Tampa council wants ban on clusters of sexual offenders

Chairman Frank Red?dick: “We’ve got to do a better job than what is being done now.”
Chairman Frank Red?dick: “We’ve got to do a better job than what is being done now.”
Published Jan. 8, 2016

TAMPA — With V.M. Ybor homeowners complaining that their neighborhood is crawling with nearly 140 registered sex offenders or predators, the City Council on Thursday called for limits on how many offenders can live under one roof.

Tampa has about 850 registered sex offenders citywide, police say, and two neighborhoods, V.M. Ybor and the Sulphur Springs/Copeland Park area, have 139 and 140, respectively, living within a 1-mile radius.

That's unacceptable, council members said.

"We've got to do a better job than what is being done now," said chairman Frank Reddick, who complained during his first council term in 2006 that his East Tampa district was home to the vast majority of the city's registered offenders.

Ten years later, he said, nothing has changed.

Hillsborough County has an ordinance that officials say applies to the city of Tampa and places limits on the number of registered offenders who can live at the same address or in the same complex.

But residents say it needs to be enforced.

"All we're asking for" is for the ordinance to be enforced "on Nebraska Avenue the same way it would be enforced in Hyde Park or in Carrollwood or in Westchase," V.M. Ybor homeowner Deborah Ramos said.

City attorneys said they contacted the county attorney's office and were told the ordinance is being looked at in response to their inquiry.

"It hasn't been enforced in the county, from what I'm being told, for a very long period of time," City Attorney Julia Mandell said.

So, at Reddick's request, the council voted to ask its legal staff to come back on Feb. 18 with an ordinance prohibiting clusters of sexual offenders.

Council delays vote on reality TV show

In two seasons on A&E, the reality TV show Nightwatch has delved into the high-stakes work and camaraderie of police, paramedics and firefighters on the overnight shift in New Orleans.

Next, Nightwatch could come to Tampa, though two council members worry it would hurt the city's image.

"I don't think that they're going to be promoting how wonderful our officers are," council member Lisa Montelione said. "I think they're going to be promoting the blood, gore and guts that gets ratings."

As a result, the council voted to postpone a vote on the Nightwatch contract until Jan. 21.

City attorneys said the contract negotiated with the production company should boost the image of Tampa's first responders.

That, they say, is because it would give City Hall the right to review rough-cut video in advance and ask that "offensive or compromising scenes" be removed or changed.

Council complaint: 'We were duped'

In 2014, the City Council voted to allow a 650-foot stretch of riverfront seawall to be scrubbed clean of about two dozen rowing team logos, as well as a half-dozen Greek fraternity names and a couple of four-letter words.

The vote came despite a lot of public comment in favor of the rowing team graffiti, but city officials said they planned to install underwater lights that would change color as people passed by on the Riverwalk.

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On Thursday, however, city economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh said the project got complicated, with a cost that threatened to rise to $200,000, so the city dropped it.

Several council members were not pleased, saying their vote to remove the graffiti was tied to the light installation.

"In my estimation, we were duped," Yvonne Yolie Capin said.

"Ridiculous," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said later. "We started out with the best of intentions with an idea for a project that we hoped would work. Had we found it to be feasible and cost-efficient, we absolutely would be doing it."

As it stands, he said, "that wall looks better than it's ever looked" and complements the Riverwalk well. "I've never seen so much hysteria about graffiti in my life."