Tampa City Council again declines to act on neighborhood pleas for panhandling ban
TAMPA — For a third time since the fall, Tampa City Council members Thursday declined to support a St. Petersburg-style ban on panhandling on city streets.
Virginia Park Neighborhood Association president Spencer Kass led a petition drive last month to gather the 18,000 signatures needed to place a proposed ban on the ballot, but the effort came up short.
On Thursday, Kass brought in the 500-plus petitions that his group did manage to gather and again appealed to council members to put the matter on the ballot themselves. As they did in December, council members declined, saying they are working on their own proposals to restrict panhandling on major city streets.
Council member Charlie Miranda said supporters of a panhandling ban are not proposing solutions to the problems of unemployment and homelessness underlying the proliferation of panhandlers.
“There has to be some solution brought here other than “let’s get rid of them,’’ Miranda said.
City Attorney Chip Fletcher said city officials are looking into two possible approaches to restricting panhandling. One would focus on restricting solicitations on larger streets, based on factors such as traffic volume, speed limits and the design of the roads.
The other would look at traffic data with an eye on restricting panhandling on days when there are the most cars and trucks on the roads.
Several council members, including Joseph Caetano and Mary Mulhern, suggested the city needs to look into ways to help people who are forced to panhandle, perhaps by providing more housing for the homeless.
Council chairman Thomas Scott noted that the City Council has passed regulations that prohibit panhandlers from being in the street when traffic is moving.
“To say that council hasn’t done anything is absolutely false,’’ Scott said.
In October, council members opted not to pass a panhandling ban requested by neighborhoods and supported by police and Mayor Pam Iorio.