By Brandy Volovecky
The Pensacola City Council voted to approve an ordinance to the city code that would prohibit aggressive panhandling in downtown Pensacola at its Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday.
Councilwoman Sherri F. Meyers, District 2, expressed serious concern about the ordinance and was the only council member to vote against it. Meyers proposed a motion to table the ordinance until more documentation could be made available showing proof of the need for the ordinance. The motion also asked for the mayor to provide a reason “why the (downtown area) is provided a higher level of protection against aggressive panhandling than any other are of the city, including the city’s primary business core.”
“We do not have the facts, we do not have the studies, we do not have the police reports,” Meyers said. “And I find it highly offensive and highly disturbing that this ordinance gives a level of protection to the CRA district that other areas of the City of Pensacola do not have.”
There were mixed feelings about the ordinance among audience members. Deb Corbin, one year resident of Pensacola, said the ordinance is necessary to the safety and security of Pensacola residents.
“Many times these people are criminals and/or homeless people in need of medical attention, sometimes mental,” she said. “I don’t have those credentials to make that distinction.”
Richard Ponner, staff member at the Alfred-Washburn Center of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, said he felt the ordinance would make the job of volunteers much more difficult.
“We are the only day canter for homeless to take showers, to do laundry, to receive non-perishable foods and other services,” he said. “My concern is that nothing has been placed in this ordinance to have an advisory
group or to counterbalance the impact of the enforcement of the ordinance.”