By Sean Bowes
Five months after Pasco County passed its own ordinance to outlaw panhandlers on streets and roadways, the City of Tampa has decided to do the same, in effort to make its roads panhandler-free, too.
“I know what’s coming,” said Rick (who asked that his last name not be published), a panhandler who regularly asks for spare change at Amberly Dr. and Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in New Tampa, after the City of Tampa passed its first-ever panhandling ban October 6. “I read the papers, but what can I do? I can’t get a job in this economy.”
The “no panhandling” ordinance went into effect in Tampa on November . It outlaws any panhandling in Tampa, every day except Sunday, the same as in Pasco. The one-day exception allows for charitable collections such as firefighters’ “Fill the Boot” fund-raisers that collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA)’s “Jerry’s Kids” and also for panhandlers like Rick to continue to ask for handouts.
However, newspaper hawkers, who are mostly independent contractors for The Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, are still allowed to sell papers to drivers seven days a week from the side of Tampa’s roadways. The Pasco County ordinance allows only for the hawking of Sunday papers.
According to published reports, The Tampa Tribune typically sells 14,000 newspapers by hawkers each Sunday in Pasco County.
Many of the hawkers are poor, and selling the papers is their only source of income. They earn 50 cents for every paper they sell. Sometimes they make as little as $50 for an 11- hour shift, says Jeremy Block, a hawker who regularly sells the Times.
District 2 Pasco County commissioner Pat Mulieri, whose district includes all of Wesley Chapel, supported the ban and voted for it on June 7, stating that her reason for endorsing it was mainly a safety issue.
Mulieri says she is pleased that the ordinance passed and has heard no complaints,
“All appears quiet on [the panhandling front],” she says.