OMAHA, Neb. – Today Mayor Jean Stothert announced a proposed ordinance to limit panhandling on medians. The Omaha City Council revised its unconstitutional panhandling ordinance in 2015, which kept over 200 poor Omahans out of jail in 2016.
ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller had the following response:
“The ACLU applauds the good work city and community leaders conducted when updating Omaha’s panhandling ordinances to respect First Amendment rights and protect public safety in 2015. The impact of those revisions is clear: in the past two years hundreds of Omaha residents–mostly poor and experiencing homelessness–have been diverted from jail allowing police to prioritize their resources where they are needed most.
“We look forward to working with city leaders to evaluate this new proposal and its impact on free speech and vulnerable populations. We encourage city leaders to actively engage service providers, law enforcement and other stakeholders to meet the need for programs and services that support low income Omahans. Any revisions to these ordinances must strike the right balance between respecting speech and ensuring public safety.”