CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Charleston city council met tonight for another meeting.
But this time, there was an item on the agenda that created controversy.
“The bill says no person or persons shall stand or congregate within 25 feet of a location that has been deemed as inherently dangerous,” said Chad Robinson, city councilman for Ward 20.
A bill that would “prohibit standing, congregating and obstructing the flow of traffic near an inherently dangerous intersection or highway.”
In other words, it would prohibit panhandling.
For over two hours, the council debated.
“I understand. Many of these people are not from Charleston. Most of them are not homeless,” said Becky Ceperley, councilwoman at-large 2. “The police know where these folks live. They have homes. And some have bragged to the police in the past that they make $200 a day. So I understand the need to do something. However, I think our best bet- and what we’ve done before and I think we should build on it now- is an educational campaign.”
“We have to put the safety of our constituents and the public above worrying about a lawsuit,” said Bruce King, councilman for Ward 17. “And I don’t think our city attorney Mr. Baker would’ve drafted legislation that would put the city at risk. So I am going to support the bill.”
“A lot of us have heard from a plethora of constituents and organizations that have concerns in the last few hours leading up to council,” said Caitlin Cook, councilwoman at-large 5. “I had a lot of messages, and I had a lot of emails that said while this is a good step, it doesn’t take away that main issue of – if we find ourselves passing this bill even with the amendment, is it going to be constitutional? So I’m gonna be a no.”
City council member Chad Robinson, who helped originally draft the bill, mentioned in closing that a lot of the people reaching out to the city against the bill were from out of state.
He then proceeded to share that this has been a topic of discussion for over a month – so why the attention now?
“Where were they three weeks before that? Where were they with their concerns? Where were they with recommendations on how to fix this and how we can help our City of Charleston and our residents that we’re elected to represent?”
But in the end… the city voted.
And the final tally – 9 yays and 18 nays. Killing the proposed bill.