For the second year in a row, Tulsa Firefighters won’t be filling the boot because of a panhandling ordinance.
The fundraiser is for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Firefighters say the city councilors they have worked with so far have been supportive of their cause but they say they aren't any closer to a solution than they were when the ordinance passed.
“Tulsa Firefighters have been affiliated or associated with the Muscular Dystrophy Association for 65 years. It is the only recognized, endorsed charity that we have. We do Fill the Boot across the country. For us to not be a part of that. That is frustrating,” says International Association of Firefighters Sandy McGhee.
That is because in 2017 the Tulsa City Council passed an ordinance preventing people from walking into roadways, asking for donations.
"It is just a way to protect the safety of those individuals who are out there on a constant basis trying to receive funding," said Tulsa Council Chair Phil Lakin.
A spokesman from The Muscular Dystrophy Association says they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars because of the ordinance. The organization says they have worked through similar problems in other cities- implementing a permit process that involves a fee and insurance qualifications. They say they have been in talks with Tulsa City Councilors but have yet to figure out a solution.
"It pays for services like doctors’ visits, durable medical equipment, education material, support groups," said McGhee, "the amount of money that we are not collecting, severely impacts MDA’s ability to provide those services."
"We do have to look at the burden the city employees will be under in processing those additional permits,” said Lakin, "The law has to treat every individual and every entity the exact same way.”
As for whether or not the ordinance has been effective?
"It's not one of those things that is easy to measure. It's still a difficult thing for Police to enforce,” said Lakin.
There have been talks about finding another way to raise money- standing on street corners or outside of businesses but the MDA and firefighters say they would not make near the money they were making by getting into the streets.