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Democracy in America

This Week in Bans: Philly Outlaws Feeding the Homeless Outside

This Week in Bans: Philly Outlaws Feeding the Homeless Outside
Gary Dee/Wikimedia

Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):

• The uber-popular norteño strummers Los Tigres del Norte are no longer welcome in Chihuahua, the capital of the eponymous Mexican state. Their crime: During a weekend concert they performed "La Reyna del Sur," a song that could be interpreted as glorifying the cartel life. Chihuahua has a law prohibiting such so-called narcocorridos and plans to fine the band $1,585 for the musical breach. With more than 47,000 people violently rubbed out by drug violence since Dec. 2006, it's understandable why the state is so sensitive about these catchy ditties. The song in question, whose title translates to "The Queen of the South," probably refers to high-level narcotics hotties like Sandra Ávila Beltrán, convicted of laundering billions of dollars in drug money. Here's a different band, Los Cuates de Sinaloa, executing that song:

• Low-level U.K. pol Daisy Benson is spreading the news that the Reading Borough Council, located west of London, has outlawed the use of Twitter during council meetings. The political body, devoted to typically British matters like maintaining toucan and puffin crossings, has not verified such a prohibition on its website. But if it has indeed laid down the banhammer, it would follow in the footsteps of the Cornwall Council, which recently banned Twitter after some of its members made "inappropriate" tweets. Inappropriate, that is, as defined by council leader Alec Robertson, who got all upset when his fellow councilors sent out messages like, "Leader is absent because he is busy trying to win awards" and "Aha – the Leader and Councillor Ridgers have finished winning awards and have graced us with their presence." Or perhaps Robertson acted simply because the social-promotion service is really annoying. (Follow me on Twitter!)

• Mayor Michael Nutter has announced that the homeless shall no longer be fed in public parks in Philadelphia. He pushed the ban through after deciding that "providing to those who are hungry must not be about opening the car trunk, handing out a bunch of sandwiches, and then driving off into the dark and rainy night." The city is instead encouraging charitable organizations to feed the poor and bedraggled indoors, where medical and psychological counseling are available. This ordinance ruins the al fresco munching activities of one of Philly's largest homeless contingents, located in the now-inaptly named Love Park.

• The grand poobahs of Muskegon, Michigan, are allowing residents to resume parking on the street earlier than usual this year, despite snow plows that could theoretically still need the access to get their jobs done. Why? Because the government hopes that it might prevent the "widespread violation of city ordinances of citizens parking in front yards" even "in situations where driveways are available." Leaving cars sitting in the damn yard? C'mon Muskegonites, that's just shoddy behavior! Clean up your act!

• Doze off in your car in Rancho Santa Margarita, California? Then expect a peevish police officer to be tapping on your window with ticketbook in hand. The city's council has banned sleeping in vehicles while on public roads after receiving more than 300 calls last year about "suspicious activity in cars," according to Orange County Register columnist David Whiting. Coming out against the ban, Whiting commits perhaps an act of oversharing when he writes:

Before I met my lovely wife, Sue, I lived with a woman in a mobile home on a dirt road near some railroad tracks.

My former bff and I didn't always agree – as you might have guessed since I married Sue. And, yes, one night it seemed best for both of us that I bypass the couch and sleep in my car.

It was not a large car. It was a Honda Civic when Honda Civic's were the size of wheelbarrows. But for a night, it was home – until there was a sharp rap on the window.

I opened my eyes to the breaking dawn and a looming sheriff's deputy. But I couldn't figure out why he was waking me.

It turned out the officer simply wanted to know if I was OK, where I lived and why I was sleeping in this little car. He grinned knowingly when I told him. And he left me in my safe place.

El Rancho isn't the only burg in California with such a measure. Other cities that have outlawed vehicular sleeping include Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Lake Forest, Mission, Aliso Viejo and many more.

Top photo of a homeless man in New York City by Gary Dee.

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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