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County-wide panhandling ban has yet to reach Tampa

Hillsborough County commissioners voted 6-1 Wednesday to enact a full ban on solicitation on all roads in Hillsborough County.

The ban will bar panhandling, charitable solicitations and vendors from engaging in transactions with motorists on all roadways. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the municipalities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace were not included in the ban, although Plant City and Temple Terrace already have restrictions similar to the rest of the county’s.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he wants to meet with Tampa City Council members after April 1, when the new council will be in place, to see if the council changes its stance on banning solicitation.

“(We want) something that is uniform with the City of Tampa,” Sharpe said. “I was concerned (at the first reading), and I expressed it, I want to make sure what we’re doing is uniform with what the city is doing so there’s a uniform policy in place.”

If a full ban is eventually adopted in Tampa, it would remove panhandling from all roadways, including Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Fowler Avenue and Fletcher Avenue, which border the USF campus. On Feb. 3, the Tampa City Council voted against a proposal of a partial ban, which would have only affected Tampa’s main roadways. Sharpe’s words were echoes of a prediction made by council member Tom Scott at the Feb. 3 meeting.

“If (we) don’t push through for a partial ban here today, I do believe that will come April 1, when there’s a new council,” Scott said at the meeting. “The outcry from the public is for a total ban. No one from the public really wanted a partial ban. Not even those here today. There’s going to be a total ban. That’s my belief anyway.”

In the Feb. 3 vote, Scott and Mary Mulhern voted for the proposal, with Curtis Stokes, Charlie Miranda, Joseph Caetano, Gwen Miller and Yvonne Yolie Capin dissenting. However, elections Wednesday have already provided turnover on the council.