City of Fresno Puts Brakes on Median Solicitation

July 15, 2008 6:43:42 PM PDT
Kid's Day is a 22 year Valley tradition ? Selling newspapers on city streets from Visalia to Merced, raising money for Children's Hospital Central California. The hospital's biggest fundraiser almost hit a road block Tuesday as Fresno's City Council decided the fate of solicitors on street medians. Mary Taliaferro told the council, "We have had so many problems with panhandlers." Taliaferro and her husband Allen own the Serenity Funeral Home on Fresno and Shaw. They say the homeless panhandle at the busy intersection, harass their customers, and use their back lot as a hangout and restroom. "We're concerned for our families who come at the worst time of their life to meet with us and they've just been panhandled and they want to know why that's happening."

The Taliaferros supported the proposed ordinance that would have fined violators from $100 to $500. But the City Council rejected it. Council member Jerry Duncan said, "Some people think that by passing this ordinance panhandling is going to go away, it won't, it's not."

Councilman Henry T. Perea argued that, "What was different this time was the assessment of $100 and $200 fines. Well, how do you assess and collect a fine on somebody that is homeless?"

Council member Brian Calhoun introduced the ordinance because he says it puts median solicitors in danger. And he rejected the idea that charities would suffer. "I don't accept that Valley Children's will lose money because the city of Fresno voted to improve the safety of their median island. I don't buy that."

Children's Hospital is happy that Kid's Day will continue but adds that it shares the city's safety concerns. Spokesperson Micheline Golden said, "Safety is our foremost concern with the event and we've worked with our volunteers for several years making sure we get more information and equipment to them each year."

Council President Blong Xiong says the city has no idea what its liability is if anyone got hurt or killed while selling on a city median. Council will take the issue up again in two weeks to decide exactly what the city would be liable for.
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