Federal Judge denies St. Pete Times request to block city's ban on street solicitations

Share on Nextdoor


Mr. Tash,


June 8, 2010


We operate a small business in the City of Saint Petersburg that advertises weekly with the SPTimes and TBT, and an annual subscriber of the SPTimes at our residence.  We are not a punitive operator, however ethically, we find your position extremely challenging.  The small business owners in Saint Petersburg have spoken in unity and very strongly in favor of the new ordinance which you as a business are opposing.  Ethically, we find that we cannot support a business that does not support the small business owners, that is indifferent to the safety of their contract paper sellers not to mention the driving public, and is costing us all additional money in our City taxes because of the costs involved in fighting this lawsuit.  We will make our business decision based on your response to this email regarding your intent to carry forward with your position.


Sincerely,


Jamie Farquharson,


Beak's Old Florida




To Paul Tash, Chairman & CEO


Times Publishing Co.


Due to your lawsuit against the City of St. Petersburg. I am going to cancel my daily subscription of the St. Pete Times newspaper. I can no longer support your newspaper due to the fact you waste my tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits and support the panhandlers of this city. The citizens of St. Petersburg have had enough and it is obvious you do not understand economics of small business.


The small business owners spoke loud and clear that we have had enough of the panhandling in our city.  You, who complains that the layoff of Sunday street hawkers hurts you sales, will see a much larger reduction of weekly subscriptions and advertising dollars coming from small business because of your short sighted lawsuit.  Small business has been affected for years with panhandlers walking into our stores and intimidating customers on our sidewalks and cafe's.  No wonder your advertising sales have slipped because we can't afford you any longer.


Jim Longstreth,Mr. Tash


We would like to echo the comments of Jamie Farquharson, owner of Beak’s Old Florida.


We feel strongly enough about this issue that we waited for over four hours to get our turn to address City Council.  This is a complex issue and more work is required, but this ordinance is a necessary first step that is best for the totality of our community.


Actions speak louder than words. Should you choose to carry forward with the lawsuit, your actions will tell us that you are putting your singular business interests ahead of what is best for our small business community and our City.  We cannot and will not abide this perspective.


The small business owners in Saint Petersburg have spoken in unity and very strongly in favor of the new ordinance which you as a business are opposing.  Ethically, we find that we cannot support a business that:



  • does not support the small business owners of St Petersburg


  • is costing us all additional money in our City taxes because of the costs involved in fighting this lawsuit.


  • is indifferent to the safety of their contract paper sellers not to mention the driving public



We too will make our business decision based on your response to this email regarding your intent to carry forward with your position.


Cordially,


andrew m. hayes, aia


principal


hayes|cumming architects pa



According to the Times' lawsuit, the ban will affect approximately 90 street vendors who sell about 7,000 papers each Sunday.  As the Tribune reports this morning however:

Last week the St. Petersburg City Council passed a law that bans exchanging money on some of the city's busiest streets.  It was strongly encouraged by members of the downtown St. Pete business community, and strongly opposed by advocates for the homeless (among others), who say it penalizes the underclass, since the bill seems in many ways to target newspaper "hawkers".

The City has contended that there are safety issues at play as well, but critics say it's just another law that has led to the contention by the National Coalition of the Homeless that St. Pete is one of the "meanest" cities in the country for the homeless.

But there's something else going on here: The St. Petersburg Times earlier this week filed a lawsuit trying to block the law from being implemented, as they have contended that it violates the paper's constitutional right to free speech (and Media General, the parent company of the Tampa Tribune, later filed a brief supporting the Times).  Both in Tampa and in St. Pete, motorists on Sundays can drive up to numerous street corners and have citizens try to sell copies of the local papers to them, which are sometimes the only source of income for some of these hawkers (as we learned while doing research on the  in Tampa last month for our current story on the homeless).

But U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzara said Thursday that the city has the right to protest pedestrians and motorists, and refused to block the enactment of the law, which will take affect this Sunday.

An interesting sidelight of this issue has been at least a few members of the St. Pete business community expressing outrage at the hometown newspaper for challenging the ordinance.

Here are just a few letters that were sent to Times Publisher Paul Tash earlier this week:

Scroll to read more News Feature articles

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.