The Memphis City Council voted 9 to 3 today to approve council member Philip Spinosa Jr's ordinance that restricts panhandling during rush hours and near high-traffic intersections.
Spinosa said that his ordinance is "one hundred percent absolutely and positively about public safety" for both panhandlers and commuters.
Detractors countered that the ordinance only perpetuates negativity associated with poverty, and does nothing to change the poor's everyday reality that drives them to beg in busy intersections.
Spinosa was the only council member to speak in favor of the ordinance, or for that matter, speak at all. All council members remained silent after hearing public comments in opposition to the ordinance.
Memphian Larry Jeter encapsulated the crowd's general opposition.
"This ordinance under consideration here is based on the idea that what people need when they're in dire straights are more negative consequences."
The city council also voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to levy a 3.5 percent and a $2 per-room fee on short-term rentals. Memphis will now join a growing list of cities eager to tap into revenue generated by short-term rental owners hosting renters through popular websites such as Airbnb Inc.. The exact wording of the ordinance will be revised until today's minutes are approved at the next general meeting.
Much of the council's trepidation centered around administrative costs and and fine details, such as accountability for short-term rental owners.
Council member Patrice Robinson wondered aloud, "Are we going to raise enough money to offset the costs, and are we going to be able to hold people accountable?"