Iowa City Panhandling Ordinance Goes Into Effect Wednesday

By Katie Stinson

Ralph Johnson, 57, of Iowa City panhandles for money outside of the Midwest One bank at the corner of Clinton and Washington Streets Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 in Downtown Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

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By Becky Ogann

IOWA CITY - The Iowa City City Council’s recently passed panhandling policy will go into effect Wednesday.

The rule will make it illegal to solicit in downtown Iowa City within 10 feet of a building, 15 feet of a crosswalk, 20 feet of ATMs and 10 feet from mobile vendors. Solicitors must also be at least 15 feet apart.

The new law is aimed at panhandlers but applies to anyone asking for an immediate donation of money, including fund-raisers and street musicians.

Donation stations, in the form of purple parking meters, have already been installed downtown to encourage pedestrians to deposit their change to these locations instead of panhandler’s pockets.

The city will donate the collections to organizations that support the homeless, officials said.

Mark Fay, of the Iowa City parking department said the city has yet to open the new meters, but plans to for the first time sometime next week.

Fay also noted the new donation designated meters will be emptied once a week.

The city already restricts soliciting within 10 feet of a building entrance and bars aggressive panhandling, although no one has been cited for violating the law.

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