TAMPA — A new Tampa City Council voted Thursday to take up a well-worn issue: panhandling, charity drives and roadside sales on city streets.
At the request of council member Harry Cohen, the council scheduled a workshop on the issue for June 16.
Cohen asked that the city consider using some revenue from its recently approved red-light camera ticketing program to provide services to people now engaged in panhandling.
"I think that it would be helpful for us to really try to be creative" in choosing the services, he said.
The red-light cameras are to be installed at up to 20 intersections during the coming year. Officials plan to put ticket revenue in the city's general fund, which supports police, fire and other departments.
But council Chairman Charlie Miranda has said — and repeated on Thursday — that red-light ticket revenue should pay for intersection improvements.
"It's got to be spent on where the money comes from," he said.
Another question is how much relief the homeless would need if the city restricted panhandling. Only 7 percent of homeless people reported panhandling as a source of income, according to the Homeless Coalition of Hillsborough County's new biennial homeless count.
For the first time, the survey asked the 65 percent of respondents who reported having a source of income whether they panhandled.
Cohen also said city officials should discuss "creative options" to help charities and newspaper vendors affected by city regulation on roadside solicitations. And he asked for a report on Senate Bill 1180, now pending in the Legislature.
The bill would ban aggressive panhandling such as blocking, intimidating or touching motorists, as well as yelling at or following people. It also would ban panhandlers from lying about medical conditions, military service and whether they're really homeless.
Unless they opt out, the bill would require local governments to set up a permitting system for anyone who wanted to solicit money on the street, including newspaper vendors, the poor and charities.
Times staff writer Ileana Morales contributed to this report.