Welfare

Liberty Comes to Liberty City

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Robert Neuwirth describes a Miami law that

takes its name from Pottinger v. City of Miami, a 1988 federal court case (decided in 1992), in which the city's policy of arresting homeless people for engaging in "life-sustaining conduct" on the street (thus making it a crime simply to be without a home on public land) was ruled illegal. "The City's practice of arresting homeless individuals for the involuntary, harmless acts they are forced to perform in public is unconstitutional," senior United States District Judge Clyde Atkins wrote in the decision, adding that "the City's practice of seizing and destroying the property of homeless individuals" was also against the law. The principles of Judge Atkins' decision were memorialized in a 1998 memorandum called The Pottinger Settlement.

Why write about the law now, years later? Because in Liberty City, a desperately poor ghetto neighborhood, a group called Take Back the Land is citing the settlement as it argues that it has the right to "squat on public land, to build housing for our own community" with "no government permission or money."

Here's an account of their efforts in a Miami Herald op-ed:

Umoja Village Shantytown…is a grass-roots Take Back the Land project started two months ago on a vacant city lot in response to Liberty City's gentrification, the affordable-housing crisis and the mismanagement of millions of dollars earmarked to ease this crisis. Umoja, 32 makeshift homes—wooden pallets covered with painted cardboard—is filled to capacity with 40 residents, including a family with an eight-week-old baby. There's even a waiting list. There's more than enough good cheer among the formerly homeless who run their small village. They have a work chart and a small garden. They make decisions collectively, cook communally and abide by the four rules posted outside the makeshift kitchen: respect for one another, no drugs or alcohol, no violence and no sexual harassment….

The city is considering offering Umoja's 40 residents beds in a homeless shelter. Most Umoja residents don't regard this as a viable option, in part because it is a temporary solution and in part because of the restrictions the shelters impose. Umoja resident Jonathan Baker had to leave a shelter because his job conflicted with the shelter's curfew. He's gainfully employed with a paycheck and taxes withheld. Should he be forced back into a shelter and subsequent unemployment?

Not having done any reporting on this myself, I can't say for sure whether this is really a short-term effort aimed at embarrassing the government into building more low-income housing or if the organizers genuinely hope to transform their camp into a more permanent neighborhood, a la the Third World squatter cities that Neuwirth, Hernando De Soto, and others have described. But their rhetoric certainly suggests the second approach. Check out the YouTube videos here, especially the third one, to see some people who are fed up with waiting for the government to act and ready to do things themselves. "One of the big things that we thought would not work," one activist explains, "was if we were like any other social service agency where we did everything and then delivered it to the residents. An integral part of this is that the residents had to participate in it and they had to run their own city." That's a marked contrast with life in the shelters. Whether it will work out as planned is still up in the air—there are people in the government who still hope to shut down the site.

The Sun-Sentinel covers the village here.

The Daily Business Review tackles the story here.

Reason's Mike Lynch visited a pirate radio station in Liberty City here.

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  1. I thought those shantytowns were a feature of third-world countries only. This speaks to overregulation and market failure.

  2. Most homeless folks choose their fate. It is a life style choice. I know this ’cause I used to work at a homeless shelter.

  3. Sandi,

    You sadly correct. I don’t think you should be able to choose to be homeless. If someone needs help and wants to work for a living, we should bend over backwards to make that possible. If someone is mentally ill, society needs to help them. If someone would rather stand on the street and beg and do drugs rather than work, fuck them. They can either change their ways and get a job and get off the street or go to jail.

  4. Because someone on the street begging and doing drugs is an unbearable burden on society?

  5. If someone would rather stand on the street and beg and do drugs rather than work, fuck them. They can either change their ways and get a job and get off the street or go to jail.

    Why would a free society imprison people for merely choosing to panhandle for a living?

  6. “Why would a free society imprison people for merely choosing to panhandle for a living?”

    Because they are a pain in the ass that is why. With freedom comes responsibility. Unless you are sick, you have the responsibility to support yourself. I don’t care what you do or how you do it, that is your business but you can’t steal and you can’t beg. Those are the only two requirements I would make of citizens. If you want to work just enough to have a one room flat and spend the rest of your money on crack, or sponge off your mother your whole life, have fun. I think that a society has a right to tell people that living on the street and sponging off of strangers is a no go.

  7. Why would a free society imprison people for merely choosing to panhandle for a living?

    Because to some people — “freedom” means free to do whatever pleases them and fits their code of conduct.

    With freedom comes responsibility. Unless you are sick, you have the responsibility to support yourself.

    Hey John….guess what….these guys who sit on street corners all year round in Chicago begging for spare change are supporting themselves. They are out there in the rain, in the snow, in the sleet. They are there putting in their hours for literally peanuts.

    I agree that you can’t steal, but why not beg? Why not live off of charity, if you can? Why is it ok for some groups to beg for donations but not for individuals to beg for direct donations? The only “responsibility” that freedom requires is to not violate the rights of others.

    I think that a society has a right to tell people that living on the street and sponging off of strangers is a no go.

    Why? If the strangers are giving voluntarily then the market obviously supports this lifestyle choice. What gives society the right to tell anyone that they must have an approved source of income and at minimum a “one room flat”?

    If you don’t want to give to panhandlers, don’t — that’s your right, too. But save the self righteous “either get a job or go to jail” bullshit. Freedom means free to choose do nothing and live of the charity of others, if that is how you see fit. They aren’t infringing on your rights and they aren’t harming anyone (and if they do then they can get arrested). But you “pain in the ass” standard is stupid and shows just how much of an idiot you are.

    And yet you have the nerve to pretend that it’s liberals who hate freedom and want the government to run peoples lives. Typical.

  8. “I don’t care what you do or how you do it, that is your business but you can’t steal and you can’t beg.”

    I agree with you about the stealing part, but people give to beggars voluntarily. People who freeload and sponge are no great source of delight to me either, but if they are being supported by voluntary donations, they should be free to keep sponging off those dumb enough to keep supporting them.

  9. John, if being a pain in the ass were an imprisonable offense you’d’ve been locked up years ago.

  10. I’d rather someone was living off begging than spending $35K per year to give them a jail cell and three squares.

    What kind of frigging liberal hippie nutjob are you, John?

    And whatever happened to Hoboes? Those knights of the road who would work jobs for a meal or a night in the barn?

  11. John, in a free society, you don’t have to live with things that infringe upon your person or property, but you do have to live with things you consider to be a “pain in the ass.”

    Leftists and big government types want the government to protect them from things that annoy them, like smoking and nudity on TV. People who are not leftists or big government types feel that we’re all grown up enough to ignore the things that annoy us and we don’t need the government’s help to do that.

  12. “Because to some people — “freedom” means free to do whatever pleases them and fits their code of conduct.”

    Best definition of SHELFISH i’ve seen all day.

  13. Do beggars have a right to scream obscenities at those who refrain from gviving them money? If I own a restaurant, do I have a civic duty to tolerate those who beg in front of my property, thus discouraging walk-in traffic?

  14. John: you are absolutely free to do so. And others are free to give money. That’s the wonderful thing about freedom: everyone gets to make his own policy.

    Under your proposal, I would be REQUIRED to spend money on cops and jails and other programs that would correct these dysfunctional people. I prefer not to pass judgement on them or intervene. Thus, I am a libertarian.

    Regarding this particular enterprise, the story makes clear that some of the residents are gainfully employed but cannot afford housing. It’s probably a matter of overregulation combined with poor economic policy that has speculators waiting in line to buy condos they aren’t going to live in while rental housing simply isn’t getting built. By all accounts, this last is in the process of correcting itself.

  15. “Do beggars have a right to scream obscenities at those who refrain from gviving them money? If I own a restaurant, do I have a civic duty to tolerate those who beg in front of my property, thus discouraging walk-in traffic?”

    Of course they do. Just ask the ACLU. Better begging in front of a business in the dead of winter in Buffalo, NY than in some institution for the mentally ill.

    Get it?

  16. Best definition of SHELFISH i’ve seen all day.

    Wrong. “Shelfish” (sic) are mollusks, members of the phylum “mollusca” which are easily recognizable because their soft bodies are protected by exterior shells (because their bodies lack internal skeletons).

  17. Do beggars have a right to scream obscenities at those who refrain from gviving them money?

    Of course not. There are laws prohibiting disturbing the peace.

    If I own a restaurant, do I have a civic duty to tolerate those who beg in front of my property, thus discouraging walk-in traffic?

    That’s a good question and I wonder what recourse a shop owner has in this instance.

    Still, it’s a very different matter than John’s authoritarian desire to lock up anyone who’s begging.

  18. I’m all for the homeless and destitute doing for themselves rather than waiting around for government handouts.

    However, I’m not sure that really encompasses trespassing and appropriating other people’s property.

    I mean, if a homeless guy can stake a claim to government property, what’s to prevent me (or Georgia Pacific) from carving off a big chunk of some national forest for a little “life-sustaining” cabin (or some clearcutting)?

  19. “Do beggars have a right to scream obscenities at those who refrain from gviving them money? If I own a restaurant, do I have a civic duty to tolerate those who beg in front of my property, thus discouraging walk-in traffic?”

    That’s usually referred to as “disturbing the peace” or “disorderly conduct” and potentially harassment and could include assault. All of which are currently illegal and punishable by law.

    But I really would like to compliment you on the color of straw in your man.

  20. Les, please give a precise definition of “disturbing the peace”. At what decibel level, if any, does the remark “Fuck you rich people” cross the threshold?

  21. Les, please give a precise definition of “disturbing the peace”. At what decibel level, if any, does the remark “Fuck you rich people” cross the threshold?

    I’d imagine that’s up to the discretion of any law-enforcement officials who witness it.

    I just ignore those kinds of things, myself. It also helps when I imagine just how miserable that person’s life must be. Either way, I certainly don’t feel the need to call the police to tell them that the stinky homeless person is calling me names.

  22. RC Dean attempts to steer this debate back to where it should be: what is the libertarian principle with regard to squatting on un-owned, un-used government property? Do the homeless have any more rights to this vacant lot than Donald Trump does? Could they instead camp out in the Capitol Rotunda or Yellowstone Park?

  23. Chicago Tom,

    Go to DC or NYC or LA sometime. That kind of behavior goes on all of the time. There are streets in LA that are lined on both sides by homeless people that are completly unsafe for anyone to walk down. The government has a right to do something about that. Where I live in Atlanta, there are droves of just homeless bums. You can’t walk down the street without dealing with them hassling you. I am very fortuneate in that I don’t exactly give off the its okay to hassle and bully me vibe. Unfortunately, people like my wife don’t. I have a right to walk down the street without having some bum hassle me for money. Further, is taking a crap in a public park okay? Dogs can’t do that without their owners having to clean it up but homeless can? I have a real problem with someone who would rather be a bum than work for a living. In an ideal world, people would refuse to ever give them money and they would go away, but that is not going to happen.

  24. Same question to you, To. Give me a precise definition of disturbing the peace that does not eventually simply become a matter of majority opinion. I’ll also note you avoided the question regarding a business owners’ responsibility for tolerance. This may be horrible, but if I had my family’s life savings on the line in a retaurant venture, and beggars were posing a threat to those savings, because their behavior on public property was discouraging walk-in traffic, and the law was no help, I know what my likely response would be. I’d ask them nicely to relocate, and then, when the prospect of children living in poverty became a real one, I would make begging in front of my business a physically perilous affair.

  25. But Will,

    You would be violating their civil rights. We can’t have that can we. Don’t you know that it is your responsibility to give up your livelyhood so that these people can pursue their livestyle choice? It is nearly impossible to beg in some neutral area where you don’t affect someone’s business or home. Get a bunch of bums on your street and your business is going to suffer. Who pays for these externalities of begging?

  26. Uh, no, les. It is up to the majority to decide what constitutes “disturbing the peace”. Don’t avoid the question; how would you have the majority precisely define it?

    By the way, I’ve walked through the worst slums, in the most poverty ridden cities on earth, so nothing is really capable of shocking me. The reality, though, as opposed to come idealized fantasy of tolerance, is that public property belongs to everyone, which means everyone has a responsibility to use it in a manner which minimizes costs imposed on others, Now, in the case of vacant property, presumably publicly owned because the taxes went unpaid, I think deeding the property to squatters, who are using the property in the manned described in the article, is the smart thing to do. That’s a far cry, however, from standing on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant or bodega and panhandling.

  27. Will, certainly you’re not suggesting that simply begging constitutes disturbing the peace?

  28. Will, outside of physical contact, if a person is screaming at the top of their lungs for extended periods of time, and refuses requests to stop by people living or doing business in the area, I’d say that probably counts as disturbing the peace.

  29. Will, I agree with your hypothetical regarding the restaurant. But I don’t know of any cities in the U.S. where police aren’t willing to help keep entryways free of panhandlers, even here in “liberal” San Francisco.

  30. “Will, I agree with your hypothetical regarding the restaurant. But I don’t know of any cities in the U.S. where police aren’t willing to help keep entryways free of panhandlers, even here in “liberal” San Francisco.”

    In the nice neighborhoods and the tourist places, absolutely. But in the poor neighborhoods?

  31. les, if you’re begging in front of Sal’s Bodega, and Sal is going to have a tough time making the lease payment because you are discouraging customers, I most certainly am. Why does the beggar have the right to impose this externality on Sal, via the use of public property that Sal has equal claim to?

    Now, please, stop avoiding the question. How would you have the majority precisely define “disturbing the peace”?

  32. R C Dean, you raise a great point. The first thing I wondered when I read this was who owns the piece of property. If it’s owned by the taxpayers, then it certainly seems like the squatters should have to purchase it, same as anyone else.

  33. John is right, les. The police work hard to keep the beggars away from “21” in Midtown Manhattan. Not so much in other areas, however, although New York now is much better than San Francisco or Seattle in this regard. Of course, when John Gotti was running a social club, I doubt he had much problem with panhandlers, and it wasn’t because the police were helping out, nor because the people walking thorugh the doors lacked money in their wallets.

    I’d prefer that panhandlers be more heavily regulated regarding their use of public property, so people weren’t forced to suffer the consequences of the panhandler’s behavior, or to contemplate imitating the Gotti method of privately regulating public property.

  34. Will, I really don’t know how to “precisely” define a subjective concept like “peace.”

    Different neighbors are going to have different ideas about what activity is peaceful. For some, reading from the Koran on the sidewalk would be disturbing the peace. For others, protesting the war on the corner would count.

    I agree that a beggar at a merchant’s doorstep probably counts as disturbing the peace, but not a beggar on the corner or on the sidewalk between shops or residences.

  35. Will, if we’re talking about “behavior,” then there are already laws on the books against defecating in public or, yes, disturbing the peace. The issue is, then, how good are the police at responding to reports of aggressive panhandling. If the cops aren’t good at it, that’s no reason for a peaceful beggar to be moved away from an area where he/she is interfering with no one’s business.

  36. ” Dogs can’t do that without their owners having to clean it up but homeless can?”

    I used to live in Druid Hills, John, and I NEVER saw ANYONE pick up after their dog. My sister and I often debated why that was. My conclusion was this: a rich southerner will not pick up dog shit because in their mind it’s better to live in a world caked with dog shit than to do a nigger’s job.

  37. And so that we can find some common ground, Will, can we at least agree that John’s idea to round up all beggars and throw them in prison is patently ridiculous?

  38. ,i>This may be horrible, but if I had my family’s life savings on the line in a retaurant venture, and beggars were posing a threat to those savings, because their behavior on public property was discouraging walk-in traffic, and the law was no help, I know what my likely response would be. I’d ask them nicely to relocate, and then, when the prospect of children living in poverty became a real one, I would make begging in front of my business a physically perilous affair.

    How about a free market solution: you pay them to leave.

    That is how you are supposed to get people to do things in a free country.

    using violence is coercion. Paying them money is not.

    Of course you could always buy a restaurant on a larger lot with a setback. that is another way to purchase the situation you desire instead of achieving it with your gun or truncheon.

  39. “I used to live in Druid Hills, John, and I NEVER saw ANYONE pick up after their dog. My sister and I often debated why that was. My conclusion was this: a rich southerner will not pick up dog shit because in their mind it’s better to live in a world caked with dog shit than to do a nigger’s job.”

    I live in Virginia Highlands and I see people picking up after dogs all of the time. Perhaps it is just that the highlands is a younger neighborhood with more Yankees.

    Les,

    I don’t necessarily think they should be rounded up. I do, however think that they should be given every opportunity to work for a living and those who refuse lives ought to be made very hard. For example, why not just use zoning? We could have one area of the city where you could beg. If someone wants to give to a begger, they could go there. Begging anywhere else would be a crime.

  40. “How about a free market solution: you pay them to leave.”

    What do you do when 50 other bums show up wanting to be paid to leave? I believe that is called protection money.

  41. At what decibel level, if any, does the remark “Fuck you rich people” cross the threshold?

    I dunno if at any decibel level, there mere utterance of this phrase would be harassment.
    I’ve seen plenty of crazies (esp. in Center City Philly) who merely walk around and cuss at loud levels to no on in particular or at anyone who makes eye contact. Are they harassing people? Not really….they are just a little off mentally. (Like many homeless people tend to be — something you notice if you sit and talk with them for a while) Should those people be in jail? Or should they just be ignored so long as they aren’t physically threatening or intimidating anyone? I say ignore them — they aren’t harming anyone

    Now, please, stop avoiding the question. How would you have the majority precisely define “disturbing the peace”?

    YOU don’t. You call the cops and they decide.

    Go to DC or NYC or LA sometime. That kind of behavior goes on all of the time.M

    I’ve been to NYC plenty of times and have never been called names or been cussed at by panhandlers. I have had them say “God bless you, anyway” When I don’t just ignore them and say “sorry, I can’t help today”.

    But even if they did cuss me out ..so what? Is that harassment? I’ve cussed people out on the street for whatever reasons…does that make me a criminal?

    And John, as for your “take a dump” example, nice straw man again. As if non-panhandlers never relieve themselves in an alley or on the side of a building. This behavior is illegal whether you are homeless or not, and to pretend that only those riff-raff engage in this type of behavior is silly.

    Let’s stop conflating behavior that is boorish, low-class or inconvenient with criminal behavior.

  42. Sam, I won’t pay them to leave because somebody else will show up the next day, demanding similar payment. Also, for various reasons, business owners don’t always have the option of buying real estate which is set further back from panhandlers who are using public property in a manner which is harming a private business. If the panhandler wants to panhandle without severe regulation, HAVE HIM buy his own property from which to do it.

    How much does it cost to heat an ivory tower, Sam?

    Les, yes, these are subjective matters, which is why they are something a majority has a say in. Personally, I think it would be reasonable to allow begging, so long as it did not take place within, say, 250-500 feet of a private residence or business, or in a public place designated for recreation. I’m fine with them congregating at the end of freeway entrance/exit ramps.

  43. John,

    If someone wants to give to a begger, they could go there. Begging anywhere else would be a crime.

    No, I think this is still authoritarian. Better to judge beggars on their behavior. Beggars who behave badly should be subject to restrictions. Beggars who are peaceful (which describes most of the beggars I’ve experienced) should be able to beg on any corner they’d like. That’s the neat thing about America, you take the bad with the good when it comes to freedom.

  44. “I live in Virginia Highlands and I see people picking up after dogs all of the time. Perhaps it is just that the highlands is a younger neighborhood with more Yankees.”

    I also lived at 1122 Villa Drive (Virginia Highlands) and I think you are lying or mistaken.

  45. “I also lived at 1122 Villa Drive (Virginia Highlands) and I think you are lying or mistaken.”

    I run two or three miles in my neighborhood two or three mornings a week. I see people with dogs all the time and have never once seen any dog shit. Really. Maybe they are just letting their dogs go on people’s lawns but I dont’ see it on the sidewalks.

  46. Chicago Tom it seems to have escaped you that, no, the police don’t get to decide what consitutes “disturbing the peace”. It is done by majorities, via elected representatives.

    Tell me, Tom, if your life savings were at risk in an enterprise, and whether your were going to make the monthly nut was in question because schizophrenics liked to congregate in front of your business, causing people to cross the street, would your response honestly be, “Gosh, we should just ignore these folks.”?

    Why is it people will ignore the externalities created by a poor person’s use of public property, when they would not when created by a rich person?

    By the way, San Francisco has had to steam clean the sidewalks in some districts, to remove the ammonia odor, due to tolerance of a lot of people using the sidewalks as urinals. I don’t care whether they are poor or rich; people who engage in such activity should be prevented from using public property for any reason.

  47. Also, for various reasons, business owners don’t always have the option of buying real estate which is set further back from panhandlers who are using public property in a manner which is harming a private business.

    Also, for various reasons, beggars don’t always have the option of begging which is away from their patrons’ preferred routes and away from restauranteurs who want to appropriate effectively appropriate public property in a way that harm’s the beggar’s business.

    Two can play at that game.

  48. “Maybe they are just letting their dogs go on people’s lawns but I dont’ see it on the sidewalks.”

    Oh, I’ve seen that alright. I was walking my dog to Piedmont Park (we carry dispos-a-scoops that we by at the Highland Pet store [BTW man is that Toni ever cute]) and right there on Orme Circle, there was this fat guy sitting in a lawn chair, who just sat there watching as his dog took a dump in his neighbor’s yard across the street. As soon as the dog was done, the man gave a whistle and the dog ran back home.

    My dog and I walked six to twelve miles per day and as I said, I never saw anyone pick up after their dog. I also wouldn’t let my dog off-leash at Piedmont Park because I don’t want her running in a soupbowl of dog shit stew.

    You can fool the folks on this board but you’ll never fool me.

  49. Sam, two would be playinfg at that game if the business owner was using public property for his businees, like if somebody erected a drive through coffee shop at the end of a freeway ramp, on public property, or if a restaurant put his tables on the sidewalk without paying for the required license. Public property belongs to the public, which means that the public, via elected representatives, gets to decide to what purpose the land is put. Now, I happen to think this is an excellent reason to minimize the amount of publicly-owned land, but if there is publicly-owned land, then citizens, via elected representatives get to decide how various enterprises use that publicly owned land. If they want all panhandlers, and no sidewalk cafes, fine, and if they want all sidewalk cafes, and no panhandlers, fine. If the public wants a well-regulated mix, fine. Whomever is booted from the sidewalk can go buy there own land from which to solely operate their business.

  50. Tell me, Tom, if your life savings were at risk in an enterprise, and whether your were going to make the monthly nut was in question because schizophrenics liked to congregate in front of your business, causing people to cross the street, would your response honestly be, “Gosh, we should just ignore these folks.”?

    I’ll tell you Will,

    My best friends dad was in a situation like this. He owned a nice little diner at the corner of State St and Erie in downtown Chicago. There were plenty of pan-handlers that would sit outside of his shop and beg for money from patron entering and exiting (Exiting is better odds because people tend to have change after paying rather than before).

    If they got aggressive he would call the cops….if they were just pan-handling respectfully ( something that I suppose you would call “a nuisance”) he would leave them be or he would offer them food or money in exchange for doing work around the property. Like picking up garbage around the outside of the store or washing something or whatnot. And in fact, many of the panhandlers would come back — eager to do some work for a free burger and some soup.

    Seemed to work rather well for him and all of the other restaurants in the neighborhood.

    But to address your rather extreme hypothetical of schizophrenics all deciding to congregate on my doorstep:

    You could sell your business or relocate to an area that doesn’t have the pan-handling problem, couldn’t you? Or maybe you could put some “beggar specials” out to attract more customers.

    But I believe the best answer is…your hypothetical is rather unrealistic. Unless you think most panhandlers are there for the pleasure of being a nuisance rather than trying to actually collect some cash.

    Why don’t you show me a real example of a business actually going belly up because of pan-handlers depressing their business instead of this piss poor hypothetical? You are making a lot of assumptions. Most people don’t refuse to patronize a place because there is a beggar in front of it or what is happening in the public sphere around the store. I have witnessed this many many times here in downtown Chicago where I spend 8 hrs/ day 5 days / week. There are beggars on just about every block in front of most high-traffic businesses (Subway, White Hen/7-11 and other convenience stores being some of the most common locations) yet none of these places are failing nor are they losing a significant chunk of business due to the fact that there is a beggar outside.

    And most of these beggars don’t congregate together because that’s bad for business. They usually stake out corners away from other beggars.

  51. Why is it people will ignore the externalities created by a poor person’s use of public property, when they would not when created by a rich person?

    I don’t think there is any double standard.

    Trump is building his tower and because of that Chicago decided to to close down part of Wabash Ave to accommodate the construction traffic and the changes to the street to accommodate his huge building– yet no one was in an uproar despite the fact that many businesses lost revenue due to the streets closing for over a year.

    Maybe most business owners accept that the externalities of the public are just a risk associated with owning a business and don’t don’t feel that anything that might depress their business in any way to be legislated out of existence?

  52. Actually, Chicago Tom, I know of two business owners who sold out at significant loss in Minneapolis after a court ruling which severely restricted the ability of city government to regulate panhandling. I guess those are two “piss-poor” examples, huh? I’m glad your friend’s father at State and Erie could afford to to have beggar’s congregating in front of his business. Not all can, and when they close shop or relocate, they suffer significant costs. Your belief seems to be (I’m not sure if your would objects to a city government banning or severely regulating the activity) is that beggars, for some reason, have the right to operate their enterprise on PUBLIC property in a manner which harms business owners operating their enterprise on private property. Why does a person, because he is poor, have the right to operate an enterprise (and make no mistake, begging is an enterprise) on public property wherever he or she wishes?

  53. Yes, Chicago To, and if the City of Chicago, via it’s duly elected representatives, had decided not to accomadate Trump, the citizens of Chicago, via it’s eletced representatives, would have been well within their right to not make the accomadation. Many proposed real estate developments have been stopped for that very reason. The public gets to control public land.

  54. “Actually, Chicago Tom, I know of two business owners who sold out at significant loss in Minneapolis”

    Panhandlers “Closed Business” Minneapolis Court — gets only 1 hit on Google. It’s about a guy playing a flute in front of a closed business.

    You got any better links?

  55. Tim, believe it or not, every business which sells, and the reason for selling, does not make the news. If you wish to believe that every urban business operates at sufficient margin that they can afford to have beggars congregating in front of the establishment, you just go right ahead.

  56. Sorry for all the ridiculous typos. I’d like to blame it on my hands being in bandages, but, nope, it’s just by normal high level of manual dexterity.

  57. “The public gets to control public land.”

    um. We are talking about CHICAGO here….

    Chicago Tom:

    I shop at the Whole Paycheck right near there (Huron) and always give the “another time, thank you” to the several people who panhandle out there.

    (their fish selection is terrible, BTW, but it’s within walking distance, and it’s not as crazy as the Jewel at Clark/Division, and it’s cleaner than the Treasure Island on Elm/Clark)

    I asked the manager about the rules for the Street Wise person and the various panhandlers – he said that they gave permission to the street wise guy to stand where he stands, but the panhandlers stand outside of the “door zone” or whatever the hell he called the property on the sidewalk that patrons need to access the store. “Just as long as you’re not blocked from entering and exiting”, to paraphrase.

  58. Sam, two would be playinfg at that game if the business owner was using public property for his businees, like if somebody erected a drive through coffee shop at the end of a freeway ramp, on public property, or if a restaurant put his tables on the sidewalk without paying for the required license. Public property belongs to the public, which means that the public, via elected representatives, gets to decide to what purpose the land is put. Now, I happen to think this is an excellent reason to minimize the amount of publicly-owned land, but if there is publicly-owned land, then citizens, via elected representatives get to decide how various enterprises use that publicly owned land. If they want all panhandlers, and no sidewalk cafes, fine, and if they want all sidewalk cafes, and no panhandlers, fine. If the public wants a well-regulated mix, fine. Whomever is booted from the sidewalk can go buy there own land from which to solely operate their business.

    and I say that the use of public land gets decided democratically.

    If homeless people can vote and there are lots of them, then you lose.

    If there are more restaurant owners and customers, then you win.

    I don’t care if you win or lose here because the fairness that is important to me is procedural.

    I think you are mistaken about the restauranteurs not using public land. In the privately owned world that you hypothesize, negotiation of the easements would put most restaurants out of business. There would be rent seeking and centralized control. the quality of the food would suffer because the people who have access to large landowners are not neccessarily the best chefs.

  59. and I say that the use of public land gets decided democratically.

    Who exactly voted on the issue of homeless people appropriating public land, though? I must have missed that ballot initiative.

  60. Actually, Chicago Tom, I know of two business owners who sold out at significant loss in Minneapolis after a court ruling which severely restricted the ability of city government to regulate panhandling. I guess those are two “piss-poor” examples, huh?

    Yes they are. Do you have any citation or anything? Maybe they were just bad business owners?

    Your belief seems to be (I’m not sure if your would objects to a city government banning or severely regulating the activity) is that beggars, for some reason, have the right to operate their enterprise on PUBLIC property in a manner which harms business owners operating their enterprise on private property. Why does a person, because he is poor, have the right to operate an enterprise (and make no mistake, begging is an enterprise) on public property wherever he or she wishes?

    Where to start….

    1. In Chicago, just last year they passed an “aggressive panhandling” law that limited HOW a person could pan-handle and what types of behavior constituted harassment or what was over the line. Personally, I don’t object to rules that set clear guidelines on what rights the beggars have and what rights the begees have.

    I am concerned that the law may get abused and used against beggars who have very little ability to defend themselves legally, and have low credibility in a beggar’s word vs. the complainant’s. Furthermore, I would expect that until the law is universally understood that warnings are given and the police explain to anyone getting a warning what can and can not be done and how to avoid violating the law. But other than that I don’t have a problem with aggressive panhandling rules that are fair and aren’t used as a way to simply lock em all up and get them off the streets.

    2. My belief is that begging is a legitimate use of the public way. And beggars have as much right to use it for begging as do protesters and petition gatherers and street performers etc. Furthermore, the “public way” is for the public to use in whatever manner they see fit. How is a pan-handler not a member of the public?

    As for the “harm” to the business owner, if it is really occurring, then the business owner should quantify the harm that was directly caused by the beggars activities and they can then file a civil suit against the beggar like they would with any other entity that caused their business harm. The government shouldn’t be in the in the revenue protection racket– and protecting profit that might be lost to external factors is not, IMHO, a legitimate function of the government.

    I don’t see why the fact that having a business gives you the right to control what the public does on the public streets outside of your business? You chose to open a business — hence you must deal with the public. If you don’t like, get an office job .

    There are any number of things that can happen in public that may cause a business to lose business. Like a protest for example, or a boycott…should those be outlawed as well?
    What is the distinction you draw between a protester being allowed to picket outside your business or a pan-handler begging outside your business?

  61. Yes, VM, when talking about Chicago politics, the theoretical is often somewhat divorced from reality. I should make myself, clear, however, that beggars don’t really bother me all that much personally. I often put off the ones that don’t appear mentally ill, are fairly young, and looking reasonably well fed, by asking them for money before they can inquire with me, which often flummoxes them in a mildly humorous way. I merely object to the notion that the public, via it’s elected representatives, cannot regulate what enterprises are operated on public land, and how they are operated. Mind you, I think there should be far less publicly owned land than is the case now, but people no more have the right to beg on the sidewalk than the various corporate shareholders have to operate The Oasis restaurants between the two opposing lanes of traffic on I-90.

  62. the people who voted for the judge(s) who decided the Pottsinger case.

    If those judges were appointed rather than elected, then the people who voted for the people who appointed and/or confirmed the judge(s) who wrote the opinion in the Pottsinger case.

    Now maybe the homeless people in this thd are taking the Pottsinger decision to far. In that case the democratic thing to do is to go back and ask the court who decided the Pottsinger case what it thinks.

    If they side with Will allen, then Will Allen deserves to win.

    If they side against Will Allen, then Will Allen desrves to lose. I’ll be over here munching on some buttered waffles, drinking juice from the Florida grove and seeing how ol’ Will fares.

  63. I shop at the Whole Paycheck right near there (Huron) and always give the “another time, thank you” to the several people who panhandle out there.

    VM,

    Have you checked out the new Trader Joe’s at Ontario and Wabash??? Just opened last month…dunno if it’s close enough to you, but they are a bit cheaper than whole foods and have a pretty good selection of product (although again, the fish selection isn’t that great since they don’t have a butcher/meat dept)

    I asked the manager about the rules for the Street Wise person and the various panhandlers – he said that they gave permission to the street wise guy to stand where he stands, but the panhandlers stand outside of the “door zone” or whatever the hell he called the property on the sidewalk that patrons need to access the store. “Just as long as you’re not blocked from entering and exiting”, to paraphrase.

    That sounds reasonable to me.

  64. Cool – thanks – just ’round the corner from that Whole Paycheck! Only a few steps further away!

    Will Allen:

    what can we say? It’s the city that works 🙂

  65. Chicago Tom, political speech has far more leeway on public land than does commercial enterprise, and yes, begging is a form of commercial enterprise. Boycotters lose their greater leeway the minute they start asking for money. If a beggar has the “right” to beg on the sidewalk, and cannot be rightly banned from doing so (by the way, where did I ever say that a business could legally, without petitoning city government, prevent begging?), then Starbucks has the same “right” to sell their wares on the sidewalk, and not be bothered with the complicated business of obtaining leases. Say, if I showed up at State and Erie, with a big thermos of coffee strapped to my back, and began selling excellent java at .50 a cup, would the public have any right to tell me I couldn’t? Or, if I just asked for the fifty cents, but didn’t offer the coffee in return, would I have more rights? In any case, even the right to political expression on public land has limits. No, 5000 Scientologists do not have the right to stand in front of Sumner Redstone’s house continuously, until Tom Cruise says to stop.

    As to my Minneapolis examples, these are people I know, and I don’t have permission to use their names. If you think it impossible that a business, even a good operater, cannot suffer significant cost due to beggars outside their doors, fine. Beleive what you will. The absence of beggars outside Cartier and the like would suggest that those businesses think such people outside their door harms the bottom line, and thus have enlisted local government to keep it from happening.

    Finally, what constitutes “aggessive” panhandling is for the public to decide.

  66. I pretty much agree with Chicago Tom here.

    One solution to this is less public property. I don’t often see panhandlers blocking the entrances to stores in the suburbs, but that’s because the parking lots in front of the entrances are private and the panhandlers would be trespassing. So they panhandle in the street.

  67. Sam, why do you think judges, especially appointed judges, are a superior way in which to gauge the public will, compared to legislative bodies? Mind you, I’m no democracy fetishist, which is why I would prefer far less publicly owned land. That said, why do you prefer judges to legislators as a means of determining public preference?

  68. Russ, I too would prefer that there be far less public owned property. Is it really your view, however, that commercial enterprises cannot be fully regulated, to the point of being denied the ability to operate, on publicly owned land, by duly elected legislative bodies?

  69. Sam, why do you think judges, especially appointed judges, are a superior way in which to gauge the public will, compared to legislative bodies? Mind you, I’m no democracy fetishist, which is why I would prefer far less publicly owned land. That said, why do you prefer judges to legislators as a means of determining public preference?

    I don’t see this as any sort of categorical imperative. If you think the Pottsinger court had proper jurisdiction under the federal and state constitutions, then I am open to arguments on that, especially if they do things like reference appropriate Constitutional precedent.

    as far as why federal and state constitutions seem to give courts big areas of autonomy to decide important issues — that is a bigger issue than I am really prepared to discuss here. You probably want to start with the federalist papers on that one. I may be able to get you the specific paper nos. if you are really curious. marbury v. Madison is another must-read on the issues you are now raising.

  70. I’m not a Chicago resident now, but I gotta say, that in regards to Whole Foods vs. Trader Joes, that Whole Foods is much better for people who actually like cooking, as opposed to buying something already prepared. Whole Foods, in the city where I currently reside, has excellent fresh seafood (hell, even the scallops have the proper hue), and the last time I went to Trader Joe’s, they didn’t even have any paprika in stock!

  71. Will,

    I can’t understand your sentence. You’ve got a double negative in there or something.

    As far as I know, most bums are still subject to income tax, like any other proprietorship.

  72. If a beggar has the “right” to beg on the sidewalk, and cannot be rightly banned from doing so (by the way, where did I ever say that a business could legally, without petitoning city government, prevent begging?) then Starbucks has the same “right” to sell their wares on the sidewalk, and not be bothered with the complicated business of obtaining leases

    1. I don’t think a business or anyone should be allowed to petition the government to prevent others from doing things that don’t violate rights on the public ways — PERIOD. You’re whole “petitioning the government” shtick is a nice ruse, but I don’t believe that dictating what people can and can’t do in the public way (if not violating real, not imaginary, rights of others) is a legitimate function of the government, petitioned or not. Nor do I agree with the protest restrictions and the “free speech” zones that you alluded to either. They are wrong. Just because that state prefers to work that way doesn’t make it proper or moral.

    2. I believe Starbuck’s should have the right to sell their wares on the street. What on earth makes you believe that a business must have a bricks and mortar presence?

    Here in Chicago food carts are banned for a number of reasons. And I don’t agree with it.
    It’s basically the City Council protecting brick and mortar locations from competition. And in the end, the consumers lose.

    Say, if I showed up at State and Erie, with a big thermos of coffee strapped to my back, and began selling excellent java at .50 a cup, would the public have any right to tell me I couldn’t?

    I don’t think they should, no. I don’t like the idea of governments protectionism of business at all. Whether its outlawing food carts to protect restaurants with higher rents or whether it’s limiting the number of florists allowed to be licensed in a city.

    But let me ask you…..why shouldn’t you be allowed to sell that coffee on the street??

    Or, if I just asked for the fifty cents, but didn’t offer the coffee in return, would I have more rights?

    You would have the same rights as above. You both should be able to go about your business. The market will either keep your business afloat or you will sink…either way.

    In any case, even the right to political expression on public land has limits. No, 5000 Scientologists do not have the right to stand in front of Sumner Redstone’s house continuously, until Tom Cruise says to stop.

    Why not? Because the state says so? Do you have a problem with the 1st amendment? You have something against the right to assemble peaceably?

    In your example, what is the problem? The number of protesters, the days of protest, or the fact that they are waiting for Cruise? Would 500 protesters ad continuum be acceptable? How about only every other week? What kind of arbitrary line are you drawing??

  73. Well, sam, I think it dubious in the extreme that begging is not a form of commercial enterprise, and is thus not subject to the same regulatory power as, say, Starbucks, in regards to what can be done on a publicly owned sidewalk. Now, if one takes the position that selling coffee on the sidewalk is as constitutionally protected as begging, at least that is consistent. In the Minneapolis case, however, the judge ruled that requiring beggers to be licensed was a violation of the First Amendment. However one feels about licensing in general (and I am very suspect in most instances), for a judge to rule that a city government can require licensing if one offers flowers on the sidewalk, and asks for money in return, but that it is unconstitutional to require licensing to ask for money, as long as one doesn’t offer flowers in return, is an abuse of power on the judge’s part, and an assault on the public’s right to govern itself.

  74. in regards to Whole Foods vs. Trader Joes, that Whole Foods is much better for people who actually like cooking, as opposed to buying something already prepared

    Will Allen….
    it’s good to see we can find common ground. I agree 100% with this statement.

    Not that I have a problem with packaged/prepared foods….its nice to have the packaged option for items that I have no idea how to cook myself or have never tried before to see if I like them.

  75. Russ, I was just asking if the public could regulate commercial activities that occurred on public land. Should I be able to freely open a beer stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon each summer?

    Chicago Tom, it is odd that you don’t think a business should be able to petition it’s local government in regards to what activity is regulated, or unregulated, in front of it’s property, on public land, while asking if I have a problem with the First Amendment, given the First Amendment requires that every citizen be allowed to petiton the government for anything. Whether their petition should succeed is another matter entirely.

    No, 5000 Scientologists cannot legitimately stand in front of Sumner Redstone’s house continuously, because Redstone presumably has neighbors, and 5000 protestors continuously in front of Redstone’s house would effectively prevent Redstone’s neighbors from leaving, to the grocery store, for instance. Maybe you think Redstone’s neighbors should grow their own wheat, in order to mill their own flour, and bake their own bread, in order to not disturb the rights of 5000 Scientologists to continuously stand in front of Redstone’s house. Maybe you think Redstone should be prevented from ever having a pizza delivered, because 5000 people are continuoulsy camped in front of his house. In the real world, however, people have to have their various competing rights balanced, which means that even political expression is not a completely unregulated activity.

    Finally, if the public has no right to regulate what commercial activities take place on the public sidewalks of Chicago, I see no reason that the public should have any right to regulate what commercial activities take place on any public land where people freely walk. Thus my attempt to open a beverage stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or the lobby of a public hosptial, the hallways outside the Cook County courtroom, or the terminals at O’Hare should be unregulated.

  76. Well, sam, I think it dubious in the extreme that begging is not a form of commercial enterprise

    “Commerce” means trade and begging is not trade. If they are cleaning your windshield, then maybe it is commerce. Straight begging is not trade and therefore not commerce.

    But all that is a red herring. I am not saying that the government does not have the right to regulate public spaces. I think government does have a right to regulate that space in a way that favors beggars or businessmen or neither or both. I am glad that they hand that decision, at least partially, to a branch that listens to voices other than businessmen, too.

  77. Baloney, sam. The beggar is offering the beggee a chance to feel charitable, or to avoid further pestering, in return for money.

  78. Baloney, sam. The beggar is offering the beggee a chance to feel charitable, or to avoid further pestering, in return for money.

    well, if begging is trade, then I guess that makes begging a bit more legit at the margin. Your argument, if accepted, would only lead a rational regulator to give beggars more public land privileges than they otherwise would. that said, I’ll tentatively concede the point about begging being a form of trade.

  79. Here in Chicago food carts are banned for a number of reasons.

    You’re kidding! I try to picture NY without them and… I just can’t.

    Now regarding the whole private/public space thing, I wonder where exactly that begins. For example, I’ve been harassed about smoking in front of my office building. I am told not to smoke anywhere on the sidewalk facing Broadway. Yet the sidewalks on the other sides of the building are OK (the building fills an entire block). I was speechless at the time. And this was before the trendy “no smoking withing 100 feet of a door” laws became all the rage (although NY does not have such a law–yet). If the building owner wants to make a case that he owns the sidewalks, OK. But I don’t think that’s the case. Although now that I think about it, NY recently enacted a law which passes the buck on repairing sidewalks to homeowners. Not sure if that applies to businesses, or whether that means homeowners now own the sidewalk in front of their house.

    Anyway… these sorts of issues are confusing when the distinction between public and private land is blurred.

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