McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 31, 2013

Councilor voices concern about area panhandlers

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — Ward 5 City Councilor Buddy Garvin said he hasn’t been able to do all the things he’s wanted to do as a city councilor over the past year, but he’s ready to start anew. The first thing he mentioned as grabbing his attention — panhandlers. “This marks a new year for me working with the council,” Garvin said on Jan. 22, during the last regular meeting of the McAlester City Council.

“I hope to be a better councilman than I have been in the past,” Garvin said. “I’ve not been pleased with my rating. “The only thing I ask is when I ask for something, I get the same respect as anybody else.” Garvin, who spoke during his councilor’s report, said one thing that’s been brought to his attention is “panhandlers in the Walmart area.”

“We are a loving community, no doubt about that,” Garvin said. “But people are out there every day working the system. “We see a guy out with a sign out there and we know he’s working the system” Garvin said, “and your 5-year-old asks ‘Why aren’t you helping?”’ That brought a comment from Ward 2 Councilor John Tistsworth, who said he has heard that those asking for help in Tulsa can be handed a card that reads “John 3:16.”

“You can go to John 3:16 and get what you’re asking for,” he said, referring to the John 3:16 mission and shelter for the homeless in Tulsa. That brought comments about possibly working with the Good Samaritan Outreach shelter in McAlester, or perhaps the Salvation Army, on a similar program.

Ward 4 Councilor Robert Karr interjected a comment about panhandlers in general, saying he thinks most of them “are supporting a bad habit.” Also adding a comment, Ward 6 Councilor Sam Mason said the city already has an ordinance that requires a solicitation permit.

That led to the question, “Is panhandling a solicitation?” Another question followed: What’s the situation if the panhandler or person asking for help or a donation is on private property? Garvin also raised the question of what would happen if there should be a wreck or accident where a panhandler has stopped. He offered one suggestion.

“We could have a panhandling quarter” Garvin said. “No panhandling from Wyandotte Avenue to the Kinkead Hills.”

City police have ticketed panhandlers in the past for stepping onto a roadway to accept donations, but Garvin said he understood police can’t patrol the site all the time.

The council took no action on the matter during the last meeting since it was not on the agenda and had come up during a councilor’s report, but Garvin indicated he plans to bring the subject up again in the future. Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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