Tampa City Council rejects panhandling ban - for now

10/14/10 Kelly Benjamin
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Today the Tampa City Council considered banning roadside panhandling on city streets. But they put off the decision.

Concerned residents on both sides of the panhandling debate filled City Hall this morning to speak out on whether or not Tampa should ban panhandling and street vending at intersections and alongside city streets.

Spencer Kass is the President of the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association and asked the City to crack down on panhandling. "Our concern is that the City of Tampa has allowed this solicitation to go on in the right of way."

Kass referred to an ordinance passed in St. Petersburg last June which put a blanket ban on all street vending including panhandling, newspaper hawking and charity drives. Currently, the City of Tampa allows solicitation along city streets and in the medians at intersections, as long as panhandlers or vendors wear bright reflective safety vests. No one can solicit after sunset and you must be at least 18 years old to be a street vendor. The main concern is safety for both drivers and vendors but Dan Dressler, who employs newspaper hawkers on city streets, says he's never had an issue with safety.

Kay Andrews, the publisher of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin also spoke in defense of newspaper vendors.

City Council member Yolie Capin suggested that we should look to St. Pete’s panhandling ordinance for guidance and a possible solution to homelessness.

However, City Council member Thomas Scott said he could not in good conscious support a complete ban on street vending or panhandling.

Council member Mary Mulhern said she was not convinced that street-side panhandling posed a serious danger to public safety.

The Council took no action on the issue. It intends to review it's legal options and return it to the agenda next month.

Full disclosure: Kelly Benjamin is a candidate for the Tampa City Council District 6 seat currently held by Charlie Miranda.

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