Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

Tampa acts to repeal part of panhandling ban

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — The City Council took the first step Thursday toward repealing part of its controversial bans on panhanding.

Council members voted 6-1 to repeal the city's ban on soliciting in the right of way and an accompanying exemption that allowed newspaper vendors to work the streets seven days a week. A second and final vote will take place July 16.

Chairman Frank Reddick cast the sole vote against repeal.

"We've got young folks out there starving trying to make ends meet, and some of them work the side of those road selling newspapers," he said after the meeting. "I just don't feel that these people should be denied an opportunity to earn a living."

But while the city capitulated on this part of the ordinance, the move suggests that officials will fight to preserve the rest of its panhandling ban.

Both parts of the law have been challenged in federal court by the nonprofit group Homeless Helping Homeless. The charity contends the city's bans are unconstitutional, overly broad, target certain types of speech based on its content and treat different groups differently.

The law was passed in 2011, but more precedent-setting First Amendment cases have come out since 2013 than in the previous decade, City Attorney Julia Mandell said.

But homeless activist Derek Chamblee contended that the bans are unconstitutional and constitute "economic profiling against the poor and the homeless."

The council scheduled the vote two weeks ago after meeting with the city's attorney in a closed session to discuss legal strategy, the costs of litigation and the prospect of settling some or all of the case. Several suggested repeal was not an idea they like.

"What we are doing here today is an attempt to save the city and the citizens their taxpayer dollars," said council member Yvonne Yolie Capin.

"Litigation is an iffy proposition a lot of times," council member Mike Suarez said. "I think this is about the only thing we can do at this point."

Before the meeting, Mayor Bob Buckhorn agreed.

"Obviously, our attorneys are concerned that we're on shaky legal ground," he said.

Buckhorn said he thinks the risk goes to the city's prohibition on panhandling from the median and the exemption that allows newspaper hawkers to make roadside sales seven days a week.

A second ban that covers panhandling in downtown and Ybor City has also been challenged in court by Homeless Helping Homeless, but the mayor said he believes the city's position there is stronger.

"The vast majority of this community does not like the panhandling in the medians and is ready for it to go ... but it's a hard case to defend when you've carved out certain forms of speech and excluded others," Buckhorn said.

Tampa officials note that even if they repeal their roadside solicitation bans, a similar Hillsborough County ban would still be in place, and it applies inside the city.

"This does not mean that people are allowed to solicit within the right of way," Suarez said. "The county ordinance is very clear."

Officials from the city and Homeless Helping Homeless are scheduled to meet at a mediation conference Friday.

In unrelated business, the council also:

• Scheduled a public hearing for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 27 on whether to raise Tampa's annual storm water fee for property owners.

The fee is now $36 for the owner of a medium-sized home, but could rise to $180 a year. City officials say the additional funds could pay for a $250 million program of drainage improvements and better pond and ditch maintenance. The fee has not gone up since 2005.

• Was told it does not have standing to file a federal civil rights complaint in an attempt to block a controversial Interstate 275 express lanes project.

Such challenges, senior assistant city attorney Sal Territo said, can only be filed by individuals, not cities.

Council members said they planned to pursue other ways to be involved in reviewing plans for the project, which would add tolled express lanes to I-275 and rebuild the interstate's interchanges to downtown and at State Road 60 near West Shore.

Times staff writer Steve Contorno contributed to this report.

Comments

Motorcyclist, 27, dies in crash with taxi cab in Largo

LARGO — A motorcyclist died after crashing into a taxi cab Thursday morning, police reported.Sydney Pender, 27, was riding a 2012 Yamaha motorcycle southbound on 66th Street about 10:30, according to a Largo Police Department release.At the same time...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

Update: Mother, toddler hit by car in critical condition at TGH

TAMPA — A mother and one of her two small children who were hit by a car while trying to cross Dale Mabry Highway on Wednesday were still in the hospital on Thanksgiving, according to Tampa General Hospital.Cassandra Marie Spicola, 29, and 18-month-o...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco County put under immediate tornado warning

The National Weather Service has put out a tornado warning for Pasco County. Thunderstorms capable of producing a tornado and strong winds are expected over Jasmine Estates, New Port Richey and Hudson until 1:15 p.m., according to the NWS warning. Ba...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

Thanksgiving forecast: Rain today, but sunny skies this weekend

It’s going to be a wet Thanksgiving across Tampa Bay, but sunny skies are coming during the long weekend, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

Self-proclaimed Nazi banned from University of North Florida — but allowed to remain a student

A self-proclaimed Nazi is banned from the University of North Florida’s campus — but will remain a student, university officials said.Ken Parker, a 37-year-old Navy veteran who once served as the grand dragon, or highest-ranking leader, of the Ku Klu...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 6 hours ago
President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

President Trump presents his report card, passes with flying colors

PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump has a Thanksgiving Day message for the nation: Look at all I’ve done. Trump is telling followers in an early-morning holiday tweet that, "your Country is starting to do really well." He says: Jobs are "coming back,...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lutz pedestrian dies in accident on U.S. 41

LUTZ — A man is dead after deputies said he walked into the path of a car on U.S. Route 41 Wednesday night.Charles Miller, 69 of Lutz, was walking east across the highway at 7:34 p.m., according to Florida Highway Patrol.Daniel Johnson, 35 and also o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

Tarpon Springs seeking to honor sponger George Billiris

TARPON SPRINGS — The city is considering a way to honor the legacy of the late longtime sponge merchant George Billiris at a city building. "We know how he promoted Tarpon Springs," Commissioner David Banther said at a recent City Commission meeting....
Published: 11/23/17
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17