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Are panhandlers proliferating in and around King City?

City officials will pursue ways to discourage them from using city property


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - HAND OUT OR HAND UP? - This man, standing on an island in Royalty Parkway just inside the King City city limits next to 99W, is a frequent visitor to the spot, and some local residents want city officials to 'do something' to eliminate panhandling.Panhandlers are a frequent sight standing on the medians at Pacific Highway and Durham Road and even in King City on the Royalty Parkway median at 99W.

Longtime King City residents Jack and Donna Kloster think the sight is detrimental to the city's image and recently raised the issue with City Manager Dave Wells.

Wells sent Jack Kloster a letter after speaking with the city attorney "regarding our soliciting ordinance and the subject of panhandling in the city right of way," explaining that the city's no-soliciting ordinance is in fact unconstitutional based on a 1988 Supreme Court decision.

"The court basically said that ordinances of this type are too general and prohibit all soliciting," Wells wrote. "On the subject of panhandling, the attorney noted that standing on a street corner with a sign is a protected activity considered to be an expression of free speech. The only enforcement options that currently exist are if the person is creating a traffic hazard or littering."

According to Wells, the city attorney also noted that the only ordinances in Oregon that have been somewhat effective are making it an infraction for people in vehicles to give money or anything of value to the panhandlers.

"If the city were to consider such an ordinance, it would be enforced against the drivers or passengers in the vehicle," Wells wrote. "The city could also post signs to this effect in the island."

A lively discussion occurred at the July 16 City Council meeting, when Jack Kloster told the council, "Our concern about people panhandling on the island outside the Arco station and Prestige Properties is that it gives a very poor impression. We expect the City Council to solve this problem by Aug. 6… I'm so confident this City Council can solve this problem."

Donna Kloster followed up by saying, "We saw litter on the ground by the panhandler, and Jack picked it up. It's a terrible thing. People come here to buy homes, and it makes a terrible impression. You don't see it in Summerfield or in the Highlands - it's a detriment to the community."

According to Donna, the couple put up fliers suggesting that people who were concerned about this issue come to the council meeting, and indeed, there were several residents in attendance.

Councilor Ken Gibson pointed out that 99W is a state-owned highway, and Wells added, "We have no control over what happens on a state highway. What we do have control over is our streets."

Wells said there are three options, which are not exclusive: The first is making it an infraction for people in vehicles to hand out anything of value to a panhandler; the second is not allowing panhandling on city property; and the third is to "landscape it heavily."

As council members debated ideas, Wells said, "I think what I'm hearing from the City Council is to proceed with an ordinance," adding that "it has to deal with a specific problem such as public safety or property damage - not because you don't like it."

After further discussion, Wells said, "I think I have enough direction to go back to the city attorney," although he told the Klosters that the city could not get an ordinance into effect by Aug. 6.

A neighbor of the Klosters said, "What about a motion-detecting sprinkler system? They need to go someplace else and do their begging someplace else," and Wells added, "An island is not intended for foot traffic - it is supposed to be a traffic separator."

Donna concluded the discussion by saying to Wells and the council members, "I thank you for the positive attitude you have about this."