(crossposted from ShepardPolitics)
Last night the Indianapolis City County Council was presented with two proposals to vote on that I found of particular interest, especially given that they were to be considered in back-to-back to votes.
The first was a proposal to grant $1,000,000 (one million dollars) of taxpayer money to "the arts". When I think of arts organizations I think of people producing a product that they either need to figure out how to sell or charge money for. Tickets to the museum or symphony are good examples. I find it abhorrent that the brute force of government is so often used to pry loose money from taxpayers and private organizations can then go "panhandling" at the City Council, State House or Federal legislative chambers.
The second was a proposal that would have essentially banned holding signs or panhandling within 50 feet of an intersection (measure how, nobody was sure). The target of the bill was, indeed, panhandlers and was prompted by one Councilor who indicated a few bad interactions with panhandlers. Personally, I find them generally standing on corners, holding their signs minding their own business unless money is offered; but, I do note the many private security people who actually step out in the roadway to direct traffic for business parks, eating establishments or parking garages.
There are laws already on the books regarding panhandling in roadways, blocking or impeding traffic or pedestrians and, certainly, accosting or assaulting somebody. The point was made quite clear, largely by Council Democrats, that these laws existed but were not necessarily being enforced.
Instead of tabling the bill and trying to come to some better solution or evaluate options to strengthen the current laws or get increased enforcement, the Republicans pushed ahead. The Democrats even offered up concern about Constitutional issues regarding free speech in public places (I'm sure they would not have brought up the Constitution if this had been a "right to self defense" issue). Fortunately, the measure narrowly failed 14 to 12 (with 3 councilors not in attendance - it otherwise would have likely passed).
It will likely be brought up again at the next meeting and I'm hoping at least one of the Republicans will realize how wrong this is and what kind of unintended consequences there could be. Oddly, NONE of them seemed very concerned about unintended consequences. Seriously, what is the hurry? If you're going to do something, do the right thing properly not just rush through a bad proposal.
Bringing a handful of chuckles from the crowd, Councilor Pfisterer actually commented, "This is not a restriction on free speech, this is a restriction on where you can have it." Huh? I guess everyone eventually has a "I voted for it, before I voted against it" moment.
At the end of the day two core principles were under assault. The are as follows and politicians need to learn and understand these concepts:
(1) People have a natural right to their property. Stealing their property to transfer it to private organizations that should be privately funded is inappropriate. If one of those people mugged someone in the street to subsidize museum tickets or something it would be a crime, it should also be a crime when legislators do it their behalf just because they put on a suit and came begging. The "good intentions" or perceived improvements to livability in the community do not matter, if those things are legitimate and important than private donors should give to the cause and/or legislators should promote the idea and help them raise funds for such purpose without using taxpayer money.
As Bastiat wrote, once the government (the Law) is used as a tool to transfer from one group to another unjustly, it opens the doors to it being a free for all. You lose all moral authority to challenge other similar arrangements. I'll give legislators a pass for roads, police and fire protection but not on private arts organizations, government operating what should be private businesses (like stadiums and convention centers) or subsidizing sports teams.
(2) People have a natural and Constitutional right to free speech. Your rights exist to the extent that you do not harm or violate the rights of others. Just because a couple of bozos were "unprofessional panhandlers" doesn't mean you can just set Freedom of Speech aside and ban people from standing roadside or on a corner with a sign. This is ill considered legislation and without meaning to, comes across like jack-booted thugs trying to recklessly stomp out something just because they are annoyed by others' behavior. Personally, I'm annoyed by the "elected class" more than anything these days.
Besides. The panhandlers downtown are great when I need parking meter change. Give 'em a dollar and ask for 75 cents back and good for an hour.
COPY OF THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF MARION COUNTY PRESS RELEASE ON THESE ITEMS IS BELOW:
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - In back to back votes, a majority of Council Republicans voted to transfer $1 million of taxpayer money to private "arts organizations" and then immediately moved to restrict the freedom of speech of panhandlers who may be passively seeking VOLUNTARY contributions.
Tim Maguire, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Marion County said "There are already significant laws on the books regarding panhandling that perhaps just need better enforcement, but this fell on deaf ears as Republicans worked to rob taxpayers on behalf of private arts organizations and then, immediately following, tried to tell poor people they can't even hold a sign asking for money."
"We had a room full of people seeking to panhandle by using the force and power of government to extract money from citizens while, at the same time, a motion to restrict those who might seek voluntary contributions by denying them their rights to free speech was next on the agenda." said Sean Shepard, Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of Marion County.
"We are proud of Councilor Coleman, the sole Libertarian on the council, for voting against both of these terrible proposals." Maguire added.
Laws against standing in traffic or otherwise impeding the progress of traffic or pedestrians already exist. New laws against passively holding signs will accomplish nothing other than to restrict unpopular speech.
Councilor Coleman (L) noted during debate that it is not reasonable or appropriate to try and ban every little thing that annoys people.
Maguire also noted that, "Perhaps the Council should make laws against solicitations in the City-County Council chambers so private companies and organizations don't come begging for tax money."
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
(crossposted from ShepardPolitics)
Posted by Sean Shepard at Tuesday, July 21, 2009