BRADENTON – At Wednesday's meeting, the Bradenton City Council reviewed a first reading of a controversial ordinance that would provide law enforcement with new guidelines for dealing with trespass violators. The ordinance was met with some concern from Councilmen Bemis Smith and Harold Byrd over just how liberally penalties for violations could be applied, and Mr. Byrd also expressed concern that the ordinance would be heavily applied to the homeless in public parks; however, the council voted unanimously to push it toward the path of approval. A public hearing on the ordinance will take place on January 23 at 6 p.m.
Byrd specifically voiced concern that the language of the ordinance would allow for penalties for trespassing to be applied to seemingly small violations, making reference to part (a) of Section 1 of the ordinance, which states, "(Police officers)...are authorized to issue a trespass warning to any individual who violates any City ordinance, rule or regulation, or State law which violation was committed while on or within any City facility, building, or outdoor area that is open to the general public..."
Councilman Smith, echoing his colleague's comments, asked whether officers are required to first issue a trespass warning to violators, or if more severe penalties could in theory be applied without a warning. He used, as an example, a citizen illegally parking their car on the grass in a public park, and asked whether under the new ordinance, the citizen could be banned from the public park for a year by a police officer noticing the violation, even without the officer first asking the citizen to remove their vehicle from the grass area.
City Attorney Bill Lisch said that while he did not see such situations being an issue, as he and the rest of the council generally agreed that an officer would be much more likely to ask a violator to cease further violation before issuing a warning, he did indeed confirm that actions for such a situation would be at the officer's discretion.
Mr. Byrd also voiced his opinion that the new ordinance would be used to drive out homeless people from public parks.
Mayor Wayne Poston spoke up after Mr. Byrd's comments, rebutting the councilman by saying that that City of Bradenton has been more supportive of the homeless than any other city in the Tampa Bay area. Police Chief Mike Radzilowski also spoke in support of the ordinance, saying that it would be mainly used as a tool to deal with repeat violators.
Despite their stated concerns, Commissioners Smith and Byrd voted "Yea" along with their other colleagues, with each expressing sentiments that the ordinance woud be used to affect positive change in parks such as the Riverwalk by way of helping to curtail seedy activity and violence in those areas.
For full results of Wednesday's agenda, click here.
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