Sarasota putting finishing touches on panhandling bill - WFLA News Channel 8

Sarasota putting finishing touches on panhandling bill

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

The Sarasota city commission will soon vote on a new ordinance that would crack down on panhandlers on the streets.

It's been a hot topic in the city for the past few months.

All across Sarasota, solicitors greet drivers at intersections, happily taking donations.  And Mayor Suzanne Atwell has had enough.

"This problem has grown exponentially," Atwell said.

In February, a circuit judge ordered the city to back off from panhandlers for 60 days while a new law was drafted.

The 60 days are now up, and on Monday, city officials discussed a new ordinance.

"Giving money, getting money, that's not gonna solve it.  This is not a homeless issue," said Atwell.  "This is a current serious problem that's affected this community."

Atwell said this is not so much a homeless problem as it is a safety issue.

"The quality of my driving is affected by what I have to do to often swerve to get out of the way of some of those folks who might have fallen into the street, they walk into the street, their dogs are in the street, their bikes might be in the street, we can't tolerate that anymore."

The proposed law would prohibit any kind of soliciting along roadways and medians.

City officials are currently ironing out the fine details.

"We have to make sure that all the wording passes constitutional muster," said Atwell.

City lawmakers are also working to see whether this ordinance would impact advertisers and firefighters during their 'Fill the Boot' campaigns that benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

"We have to fine tune this ordinance, obviously." Atwell said.

"Where do we draw the line between constitutional muster, free speech, and harm to the community?"

Mayor Atwell said the Sarasota Police Department is currently being trained in the new ordinance.

City Commissioners will vote on the measure at a meeting on Tuesday, April 23rd at 2pm.

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