Tampa City Council a step closer to enacting partial panhandling ban (really)

The ban prohibits panhandling six days a week, excluding Sundays. Newspaper vendors and labor unions that use roads to protest and hand out leaflets would be exempt. Also exempt would be the city's top 10 dangerous intersections.

Shortly after the council's decision, Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a statement, saying "I am pleased that Tampa City Council has come to a consensus and is adopting a panhandling ordinance. I am confident that the majority of the Council will ultimately do what is best for our community and I look forward to a day when our medians are panhandler free."

The irony about Miranda coming out of his sick bed to cast the deciding vote is that in fact, it wasn't the deciding vote.

Both Capin and Frank Reddick, who voted along with Mulhern two weeks ago against the partial ban, said that discussions in the past couple of weeks with members of the Tampa Tribune and the Florida Sentinel Bulletin had satisfied their concerns that those papers would be able to continue to sell newspapers on street corners.

Before voting in support of the motion today, Capin once again mentioned how the city's legal staff and members of its administration had rejected her earlier attempt at a partial ban, which would have been a five day ban, allowing for panhandling to continue on the weekends. One difference was that the city's legal personnel has changed, with former City Attorney Chip Fletcher being replaced after the election of Bob Buckhorn with Jim Shimberg.

Fletcher had maintained that there could be no exceptions in the panhandling ban (i.e., for newspaper hawkers). But after Pasco County passed a ban earlier this summer that carved out an exception for newspapers, the city's legal staff began looking at the issue in a different light.

In her dissent, Mary Mulhern chastised the Buckhorn administration for not working with the council on crafting an ordinance, and she directly criticized the city's legal staff, saying that they had not consulted with her about dealing with Miranda attempting to vote via the telephone.

The issue has been a big one in the city over the last year, and it dominated the debates during the mayoral and city council elections this past winter. At that time, with 33 candidates on the ballot, only two who were running had ever said they were against any type of ban: Frank Reddick and Charlie Miranda.

At the council today there were those who spoke once again for and against the proposal, with the most fiery comments coming from Bishop Chuck Leigh, a member of the Apostolic Catholic Church, who considered the ban to be "the criminalization of poverty."

"Begging is a right of human beings, expressed in scripture and in the tradition of the early church," he told the council. "This is an immoral action," adding that having the council even discussing the matter put into question their integrity. He said if the ban goes through, he would be begging in the streets. "We've got to stand with people are being really persecuted," adding that the move had nothing to do with public safety, and more with how the "corporate and political interests view this city."

Charlie Miranda takes over
  • Charlie Miranda takes over

You didn't really think the Tampa City Council would come to a smooth conclusion about their year long debate about panhandling today, did you?

It wasn't smooth, and it took a dramatic appearance by ailing Council Chair Charlie Miranda to show up in person (or maybe it didn't), but the Council today took the first concrete step towards enacting a partial ban on panhandling this morning in Tampa, voting 6-1 for a hybrid measure, with Councilwoman Mary Mulhern the only dissenting vote. A second and (presumably) final vote will take place on October 20.

After the Council deadlocked at 3-3 two weeks ago on the latest measure, Miranda, who has been out due to illness for several months, contacted the board and told the media that he would vote by telephone at the next meeting, which was today, to break the latest deadlock, saying that the issue had gone on too long.

But the council debated for nearly 45 minutes this morning with Acting Chair Mary Mulhern saying that according to the latest edition of Roberts Rules of Order, because the Council currently did not have a rule in place on allowing such a procedure, she was going to block Miranda from calling in and voting.

But as council members then discussed whether they wanted to possibly overrule Mulhern, City Attorney Jim Shimberg then dramatically announced that Miranda, doing a sort of Willis Reed coming off the bench for the NY Knicks circa 1970, would be physically coming to City Hall to cast his vote (later Councilman Mike Suarez invoked baseball players Kirk Gibson and Curt Schilling as a metaphor for coming off the bench).


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