Cranston City Council to vote on ordinance regarding solicitation on roadways

CRANSTON- A new version of what’s being called a public safety law is trying to put a stop to solicitations on busy intersections in Cranston. It goes before the city council for a vote Wednesday night.
"The ordinance is designed to address the transaction into and outside of motor vehicles," says Mayor Allan Fung.
In theory this version will stop anyone inside a car to give or receive anything from outside the car and vice verse. The previous version was voted down by the council but Mayor Fung says he is confident this time they’ve worked with their attorneys to make changes based on the concerns expressed by the ACLU and the public.

"It is only limited to certain busy intersections that have been identified in the ordinance. Any street or roadway that is wider than 30 feet and have several travel lanes," says Mayor Fung.

Mayor Fung says people can continue to solicit donations in any public space as long as it’s not from a moving car in one of the busy intersections. The ACLU is not so keen on the plan.
"The city council keeps on trying to tinker with this proposed ordinance but the bottom line is all of the versions raise very serious first amendment problems and this one is no different," says Rhode Island ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown.

Brown says no matter what they’re trying to call it in Cranston, the ordinance is targeting panhandlers. He says there’s a long history of public officials in the city talking about the need to crack down on panhandlers and says it’s an "after the fact"argument to say this is about public safety.

"The attempt to limit it to certain areas simply doesn’t suffice under the first amendment, what they are really doing is keeping people from soliciting at the places they are most likely going to be able to get donations," says Brown.

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