Tampa residents to try panhandling ban one more time

January 5th, 2011 by Staff

TAMPA, Florida - Proponents of a panhandling ban in Hillsborough County hope hundreds of petitions and a surprising recent poll are enough to convince city councilors to put a panhandling referendum on the spring ballot.

Despite the failure to collect an astonishing 18,000 ballots in just two weeks, community activists plan on bringing their campaign back to the next Tampa City Council meeting on Thursday.

Spencer Kass, president of South Tampa’s Virginia Park Neighborhood Association, says a St. Petersburg-style panhandling ban would make the streets safer for motorists as well as the out-of-work.

Susan Long, who has been helping collect petitions from her Seminole Heights neighborhood, just wants voters to get a voice in the discussion.

“I just don’t understand why we can’t have a say,” she said, adding that a recent St. Petersburg Times poll showed overwhelming support across the county for a panhandling ban.

Council member Joseph Caetano has been one of the city’s biggest proponents of a ban, but doesn’t see a referendum happening. He says it can take a lot of time and a lot of money.

Caetano expects a panhandling task force to return a report in February so council can then approach a Saint Petersburg-style ban.

“I think a precedent has been set,” he said of the controversial solicitation ban in St. Petersburg. “That’s what we need to follow.”

Kass says if council won’t take action at its meeting on Thursday, his group will continue to push for a ban and collect signatures.

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