Friday, July 26, 2013

Loudoun County: Bravely Protecting the Rich from the Sight of the Poor

Loudoun County, Virginia, has the highest median household income in the United States, thanks in no small part to its proximity to Washington, DC and the plush tax-funded government contracts therein. Loudoun County has also decided to outlaw panhandling.
The Town of Leesburg has joined the Loudoun County government in outlawing roadside solicitations.

The Town Council Tuesday night unanimously, with Councilman Dave Butler absent, adopted a new ordinance that prohibits individuals and organizations from asking motorists for contributions. Loudoun supervisors adopted a similar law in March.
 The prohibition applies along public roads and in median areas.

Violations will be considered traffic infractions and carry a fine of up to $250.

Councilman Kevin Wright said the action addressed a “clear safety problem.”

Town Manager John Wells agreed. “We don’t want people stepping into lanes of traffic to get donations from passing cars. This is a safety concern for both vehicle occupants and pedestrians,” he said in a statement about the change.

Of course, stepping into traffic is a definite safety risk--and it's already illegal, whether you're begging for money or not. This new law has nothing to do with protecting beggars from being run over; it's about protecting inflated property values from the sight of beggars.  

I've lived in Loudoun County for a little over a year now, and for all the tangible, material advantages it offers compared to my old decaying postindustrial-impoverished New England neighborhood, I still feel somehow "off," here. Perhaps because it annoys me greatly, to drive past all those expensive glittering glass skyscrapers festooned with names like "Booz Allen" (which has two huge buildings near each other on the same stretch of highway) and other sleazy overpaid welfare queens sucking up a fortune in tax money whilst actively working to harm the taxpayers who provide it. 

And snob-zone anti-poor laws like this do nothing to improve my opinion of my new hometown. Panhandlers might be annoying, but at least I have the right to refuse their requests for money. I have no such right to refuse to pay Booz Allen and Rapi-Scan and all the other federal contractors whose job description actively requires them to do far more harm to me and mine than any poor low-rent panhandler in America's richest county could ever dream of doing, whether I give them money or not.


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