Controversial median ban passes in St. Pete
ST. PETERSBURG -- The City Council approved a measure today banning solicitation in public medians. Under the ordinance, just standing in a median would be banned unless you are crossing the street.
Mayor Rick Baker and Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams urged the council to approve the measure, which will affect charities, panhandlers, political campaigns, newspaper vendors, free speech advocates and others who depend on the medians for business or personal use.
"I'm hopeful that we can keep people from going in the road," Baker said. "To me, it's a safety issue."
But opponents said the measure violates a person's civil rights and vowed to challenge it.
"We are disappointed," said Rick Pauley, vice president of the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters, which holds annual "Fill the Boot" campaigns for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. "It's going to severely limit our ability to collect donations."
The St. Petersburg Times, which hires hawkers to sell the newspaper in medians, sent representatives to the meeting to oppose the measure. The newspaper's attorney, Tom Reynolds, said the measure violates the First Amendment.
The vote was 7-1. Council member Wengay Newton cast the lone no vote.
Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer