PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The city council has unanimously passed an ordinance that bans panhandling in medians.
The ordinance specifically prohibits anyone from loitering in the medians between roadways. Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck told councilors the situation is an accident waiting to happen. But speakers during public comment were not convinced. There were several people who stood to speak in opposition of the ordinance. They raised concerns about first amendment violations, enforcement, and the larger problem of poverty in Portland. A few people did speak in favor of the ordinance, but the numbers were not nearly as strong as they were when the issue came up in committee a few weeks ago. For the most part, the arguments raised tonight were ones councilors had heard before. But for the first time, they also heard from one of the people who is actually out on the medians panhandling on a regular basis. A man who called himself Dave addressed the council to defend his actions.
"If somebody's out there and they're drunk, the cops should roll up on them and say, 'gone'" Dave said. "But if somebody's not drunk, I mean I fly the sign and I'm sober."
Sauschuck says police can begin enforcing the ordinance August 15th.
The council also took up a citizens initiative on legalizing recreational marijuana in Portland. A group gathered more than three thousand signatures. There was a public hearing on the issue at Monday night's meeting. Councilors voted not to enact the initiative, but did set a date for voters to decide. It will be on the ballot November 5th.