An update from Mayor Hatter...
Roadside Solicitation (Panhandling)
I want to provide a quick update on the issue of roadside solicitation (panhandling) which has generated much discussion and concern over the past few months. Many of you have probably noticed that individuals will periodically conduct roadside solicitation within the city, typically in the areas of Kyles and Dixie and Valley Plaza at Highland. The individuals conducting the solicitation are part of a recognized charity, specifically a church, that is properly registered in the State of Kentucky. The specific collection method employed by these solicitors, approaching vehicles in stopped traffic, has generated many calls to the City Building. City Council and city staff have been investigating these concerns and are taking steps to ensure public safety while not infringing upon any Constitutional rights granted to American citizens.
Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down a Fayette County Ordinance that expressly prohibited roadside panhandling. While charitable solicitations and panhandling are not the same issue, the ruling of the Supreme Court impacts our ability to deal with the roadside solicitations. Thankfully, the Supreme Court provided guidance in its ruling that we believe is applicable to our issues here in Fort Wright. The City intends to modify its ordinance to comply with this recent ruling. While, we cannot expressly prohibit a citizen’s ability to exercise his or her First Amendment rights, a City can prohibit people from approaching cars in stopped traffic . This is a safety issue and we want to address it quickly. On March 1st the City Council will vote on the second reading of an Ordinance (04-17) that prohibits all pedestrians from approaching stopped traffic. The pertinent wording in the ordinance is as follows:
It shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to block any road or street in the City, or to do any act designated to stop, slow or impede the movement of traffic, or to approach stopped motorists in a line of traffic.
To view the full ordinance, please click here.
The intent behind this ordinance is the safety of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic in Fort Wright. Our legal counsel informs us and we believe that this ordinance will not infringe upon an individual's or an organization’s First Amendment rights.
It's worth noting that even if this ordinance is passed, you may still occasionally encounter individuals within the city who are soliciting, panhandling, or simply standing with a sign expressing their viewpoint on a matter. The Courts have ruled that they have a legal right to do so. Despite that, we believe this new ordinance will help to improve safety in our community and we will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation while protecting citizens’ First Amendment Rights.
If you have questions or concerns please feel free to contact me or our City Administrator, Ed Butler, at email@example.com or via telephone at 859-331-1700.
Dave Hatter, Mayor
The City Of Fort Wright, Kentucky