© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2002
ST. PETERSBURG -- The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday will consider banning the distribution of newspapers and pamphlets and solicitation for donations to charity in public streets.
"Although the city is not aware of an accident or traffic incident that has been directly caused by street vendors, the city is not required to wait for such an occurrence to demonstrate that a street vendor ordinance addresses significant government interests," assistant city attorney Jacqueline Kovilaritch wrote to the council.
Member Virginia Littrell originally just wanted to ban newspaper vendors. She said she was driving one day and heard car tires squealing to stop behind a driver who was buying a newspaper from a St. Petersburg Times hawker.
The ordinance would ban all solicitation in the street. Banning just newspaper sales would be unconstitutional, Kovilaritch says.
If the measure passes Thursday, firefighters and civic clubs cannot collect money for charity or sell anything through a car window in the street. Also banned: political candidates handing pamphlets or buttons to motorists.
The ordinance would require solicitors to stay out of travel lanes. But sign-waving on sidewalks would stay legal, and motorists could pull into a legal parking space to receive a product or literature or make a donation.
Times attorney Alison Steele said the newspaper would consider challenging the rule in court if the council passes it.
Littrell said she regrets that all activities will be banned, but the public's safety has to take priority.
"A lot of us in the last election stood on the medians so we could reach cars all ways," she said. "We're all going to be affected by this."
Anyone can speak publicly before the council about the proposal to ban solicitations on public streets. The hearing will begin Thursday soon after 6 p.m. at City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N in St. Petersburg.