In the five years since its inception, three individuals have been issued a total of 34 tickets for violating the City of Penticton Good Neighbour Bylaw panhandling clause.
Section 5.2 of the Good Neighbour Bylaw states “No person shall panhandle in a manner to cause an obstruction,” which includes panhandling near a sheltered walkway, near a bank machine or touching a person while panhandling.
According to a document obtained by the Western News through a freedom of information request, the city has handed out 34 of the $110 tickets since Jan. 1, 2013.
More than half of the tickets do not have a location noted. All of those that do have locations noted appear to have been at the breezeway, though the address ranges between 232 and 242 Main Street.
The bylaw came under fire early this year after a street person was taken to court for panhandling at the breezeway between Main Street and the alley to the east.
Paul Braun, a community member known to much of the public for his usual panhandling spot at the 200 block of the Main Street breezeway, was handed a subpoena by the city in November. The charges are over a lack of payment on $880 worth of bylaw tickets for section 5.2 of the Good Neighbour Bylaw, as well as a lack of compliance.
Since then, local lawyer Paul Varga stepped in to defend Braun in court, calling the city’s action a “war on the homeless.” A four-day trial has been scheduled for September this year, after Varga and the city exchanged public statements late last year and early this year.
It is not clear how many of the tickets were for Braun, with the names removed to comply with privacy laws. But it is known that Braun received at least eight in 2017 and received multiple tickets in late June 2016.
A table of all instances in which bylaw tickets were handed out on section 5.2 of the Good Neighbour Bylaw shows the date and time the ticket was handed out, the ticket number and the location. According to the table, none of the tickets were handed out until May 27, 2014, and exactly half of the tickets, 17, were handed out in 2017.
In 2014, one was handed out in May, June, and August each, while four tickets were handed out in September that year. The following year, five tickets were handed out in total: four in September and one in July.
In 2016, all four tickets handed out were between June 21 and June 29.
And in 2017, the tickets were handed out once in June, twice within half an hour on July 10 and once on July 18, before a slew of tickets were written up in August. A total of seven tickets were handed out that month, followed by one in September and October each, two in November and two in December.
The Western News also reviewed the video of the 2012 Penticton city council meetings in which the bylaw was discussed, which was provided by DVD.
However, in the meeting, there was no mention of section 5.2 of the omnibus bill, with the conversation largely surrounding boating noise regulations and nuisance or unsightly properties.
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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter
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