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School district says panhandlers are getting too close

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Panhandlers are getting too close for comfort for parents of students at Millwood Public Schools.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, School Board President Christopher Harrison used public comment to support a proposed ordinance that would ban panhandlers from the medians of city streets.

Harrison said panhandlers have been getting too aggressive near the building. A mother of a student in the district said she was getting worried for the safety of students.

Several city council members said they receive similar complaints daily in their offices.  It’s what led seven of the eight council members to co-sponsor the ordinance.

The current ordinance already prohibits panhandling in the street, but the proposed amendment would also apply to medians.

Violators of the current ordinance, as well as the proposed ordinance, are subject to a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and court costs. Those who are cited can choose to pay a $167 fine to the Court Clerk instead of appearing before a judge.

If someone with financial difficulties ends up in court, a judge will have the authority to decide if the person in question is legally unable to pay. If so, that person will not face jail time for failure to pay, and fines and costs will be waived.

Second Ward Councilman Ed Shadid – the only one whose name is not on the ordinance – said panhandling is not the problem.  Instead, the city and the state need to address substance abuse and mental illness – the things, he said, push people to panhandling in the first place.

Shadid said he hasn’t seen the city try to deal with panhandlers in any other way.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Meg Salyer said the proposed ordinance isn’t exactly perfect – it’s just one idea. Salyer’s goal is simply to keep Oklahoma City safe for everyone.