City Council looks at two issues of public interest: panhandling and food trucks

City Council discussed Tuesday night two upcoming ordinances of public interest—a potential citywide ban on panhandling and another that would allow food trucks on city streets.

Panhandling ban
During the meeting, several Chattanooga citizens voiced their opinions about the Chattanooga Police Department’s recent request for City Council to pass an ordinance that would ban panhandling citywide.

Of those who spoke during the meeting, a majority were against the ordinance and argued that such a law could be damaging to Chattanooga’s homeless population.

Chattanooga resident Jessica Christie pulled from her own experiences as someone who has panhandled before and said that fining people who can’t afford much in the first place would eventually only put more people in jail.

“If people are having an issue with the panhandling, provide them services so that they can help themselves,” Christie said. “I understand that is part of [the purpose of the ordinance], but [help them] without fining them.”

Another resident, Joel Willis, said that the extra criminalization was not necessary as aggressive panhandlers would already be breaking the law through their actions.

“I feel that if you are not concerned by the people who are not aggressive, you don’t understand the current ordinance that is on file because it also criminalizes nonaggressive panhandling,” Willis said. “Aggressive behavior by any person, whether or not they’re asking for money, is already criminalized.”

However, a couple of local business owners also voiced their opinions about the laws and how panhandling negatively affects their businesses.

“I’d rather [panhandlers] come up to me as a business owner than my customers because the customer comes to support my business and when people come and ask them for money, it deters [the customers] from coming,” G’s Detroit Sausages Owner William Green said. “Every business person down there is just trying to make a living.”

The panhandling ordinance is still in the works and has not yet been placed on City Council agenda.

Food Trucks on city streets
City Council members talked at length about an upcoming ordinance that would allow food trucks on some designated city streets.

The ordinance proposal comes after several UTC students and other locals pushed City Council members to consider the ordinance. The food truck vendors themselves had also created a petition about the issue.

The ordinance would likely create specific zones, based on council member’s recommendations, where food truck vendors could set up shop in order to avoid obstructing high traffic streets. It would also create a new application process for vendors, provide a method of monitoring the trucks and adopt a new reservation system.

Following a quick presentation on the ordinance by City Attorney Wade Hinton, City Council members asked questions to clarify some of the ordinance’s details.

District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson asked if there was data about how an increase in food truck activity could affect brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Chattanooga Department of Transportation Administrator Blythe Bailey said they did not have concrete data, but said that food trucks would need a blessing from the local community before they could set up shop.

District 5 Councilman Russell Gilbert asked about how a potential surge in food truck owners caused by increased amount of freedom might affect the Hamilton County Health Department’s food inspectors’ workload.

Bailey said that he talked to the health department and they said that they did not foresee a problem with the food truck ordinance and could make adjustments if needed.

However, Gilbert said that he still wants to look into the issue to make sure new businesses would not overload the department.

Other business
Also on the agenda, City Council passed a resolution that renamed the 1100 block of Cleveland Avenue to Lincoln Park Lane.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah

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