Ordinances would focus on special events, loitering, panhandling

The Gilich administration is proposing three measures to help deal with two hot-button issues: events that disproportionately tax city resources and the problem of aggressive panhandling and loitering outside high-profile areas of the city.

The proposed special events ordinance and amendments to the ordinances on loitering and panhandling are on the City Council agenda for Tuesday. Councilmembers are expected to vote on the issues at a subsequent council meeting.

The special events ordinance, which is based on an ordinance in Gulf Shores, Ala., would propose to require applications for major events. The permit would be reviewed by a committee of key city department heads, including Biloxi Police and Fire departments.

Approved applications could then trigger the need for traffic plans, insurance and other conditions, such as a fee linked to the number of individuals attending an event.

The panhandling and loitering ordinances, not unlike the special events measure, have been in the works for weeks, and are being placed before the council a week after a half-dozen downtown business leaders complained at a City Council meeting about aggressive and abusive loiterers and panhandlers outside their businesses.

The panhandling measure, which would require city-issued licenses, identifies downtown locations where panhandling would be prohibited, including bus stops, public parks, near vehicles or ATMs, or near businesses that have posted “No panhandling” or similar signs. The proposed amendment also would identify aggressive panhandling, such as confronting a person, blocking their path or using profane or abusive language, and would ban all panhandling from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The amendment to the loitering ordinance would correct the existing ordinance that the Gilich administration says is “constitutionally overbroad and vague.”

While noting that loitering is protected under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the ordinance specifically address the type of conduct prohibited. Among the prohibited acts would be loitering in public restrooms or public schools, in restaurants or taverns or nearby property after being asked to leave by the owner.
See the proposed special events ordinance
See the proposed panhandling ordinance
See the proposed loitering ordinance
See the city council agenda