FOOD NOT BOMBS TO WORK WITH TAMPA - Mitch Perry

05/12/04

Late last week members of the group Food Not Bombs celebrated the news that they had persuaded Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio to drop criminal charges against members of their group who had been arrested recently for feeding the homeless at Massey Park in downtown Tampa.

So For now, Food Not Bombs can continue to provide food in the Parks on Sunday without fear of arrest.

And City Attorneys are working on re-writing a City Ordinance on how people can use City Parks....David Smith is the City Attorney for Tampa (roll tape#1 o.q. "whatever our ordinance would be")

Several Members of Food Not Bombs- some of them USF students, and their supporters were among those apprehended at the public feedings at Massey Park....They were arrested on trespassing charges after Tampa Police Officers told them to stop the feeding...Though in one recent arrest in which 3 people were apprehended, members said they were randomly rounded up by the Police.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio had defended the arrests, saying that everybody needed to abide by regulations in place, which included applying for a permit.

But the Mayor backed down after City Attorneys sat down in the past couple of weeks with legal representatives from Food Not Bombs.

At issue is the City Ordinance that the Mayor and the Police had been using to arrest those feeding the homeless.

University of Florida Professor Joe Jackson explains (roll tape#2 o.q."as the speech that's planned")

Jackson says that the crux of the Ordinance as written now, is that it offers no guidelines for how city parks can be used...Instead, discretion is exclusively in the power of City Officials. (roll tape#3 o.q."operations of the City")

Tampa City Attorney David Smith acknowledges that weakness in the current Ordinance, and says the City will examine how other localities deal with the issue in coming up with new language. (roll tape#4 o.q."fair and understandable")

Smith says that he will consult with Food Not Bombs counsel, Joe Jackson, on the drafting of the Ordinance.....

Food Not Bombs has had similar confrontations with Mayors and City Councils across the country over the past 2 decades, and the issue has been tough for Mayor Iorio, who has been criticized by local Democrats like Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Frank for punishing those for feeding the less fortunate.

Tampa City Attorney David Smith, relatively new on the job, said it's good public policy for the City to work with groups like Food Not Bombs when it can improve the overall situation for Tampa (roll tape#5 o.q." that's how we got to where we are")

Members of Food Not Bombs tell WMNF that they are optimistic about the new ordinance, but plan on continue to feed the homeless in any respect.

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