Tampa neighborhood group seeks referendum on panhandling ban
TAMPA -- A prominent Tampa neighborhood leader has made good on his promise to launch a petition drive asking voters to ban roadway panhandling in the city.
Now Spencer Kass and his supporters have less than three weeks to round up the signatures needed to schedule a referendum.
Kass, president of the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association in South Tampa, told local officials last month that citizens would act if government did not.
On Friday, the petitions went online and out in e-mails to Tampa civic and business groups.
"City Council refuses to act" despite the evidence of the public safety hazards caused by panhandling, Kass said. "It's a danger not only to the people who are out there but to the drivers as well, and it needs to end."
Petition organizers have only until Dec. 26 to gather 18,000 original signatures -- no e-mails, no photocopies and no faxes -- to schedule a referendum for the city's March 1 election.
The ordinance that Tampa voters would consider is similar to one adopted in June by St. Petersburg, where officials banned panhandling, newspaper sales and charity solicitations on the city's major roads.
This fall, Tampa Homeowners, an Association of Neighborhoods, an umbrella group representing 40 community associations, voted almost unanimously to support a ban.
The county already has an ordinance prohibiting roadway solicitations in unincorporated areas, but it is not always enforced. Tampa City Council members so far have declined to adopt a ban.
To schedule the referendum, organizers need signatures from registered Tampa voters equal to at least 10 percent of the people registered to vote in the 2007 city election. That's nearly 18,000 signatures
In his e-mail, Kass said signing the petition is not a vote for or against the ban, but merely asks that the issue be placed on the ballot so that Tampa voters can "decide how their streets should be used."
Copies of the petition and directions for completing it and submitting it can be found at the bottom of the Virgina Park Neighborhood Association web site, http://vapark.ning.com.