Umatilla businesses are furious with the two or three panhandlers that daily camp out at the community's only traffic light right at the entrance to town.

Umatilla battles with its reputation. Truckers stop for gas and the strip club and never see the attractive Oregon town with an enviable marina, murals in downtown and a picturesque Umatilla River running through it.

Now there are people parking cars, getting out with cardboard signs -- sometimes a wheelchair -- and pretending to be hungry and homeless at the gateway to the city.

After a few hours of "work" the panhandlers walk into the closest bar and buy drinks and throw money into the slot machines before going back out to finish the afternoon.

Unfortunately, panhandling is not illegal; it's protected free speech. When Yakima tried to outlaw it their proposals always accidentally forbid fundraising car washes and business signs.

Where there's a will there's a way.


[SOURCE: Hermiston Herald]