Hire the panhandlers — better yet, make them serve on city council.


“Halt, prying progressive anti-establishmentarians. You shall not pass!”

Standing before us was a fully armored Roman centurion, complete with diamond-studded breastplate and 24-carat plumed helmet. Iron and steel clanked ominously as the man unfurled his Latinate scroll.

Bizarrely, the scroll displayed an anchor.

“It is I – Tiberius Severus Octavian Elagabalus Septimius Augustus Claudius Hadrian, the Protector of Fitting and Proper Scribnerian Values, Deliverer of all Downtown Datedness, Master of the Ex-Mercantile, and Guardian of the Gates.

“As institutionalized by Thoreau, Milken and even Adam Dickey, I’m entrusted with the responsibility to implacably oppose the invading barbarians, for which the city shall be eternally grateful. We will meet them on the plains, and in the forests, and in the streets, out behind the flood wall and at the Dog Park if necessary.

“Why? Because Jeff Gahan is right! These homeless, panhandling and impoverished ragamuffins make all of us respectable clean-cut paragons of civic virtue look bad. It’s even worse than Woodstock. We wouldn’t have tolerated these dirty subversives during student council back in the 1950s, and we won’t now. I call for the sworn troops of the elite Caesarean Section to muster on Bono Road, and put ’em all on the same cattle cars.

“Damn the torpedoes, and full speed to Galena!”

The Green Mouse paused for a quick but soulful flask’s reverie.

“Councilman Caesar, does this mean you’re opposed to the idea of giving panhandlers jobs?

In Maine, Portland Tries a New Tactic With Panhandlers: Hiring Them, by Matthew Haag (New York Times)

The complaints poured into City Hall in Portland, the scenic city in Maine with cobblestone streets and waterfront parks. Panhandlers were taking over sidewalks, clogging busy intersections and scaring off tourists.

City officials responded in the same manner as their counterparts across the country — with force. Starting in 2013, they outlawed begging on street medians, saying it was a public safety issue. After a federal court struck down that law, Portland bulldozed a strip in the middle of a road that had proved popular with beggars.

Despite the aggressive approach, panhandlers did not disappear.

So starting in April, Portland plans to try a new tactic. The city will hire a few panhandlers a day, pay them $10.68 an hour, the city’s minimum wage, and assign them to clean parks and public spaces.

The Portland city manager, Jon Jennings, said it was time to think of another solution and believes this one will help everyone. He hopes to eventually be able to convert some of the jobs into full-time work with the city, he said, and Portland’s parks will be more beautiful.