Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Curbside Chronicle Says New Rules for Medians Will Hurt Poor People

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Curbside Chronicle Says New Rules for Medians Will Hurt Poor People

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - Curbside Chronicle vendor Robert Hatcher spent 15 months living on the streets. When he met the paper's co-founder, Ranya O'Connor, she put him to work as a vendor selling the bimonthly street magazine.

The paper's model allows people to earn money while selling the paper, and buy more papers to sell, making each representative a small business operator.

He may be out of a job now after the Oklahoma City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday that bans most activity in medians. It includes exceptions for people using a crosswalk or safety zone to cross from one side of the street or highway to another; law enforcement officers or public employees acting within the scope of their work; authorized construction or maintenance; or responding to an emergency situation. All other activity is not allowed.

An additional amendment allows for activity in medians that are at least 30 feet wide and 200 feet away from intersections. The fine for violating the ordinance was lowered from $500 to $100.

"I haven't seen any vendors get injured or hurt on the medians," Hatcher told the council before the vote. "(The ordinance) will hurt us. It will destroy The Curbside Chronicle."

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty said the police department will allow a two-month grace period for people to learn about the changes.

The council voted 7-2, with Councilmen Ed Shadid and Pete White voting against it. It will be effective Jan. 7. The discussion lasted more than two hours, with at least 10 people asking the elected officials to vote against the issue.

Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer introduced the ordinance earlier this year. It originally banned panhandling in medians, though it allowed organized fundraising.

O'Connor said the Chronicle, a program of the Homeless Alliance, relies on financial support from drivers. She said the vendors stand in medians because it's the safest place where they can be near activity and get financial support.

"I see this ordinance as a direct attempt to criminalize poverty," O'Connor said. …

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