By Josh Resnek
Are you disturbed by panhandlers begging for money from you in front of your favorite 7/11 or at street corners like Chelsea Street and the Revere Beach Parkway?
If you are, well, city officials lined up before the city council last week to tell those of you who are disturbed that there is very little that can be done to alter the situation.
In fact, Police Chief Steve Mazzie and Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery advised the council not to act with vigor lest the city should be charged with First Amendment violations in court.
The recommendation came in response to a motion ordered by Councilor Mike Marchese who said he is concerned with panhandling and its effect on the quality of life in the city and that it concerned as well the safety and well being of Everett’s residents.
He also reminded the council that in June, when the casino opens, pan handling will likely zoom out of control.
“You watch what’s coming,” Marchese told the Leader Herald.
“When the casino opens its doors pan handling will explode as it has exploded in Springfield where a casino opened there several months back. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve witnessed what’s going on,” Marchese said during an interview.
Marchese said he wanted police officials here to warn the pan handlers and to get them off the streets, if possible, exactly the way its done in other communities.
“I don’t like being told by our officials that Everett has to put up with pan handling when it isn’t tolerated in places like Wellesley Hills, Lynnfield, Newton and in Brookline,” he told the Leader Herald.
“Why is it the First Amendment protects panhandling in city’s like ours when richer communities don’t tolerate public begging?” he added.
City officials told the council last week that as long as panhandlers don’t touch a person or physically or verbally coerce them, that they are basically free to do as they please.
Marchese offered an amendment to the panhandling law now on the books locally that goes like this: “It shall be unlawful for any person to beg or solicit money or aid in his own half in any place of business, house or upon the streets of Everett.”
Assistant City Solicitor Slattery warned the council to heed what has been learned in Worcester and Lowell.
“Similar ordinances were instituted there that were later rendered invalid by the court,” he said.
Marchese countered with his own beliefs.
“Residents are being harassed. I see it all day long. I don’t like it,” he said.
“If the panhandlers are simply asking for money there is very little we can do,” Chief Mazzie told the council.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky said panhandling is about to escalate dramatically with the opening of the casino in June.
“We have to be prepared,” he said.
“It is going to become a whole different ball game when the casino opens. This is the real deal here coming very shortly,” he added.