TAMPA — Less than a week after seven volunteers were arrested while trying to feed the homeless in a downtown park, the City Council voted Thursday to explore amending the ordinance that requires groups like Tampa Food Not Bombs to pull city permits and have liability insurance.
"We're a compassionate city," said council member Guido Maniscalco, who asked for a Feb. 23 workshop on possible changes to allow occasional small-scale food distribution. "This would give us the opportunity to take that one step further and show that."
Council members noted that St. Petersburg allows Food Not Bombs to distribute in a downtown park once a week without a permit. Yvonne Yolie Capin said the city also should look at Miami, which she said regularly allows groups to feed the needy.
Members of Food Not Bombs said the city's ordinance created an "undue burden" on what they see as a constitutionally protected activity.
"We do not need the city government's written permission to bring about a better world," said Jimmy Dunson, 32, of Tampa. "We just ask that the city doesn't use its police force to stand in the way of that."
Police, fire labor contracts approved
The council also approved new, three-year labor contracts with the city's unions for police and firefighters.
Each includes across-the-board raises of 3 percent this year and next year and 3.5 percent in the last year of the agreement.
Police officers, sergeants and lieutenants voted 410 to 63 for their contract. Firefighters approved theirs 375 to 10.
"Obviously, both sides start out far apart," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "Getting to the final number was challenging, but, I think, rewarding for both sides."
In October, the council ratified a three-year contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1464, which represents about 1,700 city blue-collar, clerical and technical employees. That agreement included 3 percent raises each year.
Legal claims settled
The council approved three legal settlements totalling $415,000:
• $190,000 to the estate of the late Deborah Styles. On May 19, 2016, Tampa Fire Rescue took her to St. Joseph's Hospital. As she was being unloaded from the ambulance, one of the wheels on the stretcher collapsed and she fell off. A memo to the council said she suffered serious injuries that escalated and, coupled with her already existing medical conditions, led to her death.
• $150,000 to Karen Tregaskes, who suffered what city officials say were very serious injuries in the early hours of May 22, 2013 when a fire engine tried to turn around on W Hillsborough Avenue near Dale Mabry Highway and was struck by a car in which she was a passenger.
• $75,000 to Christopher Johnson, who was hurt in a crash on Dec. 19, 2014 with a city solid waste vehicle that was pulling from a parking lot onto Broadway near 44th Street.