Maybe panhandlers should be licensed

This Just In...

February 12, 1997|By DAN RODRICKS

There's been a lot of talk in my circles lately about the relative "legitimacy" of panhandlers generally, and one in particular. Though most people I know - social workers and advocates for the poor among them - dismiss pleas for cash on the street, some people still can't make up their minds. And others remain intensely concerned (overly so, I think) that a well-meaning public is being ripped off by sad-eyed men and women with cardboard signs.

So let's have all panhandlers apply for official standing through the Department of Human Resources. The state could issue special licenses, complete with photographs, which would provide validation that the shabbily clad beggar standing on a certain sidewalk or median strip is (a) poor, (b) poor and homeless, (c) poor, homeless and hungry, (d) poor, homeless, hungry and disabled, (e) addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, (f) other. Panhandlers can pin the licenses to their coats. That way, we'll be able to easily tell who's legit out there.

In fact, maybe The Sun, as a public service, should perform background investigations on every panhandler who assumes a regular, high-profile position in our community, from Perring Parkway to Roland Park to Camden Yards. We could publish their photographs and a map of their locations, indicating which panhandler is genuinely needy, and which is genuinely a fraud.

What do you think of this idea?

I see hands going up. I think we have some takers out there. More on this - and what brought me to it - in a future column.

'Homicide' regulars react

My curiosity about Friday's "Homicide" episode has been settled: A majority of the show's most ardent fans agree that it was not up to its usual standard, and might have been one of the worst ever.

About 60 people who described themselves as "Homicide" regulars called the TJI blab line. It's clear from their comments that "Homicide" enjoys a passionate following and a sophisticated audience. Its regular viewers care about the show - high flattery for those involved in it - and find it consistently excellent. But more than two-thirds were put off last week by what they described as a lame story line and a stinker performance by guest star Joan Chen. "It hurt so much I turned to Mia [Farrow] talking to Barbara [Walters, on '20/20']," said Pippa Duggan. (Several callers expressed hope that Chen won't be a regular; TJI hears that decision has been made.)

Others commented that they'd Had It Up To Here with what-makes-this-guy-tick story lines about the show's prime characters, especially Detective Kellerman, played by Reed Diamond. "Get back to the streets and do police work," one caller said. Others were more forgiving. "Yeah, it was not one of their best episodes," said a female caller. "But I'd sit through anything to watch Reed Diamond." (Similar comments were made about Andre Braugher, Michelle Forbes and Clark Johnson.)

The most trenchant comment - and, appropriately, the last one received here - came from a woman who said, "Yeah, it was a pretty bad episode. I actually did the crossword puzzle in TV Guide. But hey, remember, Stephen Spielberg directed '1941.' I think the show's allowed to have a clinker every once in a while. It makes us appreciate how good it really is."

A change at Pets on Wheels

Elaine Farrant, state coordinator of Pets on Wheels almost from its beginning in 1982 and one of its most tireless advocates, is out. After an intense debate, I'm told, the board of directors opted to let her go. Hank Entwisle, board chairman, would not discuss the details yesterday, citing "negotiations" over severance. Farrant did not return this columnist's phone call yesterday.

In a Jan. 24 letter to the nonprofit group's 1,100 volunteers, the board announced Farrant's departure. "The program is not the property of any individual," it said, "and it is more important than any one person."

A gift for the president

After President Clinton's speech to the General Assembly on Monday, legislators and other guests filed through the House lounge to shake hands with him. Among them was Gerry Evans, the lobbyist, who presented Clinton with a genuine collector's item - a program from the 1961 inauguration of JFK. (It could not be determined if Evans had stapled his business card to it.) I After Clinton hopped out of his limo in Annapolis, there were reports that he was cruising Main Street and having a beer at Harry Browne's. Alas, these reports were not true, just the usual lTC Elvis sightings. I That fund-raiser for Geraldine Day, widow of Hall of Famer Leon Day, is Saturday night at The Overlea; phone number for tickets is 356-4852.

Recognizing milk

Just what we need: State Del. Paul S. Stull, a Frederick County Republican, has introduced a bill in the General Assembly to make milk Maryland's official state drink. He has the support of 14 delegates who've signed on as co-sponsors, in part because making milk the state drink will help boost dairy sales and provide support for Maryland's farmers.

Yesterday, Stull presented the bill to the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee, using dairy farmers, official statistics and the Maryland Dairy Princess - Sarah Bedgar, a 17-year-old from Freeland. Their pitch was simple: Milk is Maryland's third leading agricultural product, and agriculture is the state's leading industry. And, said the dairy princess, "It's legal at any age."

Pub Date: 2/12/97

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