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The Tentacle


February 20, 2004

Preventing One Illness Oils A Slippery Slope

David 'Kip' Koontz

It is known as many things now, the “Beggar Bill” and the “Panhandler Bill,” are just two, but the measure introduced by Delegates Galen Clagett and Paul Stull at the request of the county commissioners will prevent people from standing on corners asking for money.

It is a sad sight to see the “homeless veteran,” the “hungry mom with kids,” the “I can’t work because of my disability” guy and the few other regulars who stand on the intersections around the entrances and exits of the complex at which I work. But does it, in the long run, really hurt us to see them there?

Unless, of course, we may think they are legitimate in their plight and, in turn, it gives us a bit of guilt to see them there.

I’m not 100% sure that a law banning them is needed; however, I am tired of entering and exiting my office complex and being bombarded by folks raising money for a variety of “charities.”

Some days we have the young adults who claim to be in some way related to Penn State who are raising money for the protection of animals.

Unless something happened while I was sleeping, Penn State is conveniently tucked in what is known as “Happy Valley” in a town called State College in a state called Pennsylvania.

Why would we want to give money to help protect animals at Penn State when we have plenty of animals here in Frederick that may need our assistance?

Even more curious, when asked for what group they are raising money, some of the students have told me they are doing so to protect animals in Baltimore.

When asked why they weren’t in Baltimore raising money for saving animals in Baltimore, they shrugged their shoulders and walked away.

Again, curious they are in Frederick, wearing identification from Penn State, raising money to protect animals in Baltimore?

One has to question whether the money is being raised to benefit anyone but themselves and their leaders, whomever they may be.

Sadly enough, they have valid and legal panhandling permits issued by the state, so there is nothing that can be done to prevent them from doing so—yet.

The other group I encounter on an all-to-regular basis, are the folks who raise money for “The House of David” on one day, “The House of Ruth” the next, “The Church of the Whatever” the following day and the “Church of the Who Are Ya’s” the next.

Same group of people, different charity names on the bucket.

These solicitors are as serious about their causes as they are aggressive in their tactics.

On more than one occasion they have knocked on my windows shouting at me to give because “It is God’s will,” or something like that.

I paused one day to ask one of the men for what group he was raising money. He told me it was for a halfway house for abused women. When I asked him what the name was he had to look at the name on the bucket to verify which one it was.

I inquired where the house was located and he said, at first, he didn’t know. When I asked him if it was in Frederick, he said he didn’t know, but just told me to “give him some money.”

I again asked him where the halfway house was located, explaining that if it were in Frederick I might be inclined to give. He responded by telling me that he thought there was one of the halfway houses in “some town call Rocktown,” which he “knew” was nearby.

I informed him that there was no town called “Rocktown” nearby, he told me to “just give him some money ‘cause it’s what Jesus wants you to do.”

I pushed on asking him why his group found itself on the same street corners on consecutive days with different names of groups on their bucket and asked whether the groups were in some way affiliated, he began to walk away rather quickly yelling at me that by not giving him money “you will go to hell.”

How very Christian of him.

Sadly, they, too, have legitimate panhandler permits issued by the state, so no matter how iffy their operation seems, they have a legal right to do it.

I do, however, enjoy seeing our local fireman every year filling the boot to raise money to fight muscular dystrophy.

I make sure I have my dollars, rolls of quarters and the like at the ready, as inevitably I encounter the fireman at various locations during the course of their efforts.

In speaking with some of the fireman last year I learned that their donations were down since they were no longer able to fill the boot in Frederick City, because the city has already enacted an anti-panhandler law.

As charitable giving is down, it seems unfair to impede efforts to raise money for bona fide charities such as “Jerry’s kids.”

To that end, the delegation has been asked to amend the legislation to include a caveat that allows bona fide charities to be exempted or that some kind of permit process be established where charities can get a permit from the county and, in turn, raise money while standing on street corners.

That is, unfortunately, a slippery slope, as it seems even the “Church of the Who Are Ya’s” has managed to become legit enough to be granted a panhandler permit by the state. So in turn, would the county not be forced to grant them a permit, too, in spite of the seemingly transparency of their mission?

I do not want to see people continue, in what is my judgment, to be fleeced by these bucket money collectors anymore.

It is sad that in order to curtail the efforts of these bucket collectors we must curtail the efforts of the fireman.

But it seems that if we exempt one group, it will leave open the door for all sorts of “legitimate charities” from all over continuing to demand money in Jesus’ name, or to save animals, or whatever, that have no connection whatsoever to Frederick.

In turn, we will just have to be more diligent in helping our local charities in their efforts to help our own community.

Put simply, I do not want to be harassed for money while sitting at stoplights anymore!

Now, if only we could get someone to introduce legislation to prevent our legislators from fleecing our wallets while in Annapolis.



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