And in the past year, the images of public officials have alternately risen and fallen in both cities of the Tampa Bay area with the way in which they have handled the ongoing and vexing situation of people in both cities who do not have enough to eat; enough clothing; enough money for even the smaller necessities or niceties of life, or a place to live at a ‘fixed address,’ which is the phrase used by the federal government to describe anybody who does not have their own permanent home.
And in the Tampa Bay area, that’s a lot of people.
19,500 in Hillsborough County, and another 8,000 give or take a fixed address in Pinellas county.
And each city has made moves to deal with the situation, which has put the nose of the other city – or mayor -out of joint.
Take the St. Pete bad cop politicians move of banishing panhandling and newspaper sales from it’s streets, and medians and corners. Tampa good cop politicians not happy
Reason Tampa politicians not happy, hundreds of Pinellas poor and homeless folks rushed across the bay to fly their signs on Tampa streets and medians and corners, which ticked off all of the citizens of Tampa, including Tampa panhandlers and newspaper vendors.
Tampa politicians hem and haw around about the situation, and predict a vote to ban panhandling in Tampa is likely to pass by October. St. Petersburg politicians not happy.
St. Petersburg bad cop politicians not happy because they know one of the reasons for good cop Mayor Buckhorn’s insistence on passing the ban is the Republican National Convention will meet here in Tampa in August of 2012 and the mayor does not want panhandlers and homeless cluttering up the streets with all of those delegates and dignitaries and cameras and reporters and a world wide television and internet audience watching the whole thing.
And the unhappy St. Petersburg politicians, especially bad cop Mayor Bill Foster, mutter under their breath -to everybody within ear shot- that all of those Tampa homeless ruffians will come running across the bay to St. Petersburg to get away from bad cop mayor Buckhorn.
St. Petersburg good cop politicians were smart enough to arrange ‘housing’ of a sort for St. Pete’s homeless, with their existing tent city, and the new Safe Harbour and other shelters giving the homeless at least the alternative of sleeping in places other than jail if caught sleeping on the street.
In addition, St. Petersburg starts giving out a lot of one way tickets to other cities for homeless, a score for yet another score for good cop Mayor Bill Foster. Well, kind of…the situation reeks of another quick fix of just getting rid of the homeless.
Then, just when the Tampa bad cops were trying to figure out a way to deal with the Occupy Tampa rascals who moved into Curtis Hixon Park where they will stay until the 3rd millenium, a local newspaper publisher, Bill Sharpe, of the South Tampa Community News, gave the panhandlers a new life and started a newspaper for them, and they can legally sell it on the streets and make money because it’s a newspaper, and the aforementined Tampa ordinance allows newspapers to be sold on the street seven days a week.
Well, bad cop Mayor Buckhorn had just hoisted himself on his own petard with the panhandling ordinance, so now he’s good cop Mayor Buckhorn working with the police and the city council to find a way to work with the new newspaper sellers, and the occupiers and make nice before the city is hit by the influx of thousands of strong minded people whose presence here could blow this place sky come next August.
For the time being, and maybe because it is the end of the year and the holiday season upon us and all…everybody is being very quiet.
Just a few homeless people sleeping in Williams Park and at Mirror Lake in St. Pete.
Not too many homeless people making noise and hassling people down at Bayshore in Tampa.
And a new year awaits, and a new opportunity for two cities to upstage each other in showing how good and or bad they can be at fixing things instead of solving them.
And here’s a bit of trivia for ya. In St. Pete the cop most well known to the homeless is a very popular guy, officer Rich Linkiewicz, affectionately known as “Officer Richey Rich” for his tireless work in his job as outreach officer between the St. Pete police and city government and the homeless.
And in Tampa, the cop most well known to the homeless is….”Batman.” known and feared by all homeless for his intrepid work in tracking down and nailing so many homeless who are not acting on their best behaviour.
And he’s not giving out bus tickets.
Good cop. Bad cop.
Anybody remember, “Car 54, where are you?”