December 24, 2006

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE -- County Executive John R. Leopold is dusting off a 2004 law he sponsored as a delegate that would empower Anne Arundel County to license roadside panhandlers. Leopold, who took office Dec. 4, hopes to curb what he called a public safety problem. He said he envisions a permit system that would function similarly to the request process for a one-day liquor license. He said the fee would be nominal and could be waived for those who cannot afford it.

Critics have said that licensing panhandlers would create an administrative and enforcement burden and that it would constitute an unconstitutional limit on free speech. Nonprofit organizations have said a fee would restrict their fundraising efforts.

Same people seen in different places

I question if some of the people I see at the malls and intersections in the county have not made a business of panhandling.

I travel to Montgomery County routinely and see the same people at the intersections there with their same signs. Signs saying such things as "Homeless, three children to feed," etc. My question is: Where are those children when you are out panhandling on the streets?

One day as I sat waiting for the traffic light to enter Marley Station I saw a van pick up three panhandlers with their signs, at the bus stop across the street. These are people who I routinely see near this mall and at Westfield Annapolis Mall.

Who is transporting these people from one area to another for the purpose of panhandling?

Lois Weimann Gambrills

Panhandling creates hazard

Absolutely, get the people off the street corners. They create a traffic hazard. They could be earning a honest living instead of panhandling.

Richard T. Marshall Sr. Laurel

Legislation is shortsighted

County Executive John Leopold's priority legislation to license panhandling is shortsighted and an arrogant attack on the poor, disenfranchised and those non-profits that serve them. Compounding complex administrative and enforcement difficulties are the 33 vacancies in the AA County Police Department, a hiring freeze and proposed 10% budget cuts across departments. Add to the misery a threatened protracted lawsuit by the ACLU and such legislation hardly seems worth the price. Good governance demands leadership and respect for time, talent and abilities of those who serve. By all measures, this legislation is ill conceived, poorly timed and disrespectful of taxpayers dollars and good sense.

Maryellen O. Brady Edgewater

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