Monday, May 8, 2017

The Bigger Questions Posed by a Reader:

The real issue no one wants to talk about is whether or not the Pensacola Police Department is enforcing the existing law in the City Code - Section 8-1-25 Panhandling. It very clearly outlaws most if not all of the behavior described the downtown business owners and residents when interviewed by the media or when they speak during City Council meetings.

Perhaps someone needs to submit a public records request so the City Council knows how many times the PPD has cited a person inside city limits for violation of Section 8-1-25 since it was put in place in 2013.

The existing city law also prohibits panhandlers from stepping out into traffic, something I see at major intersections.

Other prohibitions described in Section 8-1-25 now seem suspect given the current state of federal law.

As example, can a municipality really outlaw panhandling within 20 feet of an ATM machine?

If the ACLU lawsuit challenges both the new DIB law (Section 8-1-28) and the existing law (Section 8-1-25) it might open up a Pandora's box making legal what has been illegal from 2013 to present.

As for the DIB, the City Council should amend Section 8-1-28 to provide that it only goes into effect when the DIB agrees to enforce it within the DIB District (relieving city taxpayers of that burden) and also agrees to pay all costs related to defending it in court.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Everyone talks about the PPD enforcing the codes. Code Enforcement officers carry guns the same as police and also have the power of arrest. So what is wrong with requesting code enforcement issue citations to Vinyl. Code Enforcement is reactive and not proactive so if you call them they will check out the complaint within a few hours, I know from experience from me calling them.

CJ Lewis said...

The panhandling issue is a law enforcement issue. I believe that PPD Officers may not understand or never even read the applicable state, county and city laws that regulate the type of conduct we think of as - "panhandling." I think we can assume that the city's elected officials have never read the laws. Neither has anyone in the mainstream media. On January 17, WEAR Channel 3 reporter Anthony Pura badly mischaracterized the city law (Section 8-1-25) he almost certainly has never read, "But it really only cracks down on aggressive panhandling." That is not true. I believe that now Acting Police Chief Tommi Lyter has previously said the same during a media interview. In fact, the city's existing but mostly unenforced panhandling law is expansive and citywide in its scope. This past Sunday, we had brunch at The Fish House. On the way down, we passed a person walking up and down 17th Avenue near Bayfront Parkway soliciting donations from drivers. That conduct is prohibited by two (2) parts of Section 8-1-25. On the way home, we saw two panhandlers at the intersection of 12th Avenue and Bayou Boulevard. One panhandler was actively disrupting traffic trying to get the attention of individual drivers. It worked. The car in front of us stopped in the middle of the road and we waiting about 30 seconds until the panhandler came over and got their money. We were about 50 feet from the intersection. When the light changed to green, the car just sat in front of us. Cars behind us pulled out and passed on the "left." If the Mayor, City Administrator and Police Chief did their jobs and ensured that PPD Officers enforced Section 8-1-25, then perhaps tempers would cool about the others who "passively" seek donations. With respect to the DIB District, the DIB is rolling in the money. It can afford to hire 1-2 off-duty PPD Officers to conduct foot patrols on Palafox Street and neighboring streets in the DIB District to immediately deal with aggressive panhandlers. Imagine if Lyter directed a concerted crackdown on aggressive and unsafe panhandlers within city limits. I think that tempers would quickly cool and perhaps city leaders could put some heat on county leaders to step up to the plate to deal with the poverty issue that is a countywide problem with everyone living inside city limits also a county resident.

Anonymous said...

Code enf doest carry guns nor do they have arrest powers greater than my power to make a citizens arrest...

Fed up with Pensacola said...

They check it out within a few hours, if it's during office hours. They come and inspect, then issue a warning-through the mail-and then you have 21 days to correct the issue before any other action takes place.

Anonymous said...


It would not be possible for Code Enforcement to enforce entitlements that had already been bestowed to the building's owners (the Levin's) by the Planning Department. It was the Planning Department that ignored existing city ordinances and granted a "change in use" permit to the owners of this building. You could think of Code Enforcement as the department that enforces "the law," with the law having been written and approved by the City Council. In this case, however, the law had been secretly and silently changed by the Planning Department to allow for Vinyl's existence. Code Enforcement's hands are tied by two things. The first is the permits that were issued by the Planning Department. The second is the fact that the City Council has turned over control of downtown parking to the DIB, a city government within a city government.

What is the "law" that should have been enforced? Basically, Vinyl's operations are way too intensive for this location. This location cannot sustain the kind of parking, loading, and trash problems that are created by a night club. These problems were known, or should have been known, by the city's Planning Department. I doubt that the civil servants in the Planning Department and Code Enforcement Department would willfully ignore these ordinances and risk losing their jobs. Most likely they were pressured from above (at the risk of losing their jobs!).

Anonymous said...

Sherry Morris happily ignored all relevant Codes when approving Vinyl. No threats to her career were needed. What she does,she does willingly.

Sherry had no legal authority to exempt Vinyl from Code; even after an approval is granted Code Enforcement can still enforce all rules being broken (unlawful loading zone and hazardous use of sidewalk).

Someone needs to pull all records on this and file an AICP ethics complaint against Ms. Morris. She is the sole name behind all the illegal development that has occurred in recent years.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's too much of a pain in the ass to do all of that paperwork, book them, put them in jail and wait for them not to be able to pay fines or bail or court costs.