Largo The Only Place In County Enforcing Law on Paper Vendors
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – Pinellas County’s only daily newspaper continues to allow its vendors to break county and state laws and endanger themselves by running through busy traffic peddling papers.
To Largo’s great credit, it appears to all indications that it is the only jurisdiction in the county that is enforcing the law.
Paper peddlers are rampant throughout the county running through traffic to sell papers, particularly the Sunday edition of the St. Petersburg Times which announced just a couple of days ago that its circulation is down by something like 10 percent.
This is in accord with the trend throughout the country where all daily newspapers are suffering circulation declines with one exception – the Wall Street Journal, the sales of which are up.
Largo took action, after the City Commission and city officials, including the Police Department, were brought under heavy pressure in the summer of 2008, against the street peddlers.
The chief concern was the safety, both of the vendors and of motorists in traffic who often have to take evasive action to avoid hitting a paper hawker. Such evasive actions can lead to a cascading of accidents and collisions.
While Largo did take action finally after a lot of resistance and this got great publicity throughout the county, other cities have done nothing, and the Sheriff’s Office apparently turns a blind eye to the violations of both county ordinances and state laws.
When the campaign for safety was initiated in Largo, mostly through the efforts of a citizen, Curtis Holmes, who made countless pleas to the commission at government meetings, the newspaper’s lawyer at one point proclaimed that the city ordinance regarding this violation was "unconstitutional."
Of course, only a court can declare a law unconstitutional, not a mere lawyer. Mac Craig, Largo’s city manager, swallowed this piece of nonsense at the time as gospel, but the pressure was kept on and finally the law was and has been enforced in Largo.
Although Largo has its own city ordinance forbidding this kind of activity, Section 11-41(7 through 11), there is a Pinellas County ordinance in regard to safety that forbids a vendor from stepping into the street. This is not enforced.
The violation of the county measure is so egregious that 4th Street and Gandy Boulevard on Sunday is a veritable circus of incipient danger to vendors. Drivers have to be alert to avoid hitting the newspaper hawkers running through traffic.
None of this seems to perturb the Big Paper.
Even if there were not a county ordinance, there are very explicit laws in the Florida Statutes forbidding such activity.
Florida Statute 316.130(5) says, "No person shall stand in the portion of a roadway paved for vehicle traffic for the purpose of soliciting."
Another one, Florida Statute 316.2045(2) says, "It is unlawful, without proper authorization of lawful permit (e.g., firefighters collecting money) for any person to willfully obstruct the normal use of any public street, highway or roadway by any means in order to solicit."
While Largo has received praise from responsible observers throughout the county, the same people are appalled that the daily paper continues to get away with violating the law and that no other jurisdiction in the county puts road safety at a level that would require enforcement of existing laws.
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