Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Panhandling Ironies

I can't leave the panhandling issue without noting the delicious ironies present during the debate. Matthew Tully in his column this morning quotes Don Welsh, CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitor's Association complaining about panhandling. Tamara Zahn, President of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., was also present in the audience during the debate. Welsh and Zahn have salaries measured in the hundreds of thousands, courtesy of taxpayers. They are constantly coming before the council begging for millions of dollars of taxpayer money, most of which ends up going to the salaries of officers and top employees of their organizations, or being stashed away in investments. Yet these people complain about a panhandler on a street asking for a dollar? Give me a break. I'd much, much rather give a panhandler a dollar than contribute to Welsh and Zahn's outrageous salaries. (FYI, I don't recommend the giving money to panhandlers on the street or professional panhandlers who come before the council. They both tend to mispend people's money and then just come back asking for more.)

I'm not going to spare the Democratic members of the Council though who often bring hypocrisy to a new level. On the panhandling issue, they fall all over themselves to appear to be the advocate of the downtrodden, the poor who have no choice but to panhandle. The other night though I was talking about the poor who can't afford to bail out of jail, and pay outlandish phone charges fees to call loved ones. Sheriff Frank Anderson has a contract with a private company that rewards the Sheriff for the right to fleece the poor on phone calls by funnelling millions into his commissary account, which he then uses to buy fancy new motorcycles and pay millions to his private law firm. Council Democrats know all about this. They also know about the fact that many inmates, again people who are often too poor to afford bail, are often not being provided with their medication by the private companies that do medical at the jails under contract with the Sheriff. As a result, many are injured and dying as a result. Yet has a single Council Democrat stepped forward to speak out about concern for these poor members of our community? Nope, not a single one.

Ironically the only councilors who have expressed any interest in the issue is some of the Republican councilors. It's hard not to use the word "hypocrisy" when describing the Democrats' expressed concern for the poor when it comes panhandling and their utter lack of concern regarding the fleecing of inmates on telephone calls and poor medical treatment they receive at the hand of private companies. This is exactly why Republicans don't take Democrats seriously when they claim to be for poor and downtrodden. The Democrats' concern for those folks seem awfully selective.


Leslie Sourwine said...


Wasn't it the Democrats who took the lead on the get tough on crime policies? I used to be a Democrat until like you I saw firsthand the treatment of the poor in our society under the Democratic policies. I'm not republican either because from what I've seen they aren't much better. Sadly our government’s solution dealing with America's poor is to incarcerate them. That's policies from both sides of the aisle. The result is not a decrease in crime but an increase in poverty as our government rapes and steals from the families of those who are incarcerated. American citizens who are incarcerated for long terms not because they are dangerous but because they are poor and unable to buy their way out of the petty crimes many have been charged with.

Sean Shepard said...

I believe Councilor Coleman (Libertarian - at large) is the only one who has (since getting out from under the thumb of the Republicans by switching parties) started to consistently oppose both transfers of public money to private organizations AND the free speech restrictions the panhandler ordinance could create.

I've written about this issue as well how insane it is that the Council, instead of cutting tax rates, hands out millions to these private organizations (professional panhandlers) and then wants to ban somebody standing on a corner and asking for a voluntary contribution.

This is always the problem with government. Knee jerk reactions, unintended consequences or protection of rights be damned, they'll do what they want.