Tampa panhandling ban stalled in a City Council stalemate

09/23/11 Josh Holton
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Tampa City Council failed to pass a panhandling ordinance Thursday afternoon. With only 6 members voting, and Council member Charlie Miranda on leave with health issues, It's hard to tell if the three-to-three stalemate will let up any time soon.

The fate of beggars, charities, and independent newspapers hangs in the balance as Tampa's City Council failed to decide one way or another on a proposed ban on panhandling. Jerry FrankHouser with the Tampa Homeowners, an Association of Neighborhoods just wanted solicitors off the street.

But street solicitor Justin Frasier said this is his only source of income.

Another panhandler, Louis Chatlos said that while some people think panhandling can be prosperous, he only made $3 on Wednesday.

One of the main reasons cited for why a ban is needed is that the panhandlers pose a safety risk, a notion that Virginia Park resident Ed Cronyn challenges.

Many people are calling on Tampa City Council to take action to decrease homelessness Because many of the panhandlers Lining street corners are unemployed or have no home. Jason Wilson proposed a homeless Task force last week, and this week asked for the Council’s help to create a facility for a mental health arrest diversion project.

The ordinance initially would have banned panhandling altogether, but then allowed it on Sundays. But many independent newspapers rely on this form of solicitation sell papers, so the ban was changed to allow for newspapers sales and political activity. Three separate motions contained several of these separate ideas, and Council member Mike Suarez said it was important to support a clause to safeguard the entire ordinance.

City attorney Jim Shimberg said the clause is needed in case a portion that allows only certain kinds of solicitation is found unconstitutional, the whole ordinance would not be overturned.

Council members Yvonne Capin, Mary Mulhern, and Frank Reddick opposed the ordinance, while Suarez, Harry Cohen, and Lisa Montelione supported it. Council chair Mulhern has said the whole ordinance would criminalize poverty.

The stalemate means the panhandling ordinance will be voted on during the morning council meeting on October 6.

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