City Council hopefuls talk panhandling

01/21/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Yesterday Tampa City Council voted four to three to support an ordinance banning panhandling on the city’s busiest streets. Today, in Downtown Tampa, twelve candidates from three council districts weighed in on the conversation, and they had a wide range of takes on the issue of a panhandling ban.

Those who vote strictly along party lines have a little more work to do when choosing who will represent them at the local level. City council elections are nonpartisan, and often driven more by specific issues than ideologies. Today at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club event at the Straz Center, there was no mention of Barack Obama, health care reform, or abortion. It was about city-level policies on tough issues like panhandling. District Seven incumbent Joseph Caetano said he voted against an ordinance banning the practice on arterial roads because it didn’t apply to every street in Tampa.

Caetano has three other opponents in the race for north Tampa’s District Seven. Lisa Montelione was the only one at today’s event. She got applause when she said she’d rather address the underlying issues that drive people to panhandle.

All of the District five hopefuls showed up. It encompasses East Tampa, Ybor City, and Channelside. Lynette "Tracee" Judge, a social worker who’s in the running for the seat, said the panhandling issue is a two-sided coin.

Harold Lord, the second of the five hope District Five council members, said he wants to address the issue, but would also wait to see what gets done about it at the county level.

Stanley Gloster said this discussion would be taking place if the economy hadn’t tanked.

District Five candidate Frank Reddick’s answer was short and sweet.

Carrie West wasn’t so convinced.

Those bidding for Tampa’s District Four seat had a different take. South Tampa constitutes much of that district. Tony DeSisto said he’d be all about a full ban, granted it satisfied Constitutional requirements.

Dennis Meyers said he’d support one as long as there was a way to allow charities like the Muscular Dystrophy Association to continue raising funds by the roadside.

Joe Citro said it’s really a safety issue.

Former City Council member John Dingfelder has endorsed Julie Jenkins in District Four. Jenkins said she’d have no problem with ordinance, but the city needs to look at the changing face of homelessness.

Harry Cohen, also running for the Tampa City Council’s District Four seat, said the issue of panhandling is only the start of a greater discussion.

At today’s Tiger Bay event the candidates each spoke on a wide range of other issues, too. These include transit green jobs, and soaring water bills. The last day to register to vote in this election is January 31st. Early voting lasts from February 19th through February 26th, and Election Day is March First.

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Good. Common Sense Prevails --for a Change

Good. Common sense wins out. It is a safety issue but it's also a necessary step to protect our citizens from criminals.