Mayor Kasim Reed will veto a tough new ordinance that would toss pushy panhandlers in jail, a spokesman said.
City Council Wednesday passed an ordinance that would throw a panhandler in jail for 180 days on the first offense if found asking for money in a forceful or threatening manner.
Reed, however, believes the ordinance is too punitive and does not address the underlying problems of panhandling or homelessness, said spokesman Reece McCraney.
The mayor will introduce his own measure that will go farther to address homelessness and panhandling, McCraney said.
Reed made his announcement as skeptics criticized the panhandling ordinance.
Rosalie Joy, interim director of the Atlanta Public Defender's Office, said measure has too many gray areas to stand on firm legal ground.
"This legislation on its face is problematic," Joy said.
Joy contended that the ordinance, in some cases, could be deemed as unconstitutional.
When asked if she believed the measure would stand the test of legal scrutiny, Joy answered, "In some instances it will in others it won't. Is it OK to beg? Our constitution says yes because it's a matter of free speech," Joy said. "The question becomes, is it OK to engage in conduct that is aggressive and threatening and harmful to people?"
Supporters say the new ordinance would strengthen the old one that sends an aggressive panhandler to jail for 30 days only after the third offense.
Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms said the old ordinance had no teeth but complained the new panhandling measure does nothing to fix that and has too many loopholes that would allow aggressive panhandlers to wriggle free jail time.
"As the ordinance is written, it is impossible to prosecute," Bottoms said. "It's merely an exercise for us to increase the penalty on an ordinance we can't enforce as it stands."
Councilman Michael Julian Bond, who championed the measure, said his ordinance does not violate constitutional rights and can stand up in court
"I believe it will," Bond said. "It criminalizes a specific behavior. It doesn't restrict a person from asking someone for a dollar or soliciting help."
McCraney said Reed will veto the ordinance as soon as it crosses his desk.
McCraney also said the mayor will make an announcement on his own panhandling initiative in the coming days.
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