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.