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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa City Council wants expanded parking perk

25

February

Talk about nice perks: The Tampa City Council voted Thursday to draft an ordinance to give its members free parking in any city garage, parking lot or metered space, 24/7, for any length of time.

Yvonne Yolie Capin made the motion, saying that council members attend a lot of events and meetings on city business, and finding parking can be a hassle, so it makes sense to let them park free at city facilities as they go around town.

“Just like the mayor,” she said after the meeting. “I think it’s appropriate.”

She said she considered including a time limit on the suggestion, but recalled going to events during the Bollywood Oscars that didn’t end until 2 or 3 a.m., and decided against it. Council members already have reserved 24-hour parking spaces in a lot at City Hall.

There was no immediate word on whether Mayor Bob Buckhorn would sign or veto such an ordinance, but history suggests he would not be disposed to like the idea.

In 1999, the city had a policy granting parking-ticket immunity to at least a dozen top city officials and their families on the streets of downtown Tampa and Ybor City. When city parking enforcement officers punched the tag numbers from those 20 vehicles into their hand-held computers, the message “DO NOT TICKET” popped up.

Then-Mayor Dick Greco defended the practice. Buckhorn, then on the City Council, rejected the perk, writing in a memo that he wanted his vehicle treated like anyone else’s on the street.

“It smacks of what everyone thinks of government, that we get preferential treatment over what the public gets,” he said at the time.

After the Tampa Tribune wrote about it, three more council members — Rudy Fernandez, Scott Paine and Gwen Miller — decided to ask that their vehicles be taken off the list, too.

On Thursday, the council’s vote to draft an ordinance on the measure was 5-1, with Charlie Miranda out of the room and Mike Suarez voting no.

“I understand it,” Suarez said, “because I deal with the same issues all the time, which is where do we park when we do official duties? It is a pain,” but he said he didn’t support the idea.

So Capin asked, does that mean you won’t take advantage of it?

Suarez replied that her question was like when someone once asked conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. whether he planned to give back his Social Security benefits. Buckley said he lived in a society where democracy rules, so no, and Suarez said he would say the same.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 25, 2016 1:07pm]

    

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