Pasco County Attorney says Commission wanted a way to have a panhandling ban that would make exception for newspaper hawkers

As in Tampa, attorneys for newspapers - in this case, Tampa Tribune lawyer Jim Lake - had argued that a panhandling exception should be made on Sundays so that hawkers could freely sell newspapers at street medians.


In Tampa, there are dozens, if not over a hundred people who sell copies of the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times at medians all throughout the city limits on Sundays. At one city council meeting held earlier this year, those hawkers flooded city hall and told council members that if they were to pass a panhandling ban, they would be hurting more people who were just trying to make some extra money on the weekends.


The majority of the council sympathized with them, and never supported a complete ban. At one time, council member Yolie Capin offered a motion to enforce a ban Monday thru Friday, and allow people to solicit on weekends. But Chip Fletcher, the former City Attorney, balked, saying that creating such an exception to the ban would not be legal on first amendment grounds.


But as opposed to council members in Tampa, when Pasco Commissioners heard a similar argument from their attorneys, they didn't take that as the final answer. According to Wooden, they asked if there was data that could prove that Sundays were safer than the other days of the week to solicit. So she says data from the Department of Transportation for arterial roads in the county was collected, and then a traffic engineer from the county's MPO took that data, who "felt it could be extrapolated to collector roads," and found that the traffic volume was significantly lower on Sundays. He also looked at pedestrian data as well and found it was also lower on Sundays. The determination was made then that Sundays were safer and there were fewer traffic delays.


Pasco County Assistant attorney Kristi Wooden now says that her office's recommendation was that the relaxation of a ban on Sundays is "the most legally defensible."


The Pasco ordinance also states that anyone soliciting money on the roadside must be at least 18 and must carry a state-issued photo identification and wear a high-visibility vest (as such solicitors are required to do in Tampa currently).


The issue goes back before the Pasco Commission on July 26 at the West Pasco Government Center in New Port Richey.


The Tampa City Council will hold a workshop on panhandling and the homeless situation next Thursday, June 16.

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As the economy continues to flounder, panhandling continues to be an issue in the Tampa Bay area.

Officials in Pasco County say there has been a noticeable influx of those soliciting for money on city streets since the winter of 2009, and on Tuesday, the Pasco County Commission gave preliminary approval to an ordinance banning panhandlers and newspaper hawkers from the county's roadways and intersections, except on Sundays.

Such a compromise has been proposed in Tampa in recent months, but rejected because by (now former) city attorney Chip Fletcher because he said it showed favoritism to a certain class of people, whereas such a ban had to be uniform.

But an attorney with Pasco County - Kristi Wooden - tells CL that after she offered the same legal advice initially to Pasco Commissioners, her office was told to dig harder to find a way to accommodate such solicitors in a way that would withstand a legal challenge.

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