DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – A panhandling ordinance was officially repealed in a Monday night vote from the Decatur City Council.
The 6-1 decision came after the American Civil Liberties Union sent the city a letter demanding it repeal the ordinance. A total of 14 other cities in Illinois also saw letters, including Champaign, Danville and Urbana, demanding the same thing.
City council members who voted in favor of the repeal said they didn't want to fight the ACLU on the issue.
"These panhandlers are a disgrace to our city," said councilman Chuck Kuhle. "I can't stand them and a vast majority of our citizenry despise them as well. If I had it my way, I could double down on this code and make it tougher, not repeal it."
Kuhle voted "yes" on the repeal despite his frustrations. The only “no” vote came from councilwoman Lisa Gregory.
Council leaders say they want panhandling behavior in the community to be curbed, but said they felt aggressive behaviors like trespassing are covered in other city codes.
Interim city manager Billy Tyus also touted the work of area nonprofits as a more effective alternative to panhandling.
"There are resources that are available to people who may be hard on their luck and who may be facing hard times," Tyus said.
Decatur’s policy was similar to Champaign and Urbana, in that it put limits on distances from which a person can panhandle near a bank or ATM. That distance ranged from 10 to 20 feet.
The city of Springfield is currently involved in an ACLU lawsuit.