City Establishing “Downtown Mall Ambassadors”

City Council has voted unanimously to fund an $80,000 program to establish “Downtown Mall ambassadors,” Graham Moomaw writes for the Daily Progress. That’ll pay for four seasonal employees to provide directions to tourists, perform light maintenance, and other small tasks…but the real impetus is to try to deal with the ongoing problem of aggressive, apparently coordinated panhandlers. City police were trying to get the funding to increase police presence in response to panhandlers, but council balked at the price tag. Not being police, it’s not clear that these new folks will have the power to do anything at all. Council regards this as an experiment, one that they’ll evaluate the success of next summer.

22 Responses to “City Establishing “Downtown Mall Ambassadors””

  • belmont yo says:

    Underpaid bouncers for the homeless, some of whom are mentally ill.

    I cant see this going wrong in any way.

  • perlogik says:

    If it included diplomatic immunity then I’m applying

  • Barboursville C'ville says:

    And so, for a mere eighty grand,
    The Council can keep heads in sand.
    The tourists will gush,
    As bums get the rush;
    The stimulus flows through the land.

  • danpri says:

    Council must be getting tired of the homeless guys sleeping in front of City Hall.

  • dan1101 says:

    Might be a good way to get someone representing the city there after hours. But was the Cville PD not doing a good enough job already?

  • HollowBoy says:

    Another waste of tax dollars. Maintenance? Are the Public Works employees not able to handle it? Or they could let some of those jail inmates you see downtown help out.An we have a visitors center for tourists.
    And it does not sound like a good idea at all to let non-LE people be dealing with possible crininal behavior.
    The City allowed the panhandling problem to develop with its tolerant policies toward it,now they want a quick fix.

  • An we have a visitors center for tourists.

    After that short-lived downtown newsstand folded (remember the copper kiosk) around 1995, the kiosk just sat for a couple of years. One summer, my brother and I (both high school aged) just took it over for a few weeks. We opened it up for hours every day, keeping a phone book, some maps, and a few other reference materials in there, and just dispensed information to anybody who came up looking for it. By and large, as I recall, the questions were from tourists, looking for directions, hours, advice, etc. Sure, there was a visitors bureau, but it wasn’t smack in the middle of the Downtown Mall. To this day, whenever I see people looking at one of the signs on the Mall that provide a map and a list of businesses, I stop and ask them if they need directions. 75% of the time they do, and they’re grateful that somebody stopped to help.

    That said, I think the tourist thing is a red herring. This is about panhandlers.

  • Jack says:

    This is the wrong solution to what should be a very straight forward problem. When they are drunk in public, arrest them for public intoxication and press charges and push for jail time. When they get into fights, arrest them for assault and for creating a disturbance.

    Just arrest them, press charges, don’t agree to reduce charges to a slap on the wrist. They are breaking the law so put them in prison where the rest of society won’t have to deal with their crap. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT PRISON IS FOR. We don’t need more police officers. We don’t need an ambassador program. We just need to use the cops and DA and jail that we already paid for.

  • Patience says:

    Mixed feelings about this, but I love Belmont Yo’s reacion. My first thought was, could they send them down W. Main St. a few blocks to the crowd that is always hanging around near the ABC store? Why does it always have to be about the Downtown Mall?

  • Patience says:

    From the article: “In many cities, the ambassadors… help direct the homeless to appropriate service providers… This is what we hope to accomplish with our pilot program.”

    And if the unruly people aren’t homeless, or refuse to move on to the “appropriate service providers” what then? If the unruly people are actually breaking the law, then, as Jack says, it’s a police matter. If they’re simply being annoying–and it is annoying to have to walk a gauntlet of panhandlers even if they don’t target you–there’s really nothing anybody can do. The last time I checked, it’s not illegal to be unkempt in public.

  • HollowBoy says:

    Nor should it be illegal to be unkempt in public!
    Sure there are many who are sweaty and grubby from hard manual labor who pop into CVS to pick up a prescription or something, to name one example.
    Its behavior, not looks, that it is the problem, whether it be a group of foulmouthed thugs who act as if they’d soon kill you as look at you,or a group of obnoxious panhandlers with their stupid cardboard signs obstructing the walkway.
    Have to wonder how much,if any, the ordinances regulating things like panhandling and drinking in public are enforced.

  • truth to power says:

    in This initiative like the Dialogue on Race, they throw money away with no evidence for effectiveness, then demand data on effectiveness for other proposed initiatives that are not their pet projects. When the DT business community has a problem they throw money at it symbolically, when the minority community has issues, they become fiscal conservatives.

    What is up with this Council?

  • james says:

    If the “ambassadors” are people who are already active, involved, knowledgeable and approachable members of the community, I could maybe see this working. But I strongly doubt that that will be the case.

  • GT Shin says:

    Ambassador (plural ambassadors), Noun.

    1. A minister of the highest rank sent to a foreign court to represent there his sovereign or country.

    2.An official messenger and representative.

    From the Council:

    “Although it is being presented in the context of assisting with the curbing of rude behavior, an ambassadors program offers many additional benefits,” reads the City Hall memo prepared for councilors. “In many cities, the ambassadors assist tourists, provide extra maintenance, build relationships with business owners, help direct the homeless to appropriate service providers, and more. This is what we hope to accomplish with our pilot program.”

    “It’s not really so much just a response to trying to crack down on this behavior; it’s just a way to make everyone feel more welcome on the mall,”

    “It’s not just behaviors,” Galvin said. “It’s adding beauty.”

    Goofy, goofy, goofy.

  • john stoudt says:

    please let us give the mall ambassadors the benefit of the doubt an dlet them try to work on cleaning up the city.when the business owners complain about the loud cursing an dobnoxious behavior on the mall i am almost inclined to agree with them.something has to be done as soon as possible as things have gotten way out of control.

  • belmont yo says:

    … as things have gotten way out of control.

    I know someone who hasn’t been to Berkeley, CA, or any number of other metropolitan areas.

    There isn’t anything in this whole town – noise, homeless, traffic, taxes, gangs, *anything* – that has ever been anywhere even close to being “out of control”.

    When I am elected to city council after I finally get around to running, one plank in my platform will be that every citizen will have to leave Charlottesville for a week every year. Doesn’t matter where, just out. This will help the community gain a wider perspective, and help prevent the deleterious cocooning effect this town seems to have.

  • HollowBoy says:

    Good point. Even though there are problems similar to other larger urban areas, to say Charlottesville is on the same level as much larger cities, for examp[le Richmond or Washington DC, is an exaggeration.Although I have to say the city government does have its head in the sand many times when it comes to very real problems. Not to mention being fiscally feckless. Quarter of a million dollars to relocate a skateboard park?

  • dan1101 says:

    Cville also didn’t want to pay $30,000 (if I recall correctly) to run the popular McIntire Park wading pool for another season, but had no problem spending $50,000 for a study on race relations that had no benefit that I could discern.

  • HollowBoy says:

    And then there is the way they are throwing Mcintire Golf Course users under the bus.
    No, it may not be a great course, but there are those who depend on it, and love it

  • Patience says:

    Not to mention that relocating the skate park to the opposite side of the bypass means that many kids won’t be able to get to it–my son and his friends walk there. Unless they’re building some sort of pedestrian bridge, of which there was no mention in the NBC 29 story. But I am driving us off-topic, sorry.

  • belmont yo says:

    > skate park
    > walk there

    Doing it wrong.

    “Unless they’re building some sort of pedestrian bridge”

    I have it on good authority that it will be an elaborate series of pneumatic tubes, which will shuttle your offspring safely by day, and by night will be used to “relocate” the homeless.

  • Patience says:

    That was silly of me. Of course they skate there.

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