Sunday, August 19, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa panhandling ban in downtown and Ybor City ruled unconstitutional

TAMPA — A Tampa law that banned panhandlers from begging for money downtown and in Ybor City is an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment, according to a new ruling from a federal judge.

This means Tampa is blocked from enforcing the ordinance, which was passed in 2013.

It doesn't mean that anything goes on the streets of Tampa. A separate ban on aggressive panhandling — such as acting in a threatening way, continuing to demand money after someone says no or blocking someone's path — remains in effect.

City Attorney Julia Mandell said Monday that her staff is analyzing the ruling that U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday signed Friday and has not decided whether to appeal.

Homeless Helping Homeless, the charity that sued the city over its ordinance, welcomed the ruling, but does not plan to resume soliciting donations in downtown and Ybor City immediately.

"We're glad that we were vindicated," Homeless Helping Homeless president Adolphus Parker said, but "it's not something to really gloat about."

Parker said the organization is working to create a fundraising strategy that does not rely on soliciting donations in the areas affected by the lawsuit, but if it can't do that, it may have no choice.

The nonprofit group sued the city in May 2015 over two ordinances that it said threatened to force it out of business.

One, passed in 2011, outlawed begging on city streets every day but Sunday while allowing newspaper vendors to work the curb seven days a week.

The second, passed in 2013, banned panhandling in downtown and Ybor City, as well as near banks, ATMs, sidewalk cafes and bus or trolley stops. It was aimed at behaviors that might make people feel vulnerable or unable to walk away from someone asking for money. It did not apply to solicitations that merely involve holding a sign.

Together, according to Homeless Helping Homeless' lawsuit, the laws restricted speech based on its content and made exceptions for some kinds of speech but not others.

"They think they have just as much a right to be out there engaging in protected speech as someone soliciting for signatures on a petition," said Brian T. Burgess, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., office of the Goodwin Procter law firm, which has represented Homeless Helping Homeless for free, but now may seek to have City Hall cover its legal fees.

Founded by Parker in 2009, Homeless Helping Homeless raised $26,000 by soliciting in downtown and Ybor City in 2013. That amounted to about one-eighth of the group's annual cash donations, Parker said.

The nonprofit feeds about 3,000 people a month, has 24 shelter beds in three facilities and provides 16 different services to the homeless.

In response to the lawsuit, the City Council repealed the ban on soliciting in the right of way as well as the exemption allowing newspaper vendors to work the streets seven days a week. (Even with the repeal, officials said Tampa remained subject to a Hillsborough County ordinance that bans standing on or within 4 feet of a public road to advertise, ask for money or distribute materials to motorists.)

Tampa officials thought they had a better chance of defending the ordinance focused on downtown and Ybor City.

Still, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in June 2015, "It's a hard case to defend when you've carved out certain forms of speech and excluded others."

And that — the fact that the ordinance banned one kind of communication because of its content — was its downfall.

Merryday wrote in his order that a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case pitting a tiny church against a town in Arizona left him little choice in the Tampa case.

"In other words," he wrote, "an opinion that resolves a dispute about parishioners temporarily planting some small signs directing people to a church service is written in such sweeping terms that the opinion appears to govern a dispute about an ordinance that regulates face-to-face demands for money from casual passers-by."

If not for that Supreme Court ruling in Reed vs. Town of Gilbert, Merryday said in his opinion, "I would uphold the city's ordinance."

Merryday called the Tampa law "a constructive and demonstrably benign legislative attempt to manage fairly and humanely a tangible and persistent problem in a manner narrowly and artfully tailored to fit the compelling facts in the affected community."

Contact Richard Danielson at (813) 226-3403 or [email protected] Follow @Danielson_Times

Comments
County Road 54 at Berry Road in Zephyrhills closed due to a crash

County Road 54 at Berry Road in Zephyrhills closed due to a crash

Pasco County Fire Rescue is on scene of what they are calling a "serious crash" at County Road 54 and Berry Road in Zephyrhills.Multiple patients are involved and County Road 54 is closed down in both directions. Motorists are asked to avoid the area...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Jalen Beeks shines for Rays in winning return to Boston

Jalen Beeks shines for Rays in winning return to Boston

BOSTON — Jalen Beeks called it a complicated question.Then he gave a convoluted answer.Just what, he was asked after leading the Rays to a 2-0 win Sunday over the Red Sox, did it mean to come back to Fenway Park for the first time and beat...
Updated: 1 hour ago
North Carolina fugitives, charged with shooting at cops, found and arrested in Treasure Island

North Carolina fugitives, charged with shooting at cops, found and arrested in Treasure Island

TREASURE ISLAND — Two men on the run from law enforcement in North Carolina were found hiding in Treasure Island — armed with an AR-15, a machete and a pipe bomb, deputies said — leading to a standoff with a SWAT team that ended early Sunday morning....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa holds a birthday vigil for Lillia Raubenolt, the young girl killed on Bayshore

Tampa holds a birthday vigil for Lillia Raubenolt, the young girl killed on Bayshore

Somewhere Over the Rainbow was the first song Lillia Raubenolt’s parents sang to her as a newborn, according to her uncle, John Reisinger."They were just so happy when she was born," he said.But on May 23, while the family was visiting Tampa from Ohi...
Updated: 2 hours ago
She would be 2 today

She would be 2 today

CreditLillia Raubenolt would have had her second birthday today. On May 23, while the family was visiting Tampa from Ohio, Lillia and her mother, Jessica Raubenolt, were struck and killed by a car as they legally crossed the road at the corner of Bay...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Man in Spring Hill airlifted to hospital with severe electrical burns

Man in Spring Hill airlifted to hospital with severe electrical burns

A man has been airlifted to a local hospital after suffering severe electrical burns while trimming trees in Spring Hill.In a release, Pasco County Fire Rescue said the man was working on a lift and was airborne in the 18000 Block of Skinner Dr. in S...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays finish trip with 2-0 shutout of Red Sox

Rays finish trip with 2-0 shutout of Red Sox

BOSTON – The Rays always seem to find a way to make things interesting.Sunday, they did so by shutting down and shutting out the majors-best Red Sox in a 2-0 matinee win to cap a winning three-city road trip.Five Rays pitchers combined to blank...
Updated: 3 hours ago
After #MeToo, Kevin Spacey movie ‘Billionaire Boys Club’ earns $126 on opening day

After #MeToo, Kevin Spacey movie ‘Billionaire Boys Club’ earns $126 on opening day

Sometime over the weekend, a moviegoer at the Deer Valley Cinema in Antioch, California, forked over $9 to sit in an otherwise empty theater - unwittingly becoming a solitary, popcorn-chomping symbol of just how forcefully the .MeToo movement has roc...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Clearwater police: Truck flips on U.S. 19, killing 40-year-old driver

Clearwater police: Truck flips on U.S. 19, killing 40-year-old driver

CLEARWATER — A 40-year-old man died after flipping his truck on U.S. 19 early Sunday morning, police reported.About 3:02 a.m., Michael Bellavia, 40, of Clearwater, was heading northbound on the highway, exiting at NE Coachman Road, according to the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
DeCalon Brooks ready to make a name for himself at Florida State

DeCalon Brooks ready to make a name for himself at Florida State

TALLAHASSEE — DeCalon Brooks doesn't only want to be known as Derrick Brooks' son.Yes, he plays the same position (linebacker) at the same school (Florida State) where his Hall of Fame father won a national title before becoming a Bucs leg...
Updated: 6 hours ago