CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.- Spurred on by outcries from constituents, the City Council discussed the growing problem of Panhandling and Littering during their Strategic Planning meeting on Tuesday the 3rd.
District 6 Councilwoman, Carol Berz, led the discussion, “We’ve been having a lot of complaints about panhandling at major intersections.”
Berz stressed she was not talking about the homeless. She stated that the homeless are a different group of people that the city should make every effort to help.
“The panhandlers are part of a group… They have handlers who pick up their money. It’s a whole different ball of wax,” Berz stated.
Berz expressed that the Police Department is aware of the situation and that her constituents found out when trying to be helpful by buying meals for some of the panhandlers.
She stated that the panhandlers got in trouble with their handlers “for not being out there begging.”
“That’s not what we want in our community and I’d like to figure out how we can best address that issue,” Berz said.
Berz stated that there is already ample ordinance in public welfare and safety for these panhandlers not to be there.
The ordinance referenced is no. 13295.
District 4 Councilman, Darrin Ledford, stated that “the ordinance was very specific,” in its language, “but it doesn’t appear it is being enforced”.
Berz said, “There was a lot of work done on this document by this council, it clearly protects free speech while dealing with the other issues. It was good legislation. I’m not sure what has happened so that we are dealing with these issues now.”
Berz requested to schedule that discussion and said they could send out the ordinance again and stated, “It’s very clear that should not be happening. Enforcement is another issue and I guess that is what we need to discuss.”
Councilwoman Berz also stated “Our city can look better and I think we need to address that as well.”
District 2 Councilman, Jerry Mitchell, addressed the Council on the issue of litter, focusing on the intersections where the panhandlers are located.
Mitchell stated, “The administration is putting together their policies on litter pickup, etc. and as soon as they have those, I asked that Councilwoman Berz and I look at it to be sure that it is something the Council can review and if necessary, act upon.”
“I want to get it on Strategic Planning to be prepared to have that discussion in the not-too-distant future,” Mitchell said.
District 1 Council Chairman Chip Henderson inquired if the litter-pickup discussion could fall under Public Works, “Could we not handle this in the Public Works Committee?”
Mitchell stated that it could be handled in that committee if the policy document is complete and has been reviewed by the Council by the time of the next meeting.
District 5 Councilman, Russell Gilbert, inquired, “Is the littering community also or just pertaining to Interstates?”
Mitchell said, “What we are talking about is where the city has responsibility. On some of the highways, that may be the State’s responsibility.”
Mitchell went on to explain that the policy is partially about defining who is responsible for picking up the litter in both locations.
He stated the document would address who the litter pickup responsibility falls to, the City or the State.