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City of Sarasota: No to new businesses, yes to panhandling

Sarasota City Commissioners

The City of Sarasota Commission voted to impose a moratorium on new bars, taverns and nightclubs. This action led City Attorney Robert M. Fornier to write a letter (below left) to the Commission to “determine if there is legally sufficient justification to impose a moratorium”. For many residents this moratorium is looked upon as a back door way of imposing a noise ordinance within the city limits.

Click on image for a larger view.

There is a City Commission election on May 14th and one of the hot button issues is a noise ordinance. After a March runoff there are three candidate vying for two city commission seats. Two of the candidates, Richard Dorfman and Susanne Atwell have said they will vote against the noise ordinance. Susan Chapman favors the noise ordinance. The City Commission postponed a vote on the noise ordinance until after the election. This moratorium will only add to the controversy.

Sarasota artists have created a Facebook page and Noise Ordinance website allowing citizens to post comments about the proposed ordinance.

Photo courtesy of Channel !0 News Tampa, FL.

The City Commission in February allowed panhandling. 

Lee Williams from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported, “The City of Sarasota and the American Civil Liberties Union have signed a consent decree that stops police from ‘interfering with the exercise of First Amendment rights’ when dealing with the homeless. The decree, a 60-day injunction, prohibits police from interfering with panhandlers — someone standing on a sidewalk soliciting assistance — unless they impede traffic, pedestrians or create an unsafe situation.”

Panhandlers are becoming more visable and aggressive within the City of Sarasota. Citizens have complained and yet the current City Commissioners have decided that panhandling is a free speech right.

This consent decree with the ACLU led to multiple panhandlers showing up at major intersections and soliciting handouts from passers by and those in cars at stop lights. According to Linda Hersey from Sarasota Patch, “Most of the Patch readers who responded to a post about panhandling on city streets are frustrated by the numbers of people with a hand out, asking for money. Sarasota city commissioners plan to fast track a proposed ordinance that would curb panhandling on Sarasota streets.”

Currently in the City of Sarasota a select group of businesses are being targeted, while panhandlers are welcomed. At least until the Commission meets again?