Tampa City Council to revisit panhandling issue

Cohen said there were five items that he'd like to be topics of discussion at that workshop. They are:

1) Have the city attorney review case law in Florida on street solicitations, specifically on how the 1st amendment plays into those laws.

2) Discuss SB1180, currently pending in the Florida Legislature and sponsored by local Republican Jack Latvala, that could affect any type of local laws regarding regulating panhandling.

3) Have the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department brief the council on their thoughts about such a law (the TPD has done so in the past, but not before the new council, which includes four new members).

4) Discuss with the Buckhorn administration about possibly using revenues from the red-light cameras that are expected to be installed at the end of the year for providing for "some kind of services" for panhandlers.

"I think that it would be helpful for us to try to be creative and think of the some of the types of services that we would be interested in either expanded or supported," Cohen said.

5) Discuss creative options for trying to assist newspaper vendors and charitable organizations in being able to continue the work they're doing.

That last measure was one that seemed to give council members pause in the past about passing such a restriction banning panhandling, as those who sell newspapers for the Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg TImes and Florida Sentinel-Bulletin came before the board on different occasions begging the council not to cut off one of their only means of financial support. That led some members, such as Yolie Capin, to argue for enforcing only a Monday-Friday ban, and allow those vendors to sell Sunday newspapers.

But former city attorney Chip Fletcher said that the city could not be selective about who would be allowed to solicit and who couldn't, and said such a measure might not survive legal scrutiny.

Council chair Charlie Miranda - who recently voted against the red-light cameras because he could not be assured that the city's take from the fines incurred by red light camera violators would go into intersection improvements - again raised that issue, in contrast to Cohen's desire for those funds to possibly go to aid panhandlers.

"I'm going to take some pictures of intersections where they say 'cameras enforced.'.....what does that mean?, " Miranda said, referring to some of the red light cameras that are already in existence in Hillsborough County. "So who sees that sign when you're going 30 miles per hour?....There's gotta be some better enhancements of traffic."

New Mayor Bob Buckhorn supports banning panhandling in Tampa.

The workshop is scheduled for June 16 at 9:00 a.m.

Harry Cohen
  • Harry Cohen

Remember the issue of panhandling in Tampa?

For months, at the end of 2010 and especially throughout the mayoral and city council campaign this winter, the story was a dominant one, with most of those running for office saying they supported a crackdown of some sort on people asking for money at street medians throughout the city.

On Thursday, City Councilman Harry Cohen, who along with two of the three other new members on the board campaigned supporting a ban, requested that the city conduct a workshop next month to discuss how to go forward on the issue.

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