Recently, the Cedar Rapids City Council voted to proceed with an ordinance disguised as a pedestrian safety issue. It was subtly framed and easy to miss. Thankfully, some people did know this was on the docket and showed up to contest this at the first reading. There was a juxtaposition of City Council member Scott Olson claiming that the worst thing a person could do was panhandle, against citizens telling impassioned tales about how cruel it was to institute fines for people asking for help.
While the ordinance seeks to ban seven intersections from panhandling, the lack of convincing evidence seemed weak at best. Lackluster data was presented of increased phone calls regarding panhandling. At the second reading, still people came to oppose this ordinance in addition to people speaking out to local newspapers. However, the City Council appeared determined to proceed and blind to the concerns of its constituents, set on their agenda to clean the streets of this blemish that is poverty.
We cannot afford to be more concerned about the image of our city than helping our citizens. It is understandable to pass on a third reading when there are no objections, but at what point should our City Council be held accountable when they seemingly ignore the voice of the people they represent? Sweeping a problem under a figurative rug does not make it magically disappear.