Tampa is nearing downtown compromise on Sunday morning
TAMPA – Thousands of angry emails grab town hall’s attention.
One such avalanche, sparked by constituents, prompted city council members on Thursday to amend an ordinance passed in November to reopen downtown parking on Sunday morning.
Chairman Guido Maniscalco led efforts to cut the $ 2.50 hourly parking fee, which went into effect Jan. 1.
Maniscalco said he was responding to inquiries from churchgoers, Riverwalk morning coaches, and downtown residents who complained about the fees.
Parking in the city center should be free until 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. on Sundays, as there is little competition for spaces on the traditional day off, Maniscalco said.
Luis Viera agreed.
“The only people downtown on Sunday mornings are churchgoers and workaholic lawyers,” Viera said.
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The Maniscalco idea found unanimous support among the council members. Councilor Charlie Miranda was absent while recovering from the coronavirus.
Joseph Citro didn’t want to stop restoring free parking downtown on Sunday morning. He said downtown churches and other nonprofits host a variety of community events such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on other days. He suggested expanding the free parking in a mandatory downtown area all week after 6 p.m.
Others were more concerned about tweaking the law change so as not to change the city’s rules and fees for more than 13,000 parking spaces.
“This should be surgically specific,” said Bill Carlson.
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Mobility Director Vik Bhide said the city has already created accommodation for people who wanted to park downtown on Sunday mornings. The lot on Scott Street on the north edge of downtown is free on weekends. And disabled drivers can park on the street for up to four hours, he said.
“We considered the entire community and their needs,” said Bhide.
Bhide said he had the power as director to make the move to free parking, but Councilor John Dingfelder said he wanted it to be written in the city code to make sure it stuck.
The council voted for Mayor Jane Castor’s staff to report on the amendment to the regulation on February 4th. They also called for the new parking fees not to be enforced until the final amendment to the ordinance was made in March.
Prosecutor Gina Grimes said the administration would like to discuss the suspension of enforcement.
Three downtown churches – Sacred Heart Catholic Church, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, and the First Presbyterian of Tampa – had enlisted the help of influential adviser Steve Michelini to push for free parking.
Maniscalco said he understood the fear of parking tickets being handed out to churchgoers and others downtown on Sunday mornings, but he wished there was a similar desire to change public order in relation to the ongoing homeless problem in the area.
“I wish there was an uproar about it,” said Maniscalco.