Newport City Councilor At-Large Florez to introduce Ordinance making it illegal to solicit in roadways

Newport City Councilor At-Large John F. Florez today announced that he is introducing an Ordinance to the Newport City Council that would promote public safety by making it illegal to exchange anything between a person standing in a roadway and an occupant of any vehicle.
Councilor At-Large Florez said that the language of the Ordinance is “content neutral,” applying to those soliciting for charities and organizations, such as Little Leaguers and firefighters, as well as to panhandlers, drug dealers and prostitutes and others who may be soliciting in roadways.
Councilor At-Large Florez’s Ordinance would amend 12.16.110 -Vendors in public roadways (Ord. 2005-26 1, 2005) and define a roadway to include lanes commonly used for parking and include center medians and lane dividers.
“It’s a distraction for a motorist behind the wheel to be approached by someone soliciting for money or services, and it isn’t safe for anyone to be standing on a median strip or stepping off a sidewalk to approach motorists,” Florez stated. “This is a common sense and practical solution to practices that compromise the public safety of our city’s residents and visitors alike.”
The Ordinance is modeled on legislation that was challenged unsuccessfully in Missouri by the Ku Klux Klan, whose members were entering roadways to distribute leaflets. Charleston, South Carolina passed a similar ban last year that has not been challenged.
An Ordinance prohibiting distribution to occupants of vehicles, proposed by former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino, Jr., has been submitted to the Providence City Council, and one before the Cranston City Council has the support of Mayor Allan Fung and eight of the nine City Council members.
Florez said, “Like Providence and Cranston, Newport is seeing a rise in panhandlers in intersections, on medians, and stepping into roads to solicit motorists. While this Ordinance won’t curb panhandling on sidewalks, it will make it illegal to solicit in roadways. To address panhandling with compassion and assistance, while asking the City Administration to fully adopt the attached Ordinance and its specifications, I am also asking for the creation of a line item in the next budget to establish a work program for panhandlers that mirrors the successful program in Albuquerque, New Mexico.”