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City bans paper vendors, charity solicitors from streets, medians

Charitable solicitors and newspaper vendors are both banned from Largo streets and medians.

An initial proposal included an exception that let nonprofits solicit from medians. But city attorneys foresaw legal challenges, and omitted that exception.

Last week, by a 5-1 vote, city leaders approved the legislation, which treats both charitable solicitors and newspaper vendors the same way.

Charities and newspaper vendors will be able to operate from city sidewalks. But vendors who hawk various goods would be prohibited from selling items from both roadways and sidewalks.

The Supreme Court views newspaper vendors differently from other vendors because of the First Amendment, City Attorney Alan Zimmet said. Newspapers are considered "pure speech" and have "noncommercial" protection, he said.

Commissioner Mary Gray Black opposed the ordinance, saying it gave special treatment to newspaper vendors.

The legislation seems to say "some can have commercial activities called noncommercial activities," she said.

Firefighters have traditionally held boot drives on roadways to raise money for charity. Largo's professional fire union has raised money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that way.

A state law allows nonprofits that follow certain guidelines to solicit from public roads.

But a November 2007 Florida Attorney General opinion found that the law does not have precedence over local legislation that prohibits all solicitation in public streets.

The new ban is disappointing, said Largo fire union secretary/treasurer William Murphy. But the union will work with the city.

"We have pledged to work to find a cure for muscular dystrophy,"

City bans paper vendors, charity solicitors from streets, medians 11/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 10, 2008 1:11pm]

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