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Editorial: Roadways not for soliciting

Tonight, Albuquerque City Councilor Don Harris plans to introduce legislation prohibiting panhandling at freeway ramps, within medians or along high-speed roads in Albuquerque. He says the proposal “is just about public safety.”

It’s a smart move that should apply to everyone.

The councilor explains he’s heard “a lot of anecdotes about people rushing in and out of traffic or almost being injured, about people almost missing lights and people honking horns … a lot of close calls, especially in bad weather and the dark.”

Yet while Harris says “we really want to avoid any value judgments. We wouldn’t allow anyone to solicit business from those places or engage in any kind of activity,” his proposed legislation is titled “Limitations on panhandling.” But if, for example, the medians on and shoulders along Coors or Central, or the shoulders along Pan American Freeway next to the interstate, are unsafe for panhandling, they are also unsafe for soliciting charity donations and unsafe for wearing a costume/spinning a sign promoting a business.

Mayor Richard Berry launched a humane initiative this spring called There’s a Better Way that encourages those who are homeless and those who want to help to contact service providers rather than continue the cycle of panhandling. Harris’ proposal is designed as an extension of that.

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But as it works its way through the committees and the council, it should be amended to ensure there is a better – and safer – way than balancing on the median or shoulder of a busy roadway not only to solicit money for personal use, but also for charities or to drum up interest in a business.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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