TAMPA — A new City Council is preparing to wade into the panhandling debate for the first time, but — as before — members still have differing opinions about what to do.
Chairman Charlie Miranda continues to push for a six-day ban that would allow charities and newspaper hawkers to solicit at intersections on Sunday mornings. Proponents of this plan, which has been tentatively approved in Pasco County, say lighter traffic makes it safer.
"I don't want to hinder anybody that's making enough money to put food on the table," Miranda said.
Since the seven-person City Council rejected a partial ban in February, four new members have joined the board. Thursday's 9 a.m. workshop will be their first time tackling the issue.
Yvonne Yolie Capin couldn't find much support for a proposed five-day panhandling ban under the old council, but she plans to bring it up again.
"I campaigned and made very clear my position that (I would support) a five-day week ban with Saturday and Sunday solicitation because charities and sandwich-board people usually work on weekends," she said.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and council members Lisa Montelione and Mike Suarez all campaigned in support of a full panhandling ban.
Buckhorn said he didn't think there was enough support for that, so he would accept a Sunday-morning exception.
"If that can get me four votes, I would call that a victory," he said.
Frank Reddick replaced Thomas Scott, one of the council's most vocal opponents of a panhandling ban. Reddick, too, said he would not support a full ban.
The council will also discuss whether some revenue raised from red-light camera tickets should be earmarked for programs for people caught illegally panhandling, an idea floated by council member Harry Cohen.
Miranda and Reddick said they don't like that option, and that the money should be used only to make intersections safer.
"Homeless people are not driving automobiles, and homeless people are not running red lights," Reddick said.
The issues of panhandling and homelessness need a long-term approach, Buckhorn said.
"Our approach to homelessness has to be more strategic or tactical than that," he said. "Merely throwing money is not a solution."
Tia Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405. Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3373.