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After Heated Public Outcry, Fresno City Council Votes Down Ordinance To Limit Giving To Panhandlers

Laura Tsutsui
Valley Public Radio
Members of the public came out to oppose the Safe Transfer of Objects to Pedestrians ordinance at Thursday's Fresno City Council meeting.

The Fresno City Council voted down an ordinance Thursday that would have fined people in their cars attempting to give money or food to those standing at busy intersections. The proposal in question is called the Safe Transfer of Objects to Pedestrians, or STOP, and was authored by Council President Steve Brandau.

Frustrations over the city’s attitude towards the homeless drew around a hundred people to the meeting. The council sat through nearly three hours of public comments, most of them against the ordinance. Some accused the council of hating poor people, one person said it was an "attack on humanity," and another called Councilman Brandau a bully.

Brandau, who is leaving the council to join the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, also proposed the city’s camping ban back in 2017. He told the crowd his intention was not against the homeless, but to prevent traffic accidents caused by panhandlers at busy intersections.  

“The only thing it’s gonna say is you need to pull over and find a place, a safe place, and give that person whatever it is you’re being led to give them,” said Brandau.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said that if he were in the council’s shoes, he would vote no.

The council voted down the ordinance 3-2, with members Braundau and Paul Caprioglio in favor. Council members Esmeralda Soria, Miguel Arias, and Garry Bredefeld voted against it. Luis Chavez abstained, and Nelson Esparza was absent from the vote.

Fresno isn’t the first California city to try what advocates call criminalizing homelessness. The Southern California city of El Cajon attempted to enact a policy banning feeding the homeless in parks back in 2017, but reversed course after public outcry.

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.