Hightower suggests formation of begging task force

Greensboro City Council Member Sharon Hightower spoke about the need to do something about begging at the Tuesday September 21 city council meeting.

Hightower said, “I want to bring up something that is going to upset everyone, make everyone nervous, but listen, it’s become a problem. I hear it from a regular every day. I see the emails coming in. I go to community meetings and one of the first questions they ask is what are we going to do about begging, how are we going to control begging.

Hightower added: “I think there has been an integration of begging and homelessness and frankly I don’t think beggars are homeless. There may be a few. “

Hightower said she spoke to a begging woman with her four children and asked her why the children weren’t in school and the woman told her she was from another county.

Hightower asked city attorney Chuck Watts to review the begging orders to see how they could be changed and what the counterpart cities were doing. She also suggested forming a beggar working group, which again is a case of déjà vu.

For those with fond memories, this statement from Hightower was odd because in 2018, when city council spent four months passing and rescinding begging orders, holding public hearings on begging orders, and hiring begging orders. Expensive legal consultants to write begging orders, Hightower voted against all begging orders.

Or to be more precise, in the end, Hightower voted against all begging orders. The first round in April 2018, Hightower voted for a begging order whose primary proponent was council member Justin Outling. Hightower then got angry with Outling over a Minority Women and Business (MWBE) issue and changed her vote on Outling’s begging order. The result of Hightower’s change in his vote was that for months the city had no ordinance covering begging.

In July, after a summer of public hearings held by the consultants, city council finally voted again and passed the begging ordinance that Hightower had originally supported, this time without Hightower’s backing.

Three weeks later, in August 2018, the city council adopted the new begging ordinance which was the result of the summer’s public hearings and had been drafted by the consultants and repealed the ordinance which had been passed three weeks previously. Hightower also voted against this ordinance.

At the September 21 meeting in response to Hightower’s statements, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “I think you made a very good point that not all beggars are homeless. Begging is really rampant.

Vaughan noted that the town had begging orders on the books but added, “On behalf of our police forces though, the last time we had this discussion they came away with a somewhat mixed message on what should be applied and what was should not be applied.

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