Miami-Dade County rules crack down on teens raising money from motorists

Adults would need to accompany minors soliciting donations on county roadways. For the 10 busiest intersections, no youths would be allowed.

09/02/2014 7:00 PM

09/02/2014 8:24 PM

County commissioners want to crack down on a common sight at local intersections: youths in sports jerseys raising funds for teams.

A proposed ordinance would require adults to accompany any youths asking motorists for donations along county roadways and intersections. It also would bar minors entirely from 10 of the busiest intersections in the unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade.

“All of us want to be sympathetic to those groups and organizations that need to solicit resources,” said Commissioner Barbara Jordan, the prime sponsor of the ordinance set for a vote at Wednesday’s commission meeting. “I think most of the time they are legitimate solicitations. I just want to make sure this is safe.”

Because the rules don’t affect intersections outside of the county’s police patrols, many of Miami-Dade’s busiest roadways in Miami, Miami Beach and other cities wouldn’t be touched by the ordinance. And the rules apply only to minors and the “accompanying adults” who would be required to join them to sell goods or solicit donations.

But the move is a high-profile effort to regulate some of the region’s roadside transactions, a fast-moving marketplace where lime peddlers, water sellers and other vendors routinely sell to the red-light crowd. Intersections are also a popular spot for soliciting donations, with young people in team uniforms often maneuvering between stopped cars with jars for dropping coins and cash.

The ordinance calls for fairly gentle punishment: a verbal warning for the first offense, and, after that, a $30 fine or some mix of community service and after-school programs. Commissioners Lynda Bell, Audrey Edmonson and Sally Heyman joined Jordan as sponsors, and the full 13-member commission gave preliminary approval of the ordinance in May.

Jordan’s plan touches on a larger trend of jurisdictions trying to crack down on roadside soliciting. Homeless Voice, a Hollywood-based shelter, raises money by trading donations for free publications it distributes at intersections. It also routinely spars with local cities and towns when they pass ordinances banning the practice. Last year, Homeless Voice lost its legal challenge against Pembroke Pines for a local law barring people from soliciting donations along major roadways.

Sean Cononie, founder of the Homeless Voice, said he has no objection to the Miami-Dade law as long as it applies only to people under 18.

“I agree with this totally,” he said. “I don’t think kids should be allowed on the streets when the speed limit is above 25.”

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