Tampa passes partial ban on panhandling

10/20/11 Josh Holton
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Today the Tampa City Council passed a partial ban on panhandling on street corners. After the four to one vote, street solicitation is now banned every day but Sunday. Newspaper sales are excluded from the ban. Dozens of members of the public showed up comment on the three controversial panhandling ordinances.

After years of deliberation, Tampa City Council has decided to partially ban panhandling in public right of ways. Former City Council member Joseph Caetano was one of the first voices to actively support a ban.

Members of St. Petersburg’s City Council have also been pressuring the City of Tampa to take action on this issue, since their city banned panhandling in 2010. The three ordinances that passed in Tampa also prevent any activity at 10 major intersections throughout the city. Tampa Police Captain Keith O’Connor said the new rules will go into effect November 1st.

Jon Dengler is the founder of the Lake House Community, and criticized council for invoking the name of God during their opening ceremony, while considering passing laws that could adversely affect the poor.

Cab driver Charles Smalley supported the ban, saying that panhandlers are bad for his business.

While a few others came out in support of the ban, about 10 members of the public spoke out in opposition to it. A female panhandler argued that she needs that income to live, and that it helps her stay fed, and clothed. University of South Florida student Clayton Cullaton said he doubted that she would be harassing Smalley’s female cab customers.

City Council Mary Mulhern spoke to Occupy Tampa protesters last night, and tried to rally opposition to the ban, though didn’t expecting any changes since the last vote in favor of the ban. Although about 30 members of Occupy Tampa came to council, only a small number of them spoke during public comment on the street solicitation issue. Mulhern maintained her lone vote against the ban.

City Council member Harry Cohen has said that passing this ordinance was an important step for council before they could seriously deal with the homeless population. But Pastor Brad Sparkman said that the city may face lawsuits based on constitutional challenges.

Supporters of the ban mostly cited public safety for the panhandlers as a major concern. And although the city is taking steps to address homelessness in Tampa, some of those against the ban said that banning panhandling before giving people a place to live is like putting the cart before the horse.

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