Magazine vendors say sales hurt by median ordinance
Booker T. Washington, who sells the street magazine Curbside Chronicle at busy intersections in Oklahoma City, said he has seen his profits decline significantly since a new ordinance limiting public access to traffic medians went into effect.
"I didn't have no hope until I met Curbside and they gave me hope by hiring me without even judging me about what I have been accused of in the past," Washington said.
Most of Washington's sales came from standing on traffic medians with his bag of magazines, waiting for motorists to roll down their widows and hand him a few dollar bills or a handful of change.
"When I started, there wasn't no harassment about standing on the median. You could stand on the median all you wanted," he said. "I think they just messing with Curbside for nothing."
Most Curbside vendors claim they saw significant declines in sales after the traffic median ordinance went into effect.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Oklahoma City over the ordinance, which it claims is unconstitutional, as well as vague and overly broad.
Calvin McCraw, a once homeless Oklahoma City man who works as a Curbside Chronicle vendor, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
In the ACLU's federal complaint, McCraw claims before the ordinance was enacted, he once sold an issue of Curbside Chronicle to Gov. Mary Fallin while standing on a traffic median, but his sales declined when he had to start selling at intersections and freeway off ramps after the new ordinance took effect.
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"It proved much more difficult to operate from those relatively inconvenient, unsafe, or crowded positions," the lawsuit claims. "Mr. McCraw searched frantically around town for locations, and competed with panhandlers for space as the stock of viable locations had contracted dramatically under the ordinance."
In federal court filings, the attorney for Oklahoma City said the ordinance is a public safety measure.
Curbside Chronicle is a project of the Homeless Alliance, and is geared toward providing the homeless a source of income without panhandling.
Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, estimates about 80 percent of Curbside's sales came from traffic medians before Oklahoma City enacted its new ordinance.
However, the ordinance also drove many former panhandlers to become vendors, leading to wider distribution of the magazine. In July, Curbside Chronicle switched from bimonthly to monthly publication.
"Because we have so many more vendors, we sell more magazines," Straughan said.
Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›