This is part 2 of a series started yesterday. If you missed part 1 (Shame on you!)you may want to check-out yesterday's blog. Try to keep up.
Alarmed that I might be turning into a Republican, I checked my hair in the car mirror to make sure I wasn't developing a suspicious Sarah Palin poof and wearing a red power suit. Assured that it was still me in the mirror and not a former vice-presidential candidate, I had to find-out what had occurred in Tampa to spawn this out-of-control proliferation of panhandling on virtually every street corner. I went back to the hotel and Googled.
From what I could tell from various sources such as "The Tampa Tribune" and "St. Petersburg Times", here is how it went down: The city leadership in Tampa could not pass an ordinance making panhandling illegal because then the people who stand on the median to sell newspapers on Sunday would be in violation of this ordinance.
Exercise: Find any school-age child under the age of ten. Show him/her the following pictures of 1. A newspaper seller; and 2. A panhandler. Ask him/her if he/she can tell the difference. City leaders in Tampa cannot. Apparently the only way they could tell the difference was the reflective vests that the newspaper vendors wore. Once the panhandlers donned the magic reflective vests, nobody in Tampa city government was capable of distinguishing the difference between the two.
It seems some 60% of people polled in Tampa supported a ban on panhandling. I am not that familiar with statistics, but it is hard to get 60% of people in a democratic society to agree on much of anything. Sixty-percent constitutes a whopping majority. Yet the problem persists in Tampa.
Panhandlers complain that if they are banned, they will have no other way to earn a living. By allowing rampant panhandling in Tampa, they have created a whole group of individuals now dependent upon panhandling as a means to earn a living. Take away panhandling and panhandlers claim they will have no other recourse, but to resort to crime. So I guess panhandling is just a form of extortion: "Give me money, or I will rob your home."
Lets face it: The economy sucks. A lot of people are experiencing hard times, but is passing out money to individuals on street corners REALLY the best way to deal with the problem?
Back to the reason we were in Tampa: My husband and I were searching for an affordable, safe place to live. I would give a "guesstimate" that housing costs in Tampa were roughly $75,000 to a $100,000 higher (In iffy neighborhoods with parking problems) than in the outlying, panhandling-free areas surrounding the city. Guess where we decided to move?