PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - City leaders in Portland have taken action to address an issue that many of them say generates the most complaints and comments..... Panhandling.
Starting next month people will no longer be able to loiter in the medians on city streets for panhandling or other purposes.
Last fall city councilors rejected a similar measure which some feel led to the explosion of panhandling we're now seein. Last night they revisited the issue and passed it 6-to-nothing.
But Panhandlers can still stand on the side of the road and on sidewalks. That could drive more of them into the downtown and old port areas, something business leaders don't want to see.
City leaders who worked on the issue believe panhandling on the medians is much more profitable than on sidewalks so the ban may drive some away. They also say if the activity does increase in the business areas the city has a law against aggressive panhandling to prevent shoppers from being harassed. The biggest problem is enforcing that law.
"You can't stalk somebody, you can't chase them down the street etc. but it obviously requires enforcement and that is the ongoing challenge for what I would say is an under strength police department", said City Councilor Ed Suslovic.
If the median ban doesn't slow the growth of Panhandling the city could look at adopting other measures, but the director of the ACLU of Maine says panhandling is protected speech. He says his organization will not only fight against further restrictions but it is seriously considering legal action against the median ban.