After listening to four hours of sometimes heart-wrenching public testimony, the St. Petersburg City Council passed a comprehensive ban on panhandling and solicitation, despite warnings from legal representatives of the St. Petersburg Times that such a ban would eventually be ruled unconstitutional.
Reporter Michael Van Sickler described the public hearing this way:
The testimony highlighted an economic divide in the city between those worried about declining property values and those worried about where they would find this month’s rent money.
Neighborhood leaders spoke gravely about the fear many felt when panhandlers approached their cars. Those suffering from muscular dystrophy spoke about the gratitude they felt toward the firefighters who collect money for their care, and how the ban would interfere. Newspaper hawkers spoke anxiously about the lost income the ban would cause them and how that would push them into the homeless ranks.