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Panhandling Still an Issue, La Mesans Tell Mayor Madrid

See Also: Should State Let Cities Ban Solicitors at Major Intersections?

A request by Mayor Art Madrid to review the city’s existing panhandling ordinance at La Mesa City Council’s Dec. 11 meeting was met with resistance from Councilmember Ernie Ewin, who felt the proposal was premature. 

Additionally, La Mesa book store owner Craig Maxwell updated members on an ongoing petition drive to place term limits for elected city officials on the November 2014 election ballot.

At the Council’s final meeting in 2013, Madrid advocated reexamining the city’s existing regulations governing panhandling as well as tracking similar attempts by other cities statewide to address the issue, in the wake of state legislation, SB 630 introduced by State Sen. Joel Anderson (R-36), which died this year in committee.

SB 603 would have amended the vehicle code to prohibit a person from soliciting, displaying, selling, offering for sale, or otherwise vending or attempting to vend any merchandise or service while being wholly or partly within the right-of-way of any freeway, including any on-ramp, off-ramp, or roadway shoulder which lies within the right-of-way of the freeway, or any roadway or adjacent shoulder within 500 feet of a freeway off ramp or on ramp. The bill would also prohibit a person from panhandling while being wholly or partly within an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal.

"I have brought forth this initiative simply because I want the city attorney to review the existing panhandling ordinance," Madrid said, adding La Mesans have repeatedly approached him expressing “their displeasure with the number of people out there panhandling in the medians of the streets."

Madrid said two other California cities, Merced and Paso Robles, have initiated their own ordinances to curb panhandling in medians.

"This is a safety issue," said Madrid. "People are running from one lane to another while panhandling, placing themselves–and others–in danger. This city cannot just stay static on this."

Councilman Ewin disagreed.

“This council has dealt with this for years,” he said. “What I don’t want to do is just pass an ordinance for expediency. We don’t want to become the test case.”

Ewin said he felt the only way to curb median panhandling is to “get the [state] legislature on board. It’s a political issue.”

La Mesa Police Chief Ed Aceves suggested it might be prudent to seek a broader coalition in the state legislature, perhaps approach a Democratic legislator, in order for a reintroduced measure to curb median panhandling to succeed the next time around.

While a panhandling ordinance may not be in the books anytime soon, La Mesa Village business owner Maxwell said the term limit measure was drawing rave reviews from those approached to participate and expressed confidence in the success of the petition to get the option on the 2014 election ballot.

The La Mesa Term Limits Committee, of which Maxwell is a part, needs to collect 3,306 valid signatures in 180 days to place a measure to get voter approval for an ordinance to limit city officials to 12 consecutive years in office on the November 2014 ballot.

The term limit drive began recently after La Mesa Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio tried unsuccessfully to get the City Council to put the term-limits ordinance on the ballot. Only Councilmember Ruth Sterling supported her motion.

The proposed ordinance would limit a person to three consecutive terms as either mayor or city councilmember or any combination thereof. Under the proposed ordinance, a person who serves three consecutive terms in office would have to wait four years before returning to office.

The next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 4 p.m.

What do you think about panhandlers at intersections in La Mesa? Is it a problem? Share in comments.

Sharron Lee January 10, 2014 at 09:32 AM
I want an ordinance against it. I feel very uncomfortable sometimes when stopped at a light. If people would quit giving, they 'd go somewhere else. Maybe this is the campaign we should be launching if we can't take legal action.
Christy Pavano-Heiskala January 10, 2014 at 10:13 AM
Yes, panhandling is a major issue in La Mesa. It brings down the property values. We need to set higher standards for our town all the way around.
Kevin George January 10, 2014 at 02:44 PM
I love mayoral election years. All the things that have been ignored for the last four years suddenly jump to the forefront as if they had not existed before. Time to get tough (again)Art. Thanks to Chief Aceves for his stellar year long effort to get legislation passed on this issue. Too bad it is overshadowed by the headline and the mayors campaign year grandstanding
Jimmy Sanders January 11, 2014 at 02:32 PM
The Mayor should champion an increase in unemployment benefits to $1000 per week for all without jobs, or the ability or desire to work. This can all be part of the city budget by just putting in a city withholding income tax. The local populace will benefit and voila-the economy will come roaring back in no time.
Russel Ray January 11, 2014 at 03:11 PM
I think people are looking for a problem that doesn't exist. So you feel uncomfortable when stopped in the presence of a panhandler. I suspect the panhandler doesn't exactly feel comfortable, either. I've seen them in 100 degree heat and in pouring rain. I say leave them alone and find other ways to help them, like shelters, food kitchens, and, perhaps, jobs!
yessir January 11, 2014 at 03:46 PM
If it helps bring property values down then I support it.
Patricia Ghaffariazar January 11, 2014 at 04:38 PM
Hmmmm What do I think about panhandlers at intersections in La Mesa? It is a huge problem! Let's face it residents in La Mesa are working class citizens. Some have worked their whole life to enjoy their retirement here in La Mesa. I live very close to Lake Murray Blvd near Starbucks. I have seen a majority of the panhandlers are the same people panhandling on the same corners for eighteen months! I have also noticed an increase in the number of panhandlers as well since I moved to La Mesa from University City eighteen months ago. In the last three weeks I have caught three different panhandlers (all women) in my BLUE recycle bins and told them not to come back. One got very aggressive with me and tried to intimidate me. She threatened me after she started to leave and said if I came near her she would kick my ass. This is the new thing for these panhandlers to do as well. I can take care of myself because I work out, but what about an elderly man or women. They are always looking for the quick buck! It makes me angry because I have called the La Mesa Police Dept on these people at least 10 times (not exaggerating they probably know me by name) for panhandling or stealing from our trash and blue bins in a small gated community! They do not care it is a gated community so they come in anyway! As far as a job goes most of the panhandlers could care less about bettering themselves. People visit the San Diego area from all over the world and see these people and feel sorry for them and hand them money from their vehicle. I came three feet from a man because I did not see him in the street. There was a truck blocking my view until the last second and I had to SLAM on my brakes so they screeched and he shot me a dirty look!! I'm sure they need substance abuse counseling or mental health therapy. Those are the first steps to help these people in our community. We NEED to get them off of the corners of La Mesa. It is DANGEROUS and a safety menace to drivers. It is just ridiculous for these people to be allowed to panhandle at any and all intersections in La Mesa! Seriously
Patricia Ghaffariazar January 11, 2014 at 04:51 PM
By the way the La Mesa Police Department has not made it once out the our area before the panhandler had already disappeared conveniently from sight. Every time I have called the officer he or she did not show up until hours later. It is obvious by the pattern of behavior from the La Mesa Police Department that this is not a pressing issue for them. It is not fair and hopefully our community will not suffer from this pressing issue much longer.
Scott H. Kidwell January 11, 2014 at 05:58 PM
Why is it okay for government employees to work the intersections, but not okay for private citizens to work the intersections?
k hardin January 12, 2014 at 02:41 AM
As far as the term limits issue goes, it sounds like that Maxwell guy who ALWAYS has one issue or another with the city council wants to put a limit on the voting power of the people. WE repeatedly elect our council members for a reason. I would like to continue to have the right to vote for whomever I believe will do the job as I wish it done, whether that's fresh meat or a seasoned vet. It's a right I deserve to have, like my right to avoid purchasing anything from Maxwell Books, and the irritating ass who runs it. Same goes for All Things Bright And British now too, jesus. Owning a small business should not give these two men the sense of importance they seem to believe radiates from their every pore. Our power lies in our combined voice; there should not be a limit there because the losing side continuously fails to provide better alternatives and want a cheat code. Now, as far as panhandling goes, a public street is a public street. Unsightly? Maybe. Uncomfortable? Sure. But the city isn't really fair to criminalize it. I'm all for the idea of more of those rocks like on La Mesa Blvd by Drew Ford, or some nice shrubbery, to deter panhandlers. But they have the right to exist....and they will. Prohibit street panhandling? Cool. They'll all congregate to the mall. Or the grocery store. And will we complain then? Yeah, duh. At least in the center median, we're able to drive away from them if we want to ignore them.
Bill Jaynes January 12, 2014 at 10:20 AM
Hi k hardin, You correctly identify the threshold question that voters must each resolve for themselves either when voting for term limits or signing the petitions now available at Maxwell's House of Books, All Things Bright & British (where sweet chocolatey goodness radiates from every pore),and other establishments throughout the city: Whether we would, on balance, benefit by requiring our elected officials to relinquish the trappings of office once a decade, step back amongst the rest of us, live with the consequences of their decisions just as we do ( such as the $34 million and growing unfunded pension liability that will finally be noted on the municipal balance sheet this year), and perhaps running again after merely one term away, proving once and for all that it was the popularity of their ideas and proven leadership rather than the power of incumbency that drives reelection. I think we would. It is necessary in our system of self governance to balance the vindication of conflicting rights. What are age, residency, and criminal record rules, if not restrictions on our right to vote? Yet we nearly universally accept their necessity. We on the La Mesa Term Limits Committee ( http://www.lamesatermlimits.com/home.html ) recognize that this isn't a binary world, and have attempted to resolve the competing tensions in such a way as to empower citizen democracy, and we hope that the approximately 2/3s of La Mesan who recently voted for a far more draconian measure on the County level will agree that we are proposing a reasonably crafted measure tailored to our City's needs. You are free to disagree, of course, but I would nevertheless ask that you consider signing the petition anyway, so as to support your neighbors' right to vote, which you so esteem. Bill Jaynes ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BRITISH 8401 La Mesa Blvd 619 464 2298
Scott H. Kidwell January 12, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Visit the La Mesa Term Limits web page and the La Mesa Term Limits Facebook page. http://lamesatermlimits.com/ https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Mesa-Term-Limits/195662983954693
Craig Maxwell January 12, 2014 at 01:09 PM
I'm sorry to have alienated K. Hardin's business, since the illiteracy of his/her kind is precisely the type we'd like to stamp-out in La Mesa. If I might extend an olive branch, K. Hardin, we have a small but excellent children's section which I created to meet the needs of readers just like you. We look forward to seeing you.
Kevin George January 13, 2014 at 12:47 PM
Did you ever notice how some people try to entertain two opposing ideas at the same time, thinking the ideas are a unified front? " I would like to continue to have the right to vote for whomever I believe"/ "Our power lies in our combined voice" So which is the preferred trait, rugged individualism or the tyranny of the masses?

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