Coin drops are accidents waiting to happen
Coin drops have always worried me as an accident waiting to happen. My way of protesting them has been to keep the window rolled up.
Drivers are paying less attention to the road than ever, distracted by cell phones. I figured coin drops would continue unabated until the terrible day that someone gets hit by a car. So I was glad to see, instead, that the city could end by banning coin drops because of state traffic law.
The rule basically says you can’t stand in the road to solicit a ride or to “solicit from or sell to an occupant of any vehicle,” as pointed out by Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim, the City Council member who oversees public safety.
Kim’s City Council colleague in charge of granting permission for such things, Accounts Commissioner John Franck, is intent on finding a way around the law. The Web site for the office of City Clerk, which is under Franck’s purview, states that coin drops for nonprofits are allowed under certain circumstance, and not during the racing season (presumably because of the danger posed by all that extra traffic).
At issue is whether the state law takes precedent over the city’s practice.
Franck wants to come up with a local law that would allow coin drops to continue. The rest of the council seems amenable to that plan.
Kim told The Saratogian that he couldn’t really stop Franck’s department from granting licenses for coin drops and he hadn’t intended to enforce the law — but noted it was a law nonetheless. He said that drivers have complained that sometimes the coin collectors are difficult to spot and that he “can’t just deep six the law.” Bear in mind that the law was originally aimed at panhandlers, not of the nonprofit organization kind.
Lots of worthy organizations that depend on community donations have found coin drops a successful way to raise money. Coin drops are a common practice, but that doesn’t make them smart ones. In Saratoga Springs alone, 15 nonprofits rely on coin drops. Some of them are youth organizations that rely on adults to stand in the street. I know how difficult it is for groups to raise money. No one wants to make it harder.
But do we really have to wait for an accident before coin drops are banned? A better, safer alternative would be to follow the existing (but long-ignored) law prohibiting them.
It’s not the blatant begging for money that is the problem, but standing in traffic to do it. Instead of standing in the street, the fundraisers should stand in front of stores, like the Salvation Army.
Or perhaps groups could raise money by helping police enforce another ignored law, the one that bans hand-held cell phones. Volunteers could stand on the sidewalk of a busy street corner and take digital photos of people blabbing on their hand-held phones, along with a shot of the license plate. That could turn out to be the next big money-maker.