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Council bans drinking on city streets

Joan Lindsey is sick of finding broken glass bottles along her Harbordale neighborhood streets.

She's tired of watching people stroll down her road, swigging from brown paper sacks and pausing every so often to urinate.

And she's fearful about the example the neighborhood children are picking up as they watch those scenes unfold day after day.

Lindsey's concerns may have been answered Thursday when the city banned drinking alcohol and carrying open or unsealed containers of alcohol on city streets.

"This is vital to the neighborhoods that we're trying to take back," Mayor David Fischer said. Fischer pressed City Council members to approve the ban as another method for revitalizing the city's decaying, older sections.

City Council unanimously approved the ban and also adopted an ordinance that toughens requirements for people selling buildings in the city _ yet another tool, Fischer said, in fixing up the neighborhoods.

The rule guarantees the buyer of a home that its seller will reveal any pending code violations on the house. In addition, the seller of multifamily buildings in some areas of the city will be required to get inspections _ and receive a passing grade _ before a buyer can move in.

The rule goes into effect Aug. 23.

The alcohol ordinance is effective immediately, city lawyers said.

It means police can cite a person for standing on a St. Petersburg street, right of way or sidewalk, sipping from a can of beer, or carrying it or liquor in an open or unsealed bottle or cup.

It does not mean people carrying mugs of coffee or cups of soda likely will be stopped and checked, city officials said.

Police officers will gather clues from a person's odor, behavior and other conditions before pursuing a possible violation, Chief Assistant City Attorney John Wolfe said. "There just aren't enough officers to check every cup on the streets of St. Petersburg," he said.

Council members were satisfied that the law does not go too far. "Taking this step is certainly not an infringement on someone's freedom," council member Paul Yingst said.

Still allowed, too, are drinking on private property, at sidewalk cafes and during city-approved special events and block parties.

People also can carry an unsealed, but re-lidded, container of alcohol "inside another container having a mechanical enclosure."

A cooler, Wolfe said, would qualify. A paper bag would not.

Like most of the dozen speakers at a public hearing on the issue Thursday, Council of Neighborhood Association President John Clarke praised the ban.

"Where there are drugs, there's alcohol. Where there's prostitution, there's alcohol," Clarke said. "It's a dirty business and it doesn't belong in our neighborhoods."

Armanda Lampley agreed. She doesn't want wandering drinkers strolling her Childs Park street any longer. The strollers' audience disturbs her most.