By Charles Feldman, Reporter
No more solicitations of funds on public roadways will be allowed in the village of Glen Carbon. The ordinance covering that – Ordinance 2001-03 – has been repealed.
The village took action on the issue at its Tuesday, August 27 meeting.
Although the board’s ability to choose which groups can solicit was in question as a restriction on free speech, panhandling was part of the issue. Part of the village’s ordinance prohibited panhandling along roads, public ways and intersections.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless sent a letter to the village (other Illinois municipalities including O’Fallon, Chicago, Carbondale and Danville have received them as well, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless web site) saying that the First Amendment protects peaceful requests for money in a public place and that ordinances regulating or prohibiting them were unconstitutional as a violation of freedom of speech.
This not only applies to groups soliciting funds on public roadways, but to individual panhandlers as well.
If the village did not “swiftly” repeal the ordinance, the letter said, the ACLU of Illinois and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless “will be forced to consider legal options to protect the rights of panhandlers in Glen Carbon.”
It went on say that the ordinance’s restrictions on locations (no panhandling at intersections and median strips) and the granting of prior approval by the board before groups can solicit funds on a public way were unconstitutional.
“They’re correct that we cannot have an ordinance that says if your message is ‘Help Disabled Children’ we’ll let you solicit in the street,” said Village Attorney Jim Schrempf. “We can’t tell the people who want to have a Ku Klux Klan rally they can’t solicit in the street.
“So rather than deal with this issue, our recommendation is to simply eliminate this whole section,” Schrempf told the board.
“The effect of that is it will no longer be permissible to allow anyone to solicit in the streets and our regulations as for potentially stopping people on the sidewalks to ask for money – those also are being stricken at this time,” he said.
”I’ve talked with the [police] chief,” Schrempf said.“We will see what we experience as a result and perhaps find other avenues.
“We’ll just have to explain to the charities that use this as a revenue source that it’s no longer viable,” he said.
An ordinance to repeal Ordinance 2001-03 was unanimously approved by the board.