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City tightens grip on water tap

Backyard carwashing is now banned, as is some pressure washing. No-fine warnings are now a thing of the past.

By BRYAN GILMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The St. Petersburg City Council declared a water shortage emergency Thursday and banned backyard carwashing, some pressure washing of buildings and pavement, and recreational activities that involve water at day care centers, fairs and the like.

Carwashes at commercial facilities that recycle water remain legal, and pressure washing for health and safety or to prepare for repainting are allowed.

The council decided to stop giving no-fine warnings to those who violate outdoor water use restrictions after assistant utilities director Patti Anderson told them, "They should know by now."

The city will beef up its staff of water enforcers to catch more violators. The emergency action plan fulfilled last month's demands by the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The regulatory agency wrote to the city and other local governments after the regional Tampa Bay Water utility pumped more water than it is supposed to from its wells. That happened primarily because there is not enough water in the Hillsborough River to supply Tampa.

Council members decided against barring restaurants from automatically bringing a glass of water to each patron. Although that ban would have emphasized the severity of the drought and helped to educate tourists about the severe water shortage, council chairwoman Rene Flowers said it would be too difficult to enforce.

In other business, the council agreed to hold a workshop soon to talk about amending the city's human rights ordinance to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or "gender expression or gender identity."

Gender identity protection would prohibit discriminating against women with short hair, men with long hair or those who do not dress according to traditional gender roles.

The ordinance already prohibits discrimination in housing and other situations on the basis of race, national origin and religion.

Defeated mayoral candidate Karl Nurse and several other speakers, including the chairwomen of Equality Florida, proposed the item during the public forum section of the meeting.

"Discrimination is immoral and should be illegal," Nurse said.

While seven council members supported talking about the idea, Council member Bill Foster spoke out immediately against it.

"I have arrived at my own opinion that sexual or gender identity should not be members of a protected class," Foster said.

"I will not support any proposed modification of the ordinance."

Also Thursday, the council voted to uphold the city Environmental Development Commission's denial of a new wireless communication tower on Dr. M.L. King Street S after residents from Thirteenth Street Heights, Cromwell Heights and others spoke out vehemently against it.

The council found that Verizon Wireless failed to show it really needed the new tower to provide good service.

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