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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ban panhandling? Count us in, some Tampa council candidates say



TAMPA – The Tampa City Council so far has declined to ban panhandling in the city, but most of the 11 council candidates at a Tampa Bay Young Republicans candidate forum Tuesday night sounded ready to embrace a ban.

It’s a public safety issue, said Guido Maniscalco, who is running for the at-large District 1 seat. The panhandler may not be insured, but you are. If he steps in front of your car, you could be looking at a personal-injury lawsuit, he said.

Panhandling is dangerous, said Seth Nelson, a candidate for the citywide District 3 seat, but it's not a one-dimensional issue. Nelson noted that has the economy has deteriorated and the city's budget has tightened, the city has cut back on support for nonprofit organizations that help the down and out.

Joseph Citro, who is running for South Tampa’s District 4 seat, said the city should adopt the same ordinance as St. Petersburg “and end it.”

St. Petersburg’s rules, adopted after protests about public begging from neighborhood and business owners, prohibit any transaction between pedestrians and motorists on the city's busiest streets.

Tony DeSisto, also running in District 4, said that not only should the city ban asking for cash, but it should prohibit drivers from handing out money from their car windows. Attacking the issue from the supply side would help solve the problem, he said.

Several candidates did not take a stand in favor of a ban. One, Ybor City businessman Carrie West, a candidate in East Tampa’s District 5, did not stake out a position in response to a question from the club on the issue.

Fellow District 5 candidate Herold Lord said he did not favor an outright ban. People are on the street -- some selling newspapers or water -- because of the bad economy, he said. “The issue is jobs,” said Lord, who said he supports a greater city emphasis on job creation.

District 1 candidate Christopher Cano suggested the city had more important things to do than ban panhandling. “I don’t want to waste more of your tax dollars by locking up poor people,” he said.

Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer


[Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 4:34pm]


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