Proposed ordinance limits intersection panhandling

Posted at 4:37 PM, Sep 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-26 17:37:37-04

The city of Omaha has a plan to clear the medians at some of the city's busiest intersections. 

On Tuesday, Mayor Jean Stothert proposed a new ordinance banning anyone from standing in a median for any reason whether it's panhandling or advertising.

The ordinance will be on the City Council agenda for a first reading October 3rd.
It would apply to medians within 200 feet of high traffic intersections with posted speed limits of 30 miles an hour or higher. Some examples the Mayor's office provides are the intersections of 72nd and Dodge, 120th and Dodge and West Center, and Saddle Creek and Leavenworth. 
It does not apply to sidewalks or private property. 
Mayor Stothert emphasized the ordinance is in response to safety concerns."I saw a woman not long ago standing in the median closer to my house, one of the medians and she had a small baby on a blanket to her in the median. And to me, that was a real safety risk right there "
The ordinance is modeled after a Colorado Springs ordinance that went into effect last February. It will go through a process of 3 readings, and if approved by the City Council, will go into effect 15 days after being passed. 

The Nebraska ACLU issued the following statement about the proposed ordinance. 
"The ACLU applauds the good work city and community leaders conducted when updating Omaha's panhandling ordinances to respect First Amendment rights and protect public safety in 2015. The impact of those revisions is clear: in the past two years hundreds of Omaha residents-mostly poor and experiencing homelessness-have been diverted from jail allowing police to prioritize their resources where they are needed most.
"We look forward to working with city leaders to evaluate this new proposal and its impact on free speech and vulnerable populations. We encourage city leaders to actively engage service providers, law enforcement and other stakeholders to meet the need for programs and services that support low income Omahans. Any revisions to these ordinances must strike the right balance between respecting speech and ensuring public safety."