Well. It looks like I'm not going to be talking about the health care reform business this week either. I mean, it's interesting and all, but how funny is it that people who haven't been able to get health insurance will now be able to? Snore. So instead I'll talk about how the Tim Burgess anti-aggressive solicitation proposal has been changing week by week, and day by day.
In fact, when I last wrote about the proposal, two weeks ago, the law changed between the time I wrote the column and when the column went to print. They (Burgess and posse) modified the law so that to be ticketed for soliciting within 15 feet of a person using an ATM you would have to be soliciting to that person, and not some third person. By making that amendment they made the law slightly better than it was and made some of my ridicule of it ungrounded.
Fortunately, for me and me alone, the law is still bad enough to ridicule. Or, in the new slang that's emerged this past week, the law is "Bidened up," or "Bidening stoopid."
For example, as now written it practically forces solicitors to shout from 15 feet or more away from customers all the time, to avoid accidentally breaking the rules. That will last just until the police decide to treat the shouting itself as "abusive language that would alarm a reasonable person."
Another problem is best illustrated by a scenario: An obviously impoverished solicitor shouts "red roses, only a dollar" toward a guy in a suit getting a parking sticker for his car. The guy decides he wants one of those cheap roses to, let's say, help him score. So he walks toward the rose peddler with parking receipt in hand. But there's a cop down the street watching, so the rose peddler has to back away and stay 15 feet from the prospective customer. When does the soliciting end and the transaction begin? The law doesn't make that clear so the peddler has to back away to be safe.
Pretty soon, the peddler is running, with the customer in hot pursuit. Since it's a guy in a suit chasing a poor guy, the cop assumes a crime has been committed and orders the peddler to stop, but the peddler is deaf so keeps running, so the cop chases him down, screams "Why the Biden didn't you stop when I said to stop?" and slams the peddler's head against a wall to emphasize his point, causing permanent brain damage.
That's what happens when you have stupid laws in a stupid police state.
But I digress. All that concerns two-week-old amendments. But the proposed law is still in flux and I wanted to talk about a couple of interesting recent changes.
The first addresses a question I've mentioned before, namely, would the ordinance apply to Girl Scouts selling cookies? Would it apply to rich people asking one another for Grey Poupon while strolling the Sculpture Park? Language has been inserted into the ordinance that spells out that "solicitations by individuals not appearing to a reasonable person to be in desperate financial need would not constitute aggressive solicitation unless the individual engaged in threats of violence." So go ahead and ask for the Grey Poupon, just look the part and don't pull out the stiletto, and you'll be OK.
That's certainly an improvement of the law, but a more recent amendment really clarifies the intent of the ordinance and, I think, makes it a law that every Seattleite can support. Previously the ordinance limited the definition of aggressive solicitation to that which is intimidating or causes fear in reasonable people, and then confused matters by immediately listing situations that might not cause fear or intimidate at all. The amendment makes the connection sensible by simply defining aggressive solicitation as "solicitation that is intimidating... or causes a reasonable person to feel guilt." [Italics added.]
Good laws are laws we can all understand!