Mitch Perry Report 4.3.12: Latvala questions HART, and the stunning death of a South Tampa activist

Homelessness first exploded in the U.S. nearly 25 years ago, hitting the big cities like New York and San Francisco hardest. Those cities also became the first in the country to create "Street Newspapers," publications that focused on the issues surrounding homelessness and poverty and sold by homeless people.

Although homelessness had been somewhat of a peripheral concern in Tampa, the issue exploded in this community in the past couple of years, leading to a year-long, agonizing debate among members of the Tampa City Council and an ordinance last fall that created a partial ban on panhandling, with an exemption for newspaper hawkers.

Into that void came Bill Sharpe, the publisher of the South Tampa Community News and a man who had already lived a full and diverse life. Sharpe's Tampa Epoch had only been on the streets since November, and whether it survives his stunning death yesterday remains uncertain at this time.

We didn't know Bill Sharpe really well, but got to know him in the profile we ran about him and his paper in January. We used to see him early every Saturday morning — as recently as four days ago — as we ran down Tampa Street and past the Army Navy Surplus store, where he and his assistant gathered every day at 7 a.m. to distribute papers for his vendors.

In other news yesterday, Hillsborough County's transit agency (HART) approved sending a resolution to Governor Rick Scott asking him to veto a bill sponsored by Pinellas County's Jack Latvala that would require them and Pinellas' transit agency to spend $100,000 on a study about the ramifications of merging the two groups. When contacted, Senator Latvala questioned why there's so much paranoia about a study that he says could save local taxpayers millions of dollars.

And out in the other Bay Area — Oakland, to be specific — a crazed man with a gun shot and killed seven people at a Christian college. Speaking of guns, Bill Clinton spoke out yesterday regarding Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which, whether it had anything to do with the Trayvon Martin death, will continue to be discussed and ultimately reviewed by a state task force.