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New panhandling ordinance passes in Oklahoma City

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OKLAHOMA CITY – An ordinance to further restrict panhandling in Oklahoma City has lost some of its teeth but moved forward decisively at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

By a 7-2 vote, the council approved an ordinance that would push panhandlers back 50 feet from any mass transit or school bus stop.

Panhandlers must stay the same distance from school property.

The so-called ‘buffer zone’ previously stood at 20 feet.

The law will keep a 20-foot buffer zone intact around public outdoor seating areas and cafes as well as ATMs, public toilets and pay phones.

Solicitors, beggars and panhandlers must also stay away from kids under age 16.

Tuesday’s discussion was far less contentious than when Councilmen John Pettis and Mark Stonecipher presented the idea in January.

In December, the council voted to remove panhandlers and others from most city medians, drawing outrage from the ACLU and many advocates for the homeless.

Council deferred a vote on the new ordinance several times as it worked to compromise with the organizations like the Curbside Chronicle, which helps the homeless sell magazines to make money.

Executive Director Ranya O’Connor told council she was concerned about a number of things in the ordinance.

Councilmen Ed Shadid and Pete White voted against the proposal.