Monday, June 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Arrests don't amount to a homeless strategy

The city of Tampa is poised to crack down on panhandling and the congregation of homeless people downtown when it should be engaged in a broader discussion about long-range solutions. The City Council endorsed two proposed ordinances last week that come close to criminalizing homelessness, and there should be a more thoughtful debate when council members return to the issue July 18. Any long-term solution will require a new strategy from the city for moving homeless people into safe and stable housing, not making arrests.

The proposed ordinances include a tighter ban on panhandling downtown and in Ybor City, and outlawing sleeping in city parks and other public places. Some restaurant owners have complained that aggressive panhandlers have harassed customers at sidewalk cafes. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says homeless people have taken over some downtown parks, turning them into "campgrounds" that drive away people and sully the city's image. These concerns are overblown; the police average only four complaints a day about panhandling in the downtown and Ybor City area. But there still are legitimate public health and safety issues to address, and that requires improving conditions for the homeless as much as improving the environment for anyone else.

Buckhorn should work with Hillsborough County on a far-reaching solution. While the county is legally responsible for providing social services for the homeless in Hillsborough, those on the downtown streets are for all practical purposes a city problem. Though the county is finally starting to address chronic homelessness, it has done little for thousands of people who bounce between friends, cars and motels because they lack the money or support services that would put them on course to find stable housing.

City Council member Mary Mulhern, who deserves credit for being the only one last week to vote against both proposed ordinances, correctly pointed out the courts have ruled that communities must provide some alternative to the streets if they adopt more aggressive steps to outlaw panhandling and sleeping in public places. The homeless are in Tampa's parks because there is nowhere else to go. Many shelters close during the day, forcing the homeless to take their personal belongings with them. Chased from private property, they congregate in the parks' shaded areas to escape the heat. There is nothing unusual about why homeless people go where they go. And public parks are open to everyone.

The city has not yet made a compelling case to broaden its panhandling ban to include entire zones of downtown. It has plenty of ordinances to bar aggressive solicitations, loitering, blocking the streets and sidewalks, open drinking and any other conduct "that interferes with the use and enjoyment" of the city's parks by other users.

The city has an obligation, though, to make the parks and public places accessible to all and as safe as possible. The mayor and council should search for common ground on a broader strategy that needs to pass legal muster and have a chance of working.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18