Council to expand panhandling law?

Arlington activist says law should apply to all of city

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The problems with the homeless and the downtown area continue to take center stage.

The City Council is now looking to expand legislation that would limit panhandling downtown and on the Southbank. That bill would now include Springfield.

Others are saying, why not make it a law across the city?

Signs stating panhandling is illegal downtown have been up for five years. It's a law making it a misdemeanor to beg for money or offer services like cleaning windshields.

The City Council will decide Tuesday if the law needs to be expanded to Springfield and the Eastside. But others aren't happy their areas of town aren't being considered.

"Here we go again, cherry picking for the other parts of the city when we got the very same problems over here in Arlington," said Roberta Thomas, a civic activist for the Arlington area.

Thomas said panhandlers in Arlington are much more aggressive and she believes more dangerous than many downtown. She can't understand why the city would limit this law to certain areas.

"We need to treat all areas of the city and the county one in the same," Thomas said. "Now, we got some problems in Arlington, and we need them addressed. If they cannot do it for the whole county, then at least extend it Regency Square."

The ordinance was introduced to council about a month ago by councilman Johnny Gaffney. He received some support for the measure, and it's passed various committees.

"That's the first time I heard from anyone in Arlington about the problem," Gaffney said in a phone interview Monday. "I will consider adding that area to the proposed ordinance."

Gaffney said the council is addressing concerns brought up by area businesses and said he will be happy to see if more of the city could be added.

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