The Lexington council voted Thursday to approve an ordinance that would prohibit panhandlers and pedestrians from approaching cars at most major intersections and also passed an ordinance that would add more teeth to the city’s vicious dog ordinance.
The Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Ordinance will replace one that was struck down by the state Supreme Court in February. That ruling said the city’s prohibition on begging on public streets violated the First Amendment, which protects free speech.
The city has worked for months to craft a new ordinance. The number of people panhandling on Lexington’s streets has skyrocketed since the panhandling ordinance was struck down, Lexington police and council members have said. Many of the people who are panhandling aren’t homeless, and many are coming from out of town, police have said.
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The ordinance generated controversy.
Vice Mayor Steve Kay previously said he still had concerns about how the ordinance was written and asked that it be sent back to committee. Kay and Councilman Bill Farmer Jr. were the only two council members to vote against the ordinance.
Mark Taylor, a Lexington resident, said he was concerned that the ordinance, which has escalating penalties for repeated violations, puts the onus on pedestrians and not on drivers and will do little to actually address pedestrian safety.
“I am quite certain this ordinance will have no effect whatsoever upon pedestrian safety, and that statistics with regard to pedestrian deaths and injuries will continue to climb, should this, in my opinion, unfortunate and misguided legislation come to fruition,” Taylor said in an email that was addressed to some council members.
If the city were serious about addressing pedestrian safety — not just panhandling — it would address the lack of sidewalks, broken and poorly maintained sidewalks and poor intersection crossings, Taylor wrote. Earlier Thursday, the council allocated $150,000 for pedestrian safety enhancements.
Also during Thursday night’s meeting, the council voted to pass an ordinance that would strengthen the city’s vicious dog ordinance.
Under the proposed changes, animal control officers would be able to hold a dog for 10 days after it attacks a human or another domestic animal. The other changes include requiring that vicious dogs be spayed or neutered, and the creation of a photo registry of all vicious dogs. Owners who don’t comply can be fined.
The Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Ordinance takes effect in 60 days. The new vicious dog ordinance takes effect immediately.