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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Coin drops are accidents waiting to happen

I’ll gladly give you a penny for your thoughts — unless you’re standing the middle of the street for a “coin drop.” Then you get nothing.
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.


Blogger Tucker said...

"...the city could end by banning coin drops"? That would be terrible. I think we should keep them,if that's going to be the result of banishing them.

March 6, 2009 at 7:59 AM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

CONGRATS for tackling the City's toughest issues using the forum that YOU control, NEVER kowtowing to manipulative outside influences.

So NOW that you have NAILED the Coin Drop Crisis...

...could you maybe please explain your paper's coverage of the Erin Fay "incident" and your decision timeline monitoring the blogs you are empowered to moderate. And of course, you DID moderate them.

The tragic topic... mayhaps little more than a drop in the Pulitzer-grade bucket... maybe it is worthy of your 2 cents.

Thank You for Your Hand on the Helm...

-Kyle York
"To Erin is Human"

March 8, 2009 at 11:42 PM 
Blogger uhknee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 28, 2009 at 2:55 PM 
Blogger uhknee said...

I have printed this article out, just for kicks, and have begun highlighting errors in grammar, syntax, etc. I'll be sending it along to you this coming week Babs, it'll be a trip for you and me!
Will you write back if I send a stamp and a return address? Maybe you can justify the choices you made which seem to have a blatant disregard for even the most basic rules of English language. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean you can post anything. And you expect to never hear about it? Good grief.

May 28, 2009 at 2:57 PM 

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