Council voted 5-2 to change a longstanding ordinance that makes it a crime to skate in certain parts of Tampa, and to instead give skateboarders warnings. Councilman Orlando Gudes and Charlie Miranda voted against changing the criminal charge to a warning.
But city legal staff still has to work on the change and bring it back before council.
For years, the existing Tampa ordinance has made skating on any sidewalks in the Downtown Central Business District and several Ybor City sidewalks illegal, along with skating on any city street road or roadway (including bike lanes).
If Tampa Police Department officers chose to, they could stop skaters and make them appear in county court for a misdemeanor violation, but it rarely happens.
At a July Tampa City Council meeting, Assistant City Attorney Mike Schmid presented an amendment to the ordinance. But the problem for city council was, the city still wanted Tampa police to be able to charge skaters $75 on the spot for skating in areas that are banned. Schmid argued that this technically reduced the crime to just a fine.
At today's meeting, Schmid brought the matter back before council, and once again, most were opposed to fines for skaters. Councilman Guido Maniscalco suggested that skateboarding shouldn't be criminalized at all, and that if TPD encounters skaters who are being disruptive in restricted areas, officers should just tell them to move on and give them a warning.
"If there's property damage, then that's a separate thing," Maniscalco said.
If TPD caught skaters damaging city property, they would have the choice to charge them with criminal mischief, multiple city council members pointed out.
Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak worried that the city ordinance unfairly targets skateboarders, and said she wouldn't support any kind of fines.
"Do we have these laws on the books for scooters? Do we have them for bicyclists?" Hurtak asked Schmid. "Because it sounds like we're just singling out skaters here."
Schmid responded that there are $30 fines for those types of transportation if riders are disrupting the public, but that those fines are issued under state law, not city ordinance.
Before the vote, councilman Orlando Gudes spoke up against the decriminalization of skateboarding and suggested starting with a warning, followed by smaller fines of $10 or $12.
"Not having any consequences, I can't support that," Gudes said.