Created a new “Police Property Evidence Fund” to gain interest from cash collected as evidence in law enforcement cases.
•?Held a moment of silence in honor of former councilman and state Rep. Robert J. Otterman, who died Friday.
State Reps. Greta Johnson, D-Akron, and Emelia Sykes, D-Akron, presented Keith with a resolution from the Ohio House honoring her for being the first female president of the council.
“I didn’t expect this but I promise to work very hard for it,” Keith said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ. Nick Glunt can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.