Tampa City Council reverses panhandling decision listen02/03/11 Kate Bradshaw
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The Tampa City Council reversed course today and voted down an ordinance that would have created a partial ban on panhandling within city limits. Members of the council couldn’t agree on how to tackle an issue many say is one of the recession’s most visible consequences.
Fran Williams, a pastor with Paradise Missionary Baptist Church, plainly stated his views on a panhandling ban that would apply to everyone from curbside beggars to charities and those who hawk newspapers along busy roadsides.
Supporters of a panhandling ban say it’s a safety issue, and that people asking for money in the streets are a distraction. Linda Carson said it’s cell phones that distract drivers, and panhandlers help draw attention to the bigger socioeconomic picture.
Darren Driscoll is a contractor with the St. Petersburg Times. He hires hundreds of people to sell the Sunday paper at curbsides throughout the city. He said income from selling papers helps keep his employees off the streets.
Others who spoke against the ban included members of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which conducts curbside fundraisers annually. Of the dozens of members of the public to address the council on the issue, only about two spoke in favor of the ban. One of these was Ron Rotella with the Westshore Alliance, who said he’d support the ban if it barred solicitation from occurring within 100 feet of the roadway and included collector roads like Cypress and Spruce.
City Attorney Chip Fletcher said the First Amendment won’t allow the city to do something like ban roadside solicitation every day but Sunday.
Council members Mary Mulhern and Thomas Scott voted for the ordinance. Mulhern said the issue has kept her up at night.
Council member Charlie Miranda was among the five who didn’t support it. He said it’s an all or nothing issue.
Hillsborough County is currently considering a countywide panhandling ban, and some ban supporters have said they want to see what that ordinance says before they support something that would address the issue within Tampa’s city limits.