To Regulate Solicitation On Sidewalks And Unpaved Shoulders, Or Not?
by: Pat Hernandez, January 7, 2014 4:01:00 pm
Commissioners were set to discuss regulations that would restrict soliciting on sidewalks and unpaved shoulders of the unincorporated areas of the county, but not in lanes of traffic.
That is, until Art Storey of the County Infrastructure Department, had the item removed from consideration for two weeks.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett says at issue, is enforcement of a proposal to ban solicitation activities deemed "hazardous activity" within roadways and medians.
"I think it's a matter of the enforcement. You hate to say it's selective, because it's got to be consistent. But at the same time, it is a tool that ... it's like a warning. If a deputy comes up and gives a warning to somebody, they don't listen to the warning. They come back they're doing it again. Then you could at that point, affect an arrest."
He says some commissioners have fielded calls from residents, complaining that some solicitors are putting young workers collecting money in harm’s way.
"Particularly the two commissioners that have (FM) 1960. They say it's a real problem out there, and you have a lot of residents of the area, who frankly are not comfortable with what's going. And so, yeah I think in that case, it does need to be regulated."
Draft regulations formulated by the Harris County Attorney's Office are said to have more teeth than the ones adopted by the City of Houston. They require fundraising groups obtain permits before soliciting funds anywhere, including city employees like firefighters conducting "Fill the Boot" fundraisers.
FM 1960 is located in Commissioner Jack Cagle's precinct.
"This is a study, that's been going on for quite awhile, from our traffic division to some our very busy intersections. Of course, we're supportive of entities wanting to raise money for whatever their cause are. But there needs to be that balance between the public safety as well as the non-public safety."
Then there are panhandlers, who also solicit money at intersections.
"Some of the panhandlers are starting to get a little more aggressive, and we hear these tales and these stories and complaints from the constituents. Now how pervasive that problem is, it's hard to tell, because they don't always come through the criminal justice system. Although occasionally you do, but by the time you get a constable or sheriff out there, that individual that's engaged in that behavior is long gone."
Commissioners will now have more time to consider rules that deal with street safety for solicitors in high congestion traffic areas, as well as panhandlers.