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Newly elected Tampa City Council is friendlier to panhandling ban

TAMPA — Tuesday's election may resuscitate the effort to ban panhandling.

Three new Tampa City Council members said Wednesday they support a ban.

The fourth new member, Frank Reddick, said he does not. Returning members Charlie Miranda and Yvonne Yolie Capin have consistently voted against one.

The apparent deciding vote, Mary Mulhern, was one of two members to vote for a partial ban last month. But on Wednesday, she was noncommittal.

"It really is going to depend on what's reported to us, what's proposed," she said. "My ears are always open."

The new council's split stance should bring hope to supporters of a ban. The current council delayed the issue for months, only to finally defeat a partial ban by a 5-2 vote.

New members Mike Suarez and Lisa Montelione said they would couple an all-out ban with aid for those affected, such as housing and jobs.

"This is not just a plan to hide the homeless," said Suarez, who won the District 1 citywide seat Tuesday. "It truly is about public safety and protecting those folks out there."

Harry Cohen, the new District 4 South Tampa member, said, if possible, he would push for a weekday-only ban, allowing newspaper vendors to keep their jobs.

But Frank Reddick, who will replace ban proponent Thomas Scott in District 5, vowed to fight for those on the streets.

"The way things are right now, this is giving so many people a livelihood," he said about newspaper vendors. "And I haven't see any data that this is causing any type of traffic situation or public safety situation."

Reddick instead proposed registering panhandlers to bar those with a violent criminal history.

Miranda offers a more hands-off approach.

"Panhandling can be completely eradicated in 30 days if nobody gives any money," he said. "You don't need an ordinance for that. If people don't give, they don't stay."

All street solicitation, including panhandling, newspaper sales and charity drives, is banned in unincorporated areas of Hillsborough County. It is allowed within Tampa city limits if safety requirements, such as reflector vests, are followed.

Under federal case law, either all street solicitors must be allowed, or none.

Last month, the council voted on banning solicitation on the city's busiest roads. Only Scott and Mulhern supported the ordinance.

Suarez, Cohen and Montelione do not want to restrict certain roads, saying it would simply funnel the panhandlers into neighborhoods. They also stressed that with bans in St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County, a similar ordinance here is vital.

If not, Suarez said, "We become the destination for panhandling — not only countywide, but regionwide."

A St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll in December showed 72 percent of adults in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties support the ban in St. Petersburg.

"It has been very clear while talking to people that they want a ban," said Montelione, who won the District 7 New Tampa seat Tuesday. "I have to represent what the people want; that's what they elected me to do."

Jack Nicas can be reached at (813) 226-3401 or jnicas@sptimes.com.

>> facts

Current

City Council

District 1: Gwen Miller

District 2: Mary Mulhern

District 3: Curtis Stokes

District 4: Yvonne Yolie Capin

District 5: Thomas Scott

District 6: Charlie Miranda

District 7: Joseph Caetano

Average age: 62

Gender: Four men, three women

Party: Five Democrats, one Republican, one without party affiliation

Incoming

City Council *

District 1: Mike Suarez

District 2: Mary Mulhern

District 3: Yvonne Yolie Capin

District 4: Harry Cohen

District 5: Frank Reddick

District 6: Charlie Miranda

District 7: Lisa Montelione

Average age: 53

Gender: Four men, three women

Party: Seven Democrats

* as of April 1

Newly elected Tampa City Council is friendlier to panhandling ban 03/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 11:10pm]
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