Panhandling ban just passes the buck | Jan. 21, editorial
Broader panhandling ban needed
Panhandling continues to be a challenge for not only Tampa, but also for Hillsborough County. Every day we are faced with the dangers of people soliciting drivers, causing — at the very least — distracted drivers, and in some cases, accidents that cause damage and injuries. This is first and foremost a public safety issue, and we must address it before anyone else is seriously injured or killed.
Second, because there has been such a focus on the solicitation issue, it has also brought much-needed attention to the lingering issue of homelessness in the Tampa Bay area. Homelessness has been a back-burner issue for too long now and has not received the attention it deserves, according to many homeless advocates.
Here is a thought for discussion that may help solve the panhandling issue and help the homeless with more meals, more beds and more training. Based on numbers published in the Times, if 100 panhandlers on the roads receive on average $100 per day, and solicited five days each week for 50 weeks each year, then drivers are giving, in small bills and change, an estimated $2.5 million each year. Homeless advocates tell me this would provide many more beds and meals for the area's homeless.
The Tampa City Council voted 4-3 to present a "partial ban" on street solicitation for second reading and a public hearing on Feb. 3. I voted against this because I believe the city should delay action until a county task force requested by Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, which I sit on, completes its study on a countywide ban. I also believe that a ban should include collector roads, which the current ordinance does not.
I continue to receive many calls and e-mails from citizens concerned about this issue, and I remain committed to it. But in the meantime, panhandling continues to plague our city streets, and it remains a serious public safety issue for those soliciting and those using the roadways.
Joseph P. Caetano, Tampa City Council, District 7
Term limits drawing fire | Jan. 18
Term limits no solution
Bipartisan bills sponsored by Rep. Rick Kriseman and Sen. Mike Bennett to lengthen the elected terms of state House and Senate members by two years in each chamber should be rejected.
It's the purest product of the legislative incumbent mind-set imaginable.
Kriseman frames the issue as relief from constant fundraising and the assertion it takes many years to acquire the competency to legislate effectively. It also loosens the term limit restriction, but the real issue here is the longer terms.
Money-centered politics is an issue worthy of consideration by Florida voters, but voters would lose far more than they would gain.
Constant fundraising has little to do with the length of legislators' terms and almost everything to do with its power to determine outcomes of elections. To reduce the power of the money chase, the incentive of voters to vote and the determinative power of a single vote must increase. The current electoral arrangement discourages participation as there are too few viable choices.
The solution: instant runoff voting for senators and multimember districts for House members, and pick a few by random lot from a pool of volunteers.
The idea that it takes years of service in the Legislature to be effective is the big lie. Candidates for the Legislature who cannot honestly tell voters they are ready right now to govern and handle the lobbyists need to stay off the ballot.
Lawrence Allred, Seminole
Term limits a mistake
The Legislature could go a long way in making its case for extending term limits. I voted for term limits but quickly discovered this was probably a big mistake. From the moment they get in office, those elected are lobbying for their next job, be it with a special interest or as a lobbyist. This just furthers our distrust.
First, they could close the loophole on what is called the speech or debate issue, which protected many from being prosecuted. I know these are related to federal issues but wonder how the impact of this protects state legislators. They could also gain trust by enacting legislation that would give the ethics commission the authority to initiate investigations. I often wonder why we even have such a commission if it cannot act on violations or investigate without a complaint first being filed by a citizen. Even if it finds merit with a complaint, it has no authority to act.
The Legislature would also gain trust by supporting Amendments 5 and 6 on fair districts and agree not to take this matter to the courts. I and many others will be watching to see what this Legislature does in order to change our minds on term limits. It is up to them to demonstrate they are deserving.
Diane M. Drake, Tampa
Banks, homeowners associations
Make banks pay
Several months ago you ran a story about the deadbeat neighbor — the unit owner who did not pay the homeowners association fees and continues to let others carry the load. It is time to do a story about the deadbeat banks that have the same impact on the homeowners associations. Deadbeat banks take over a unit through foreclosure. Then they fail to pay the homeowners association the money it is due, requiring extensive legal fees. So they fall under the title deadbeat neighbor, and the owners who play by the rules have to continue to cover their cost.
The Legislature should take action and force the banks to pay on time and provide for interest fees on their late payments. The problem, as it has been for years, is to get the lawmakers to go after the guys who contribute to them. Perhaps it is time for the lawmakers to start to serve the people they work for and protect us.
Richard A. Prestera, Treasure Island
Another Shriver success
To the list of achievements of Sargent Shriver, I would like to add that through the Kennedy Institute, Shriver sponsored a pioneering national Jewish, Christian and Muslim dialogue — or as we called it, trialogue — at Georgetown University, which I coordinated in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The trialogue brought together leading scholars from the three Abrahamic traditions. It met twice yearly for three days, exchanging papers on our respective views of our interwoven histories and moral and theological understandings of common themes and issues. Papers were presented and discussed in an open way, leading not only to a better understanding of the teachings of the other, but often of our own traditions as well.
This pioneering effort established the methodology and ground rules for the many such efforts that have followed, especially after 9/11, when such Abrahamic encounters in this country became more central to the concerns, not just of visionary peacemakers such as Shriver, but of universities, churches, synagogues and mosques around the country.
Eugene J. Fisher, Lecanto