Editorial: Money well wasted

City of Penticton needs to spend less time in court

It would be hard to say the tax dollars spent by the City of Penticton prosecuting a panhandler was money well spent, but at least the two sides reached an agreement before it went to the trial stage.

It’s been at least two years since city hall started trying to evict Paul Braun from his favorite panhandling spot at the entrance to a breezeway in the 200-block of Main Street. But no matter how many tickets the city’s bylaw department issued him — which Braun, homeless at the time, had no ability to pay — he refused to change spots.

For Braun and his supporters, the city was harassing the quiet, polite panhandler. From the city’s point of view, they were just trying to enforce their bylaw, and Braun was the thin end of a wedge: if they didn’t stop him, how could they stop all the others, who perhaps weren’t going to be as polite as Braun?

But using $26,000 (estimated) of taxpayer money just to make a point seems unreasonable. We can understand why the city wouldn’t have wanted to negotiate after their initial offer, given that Braun was thumbing his nose at city hall in his refusal to move, but surely some accommodation could have been reached. The city could have paid Braun to move for less than it has cost in legal bills.

The plea agreement finally reached with Braun this week, while giving Braun a break, is still going to cost the taxpayers. Along with conditions like staying clear of the 200-block of Main Street, the elderly Braun is expected to put in 60 hours of community service before Dec. 15, while being supervised by a (paid) city staff member.

This is a situation where the city managed to back itself into a corner, again. They probably would have won the court case against Braun, but both parties could have made this deal happen much earlier.

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