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Panhandling proposal to be pulled for street musicians

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (December 8, 2013) — There’s a certain rhythm to the streets of downtown Indianapolis, literally, as street musicians entertain visitors and pick up some spare change.

But city county councilman Jeff Miller said he’s having a hard time defining the difference between a street musician for-profit and a panhandler and that’s why he’s delaying introduction of a proposed panhandling ordinance before the council Monday night.

“By definition if you look like you are asking for money, you actually fall into what is passive solicitation and then if you physically ask…’Hey, did you like that? Could I have a little money?’…you actually move into panhandling, and we have heard loud and clear from the arts community that they don’t like to be considered panhandlers just for asking for money for playing a guitar.”

Miller represents the Fountain Square community that along with Mass Ave is one of the city’s cultural corridors where street performers are an entertaining part of the environment.

“We love having the guitar player,” said Miller. “We love having the saxophone player.”

Even though Visit Indy reports that a handful of big money convention planners have decided to not pick Indianapolis to host their annual events because of aggressive downtown panhandlers, Big 10 championship visitors this weekend expressed their satisfaction with the city.

“I love what they’re doing downtown here,” said Hatti Loimeyr.

“My family and I, we love Indianapolis,” said Sara Liams, an Ohio State fan who watched the Buckeyes fall to Michigan State University at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Earlier Saturday performers and artists protested and sang against the proposed ordinance on Monument Circle.

“If there’s a way the street performers don’t formally have to ask for money, if there’s a way through the Arts Council or through Visit Indy,” said Miller who speculated that a stipend could be paid to street musicians, “we could work something out. That might be one way to address it.”

Miller’s proposed ordinance would ban soliciting for money near ATMs or outdoor cafes.

“The inherent issue we have is that it is implicitly coercive when somebody is asking for money and they’re within a certain perimeter of a financial transaction or some other area where the public feels vulnerable.”

Miller said now that he’s heard from street musicians, and been advised about the one thousand petition signatures they’ve gathered against his proposal, the ordinance will be referred back to a council committee to be reworked and maybe introduced later this winter.