Tampa City Council declines panhandling vote listen12/16/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Today the Tampa City Council tossed around the idea of putting a panhandling ban on the March ballot. But words didn’t exactly turn into action.
Activist Spencer Kass is trying to get 18 thousand signatures on a petition that would put a proposed citywide panhandling ban on Tampa’s March ballot. The activist has nine days to do so.
"It is a dangerous situation. Council, by mere motion, can place this on the ballot today and we can all have a nice, happy, holiday season without having to run around and try to gather these signatures. Regardless of whether my time expires to get the signatures or doesn't, whether we get enough or don't, we still will have January and February to come down here to council and request, continuously, that you put it on the ballot. Or that you adopt the ordinance on it's own. In a perfect world I'd like to just adopt the ordinance.
"If you won't, the very least you could do is let the public decide how they want their streets used. That seems extremely fair to me. If you sign a petition form, everyone should know you're not voting for the ordinance or against the ordinance, all your voting for is democracy, to let the people decide how they want their streets used."
Today, most Tampa City Council member were reluctant to take up a vote that would have put it on the ballot without the signatures. Council member Charlie Miranda said a panhandling ban would have to apply to charity organizations that collect money on the roadside as well as individuals who sell the Sunday paper at city intersections. Miranda said he’s not a fan of people begging for money at red lights, but he’s wary of adopting a sweeping ban on the practice of collecting money from passing cars.
"Then there's people who are earning, maybe their food on the table by selling newspapers on Sundays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. So let's get rid of those 3, 4, 500 people also. Let's just get rid of them, we don't want them. ... Society is a wonderful thing but it's hard to make decisions where you sit on this side of the dais because it always has an effect on everyone."
Most of the city council members agreed, but council member Joseph Caetano said panhandling is keeping job-creating companies from moving to Tampa.
"It is devastating our industry out there. People don't want to come here and buy homes. I know that, I was at a dinner the other night, the Tampa Bay Builder's Association and it was brought up that people don't want to come here when they see 10 or 15 people sitting on a corner of Fowler Avenue. First thing you hear, 'who are these people, what are they doing?' Well, there's some type of an explanation that is given by the agent that has those people. And some gentleman who wants to come here and start his business, maybe with 250 employees, he's not going to come here."
The Council declined to vote today, but they may take up the discussion again in January.