On Monday we wrote about about weekend visits with Tampa Mayoral candidates Bob Buckhorn & Rose Ferlita, who both expressed their support for a ban on allowing people to panhandle on right of ways in Tampa streets.
The issue has become -perhaps inordinately - one of the dominant topics of discussion in a city that has had record unemployment.
As we wrote at the end of our post on Monday, we were not certain where Ed Turanchik and Dick Greco were on the topic.
We can now tell you that both support a ban, making Tampa City Council Chairman Thomas Scott the only major candidate running for mayor who does not support eliminating soliciting on city right-of-ways.
On Tuesday afternoon, Greco told CL that "I don't think there's any question that it has to be dealt with like it was in St. Pete," referring to that city's enactment of a law banning panhandling at street medians last summer. Throughout the conversation, Greco emphasized his sincere concerns about the homeless (saying at one point that "for the grace of God that could be me"), and said that when he was previously in office, he occasionally would speak to men and women who lived on the street.
Greco said the answer for the homeless is providing more facilities for their well being, but says "the problem with getting facilities for the homeless is that nobody wants that in their neighborhood." He said when he was last mayor a decade ago, he tried to find several places for them, "but..my god, you mention that, and anybody in close proximity went crazy." Having said that, he believes the problem with those panhandlng on street right-of-ways has gotten out of hand. "People are fed up," he says, and thinks its dangerous and not a good image for the city.
Meanwhile, mayoral candidate Ed Turanchik is essentially on the same wavelength as Greco on the issue. He says his attitude hasn't changed since he was in the majority on the Hillsborough County Commission when they voted to enact the current ordinance on panhandling, back in 1991.
"We didn't design our streets to be pedestrian venues," he says, calling them dangerous enough without people walking in the middle of them. He says he supports some type of diversion program for those who would be arrested for asking for money on right-of-ways, and that they not be jailed.
Turanchik said the "mid-term solution" to the problems of the increasing amount of homeless in Hillsborough County is "putting them to work," acknowledging that there has been a surplus of jobs lost by people working "in the trades."
In terms of the contretemps going on with the City Council refusing to support a ban on panhandling on street medians, Turanchik says the simplest solution would be for the city to adapt their law to fit in with the county, with no exceptions.
Regarding homelessness, Turanchik admits that "we have not taken it on in any serious manner in the community."
This past Monday, representatives from the Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association all went before a committee led by Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill to advocate that the county relax it's current law, which bans any panhandling at street medians. Currently, firefighters and newspaper hawkers - along with the homeless - can and do solicit on Tampa street corners.