Members of Tampa City Council showed a lot more concern about the public welfare than Florida Legislature when they gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would fine motorists with blaring stereos.
Legislators, you might recall, failed to adopt a similar law last session. Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, notably dismissed the need for such controls, saying, “I believe in the healing powers of music, and if I want to drive down the street and heal everybody around me, I should be able to.”
City Council members learned about this “healing” as they heard from one frustrated resident after another who complained their neighborhoods had been virtually ruined by rude motorists who cranked their stereos up to the max at all hours.
This is not a fleeting inconvenience, as the usually more sensible Sen. Arthenia Joyner of Tampa said. Some motorists continually cruise the same roads. And such a nerve-wrecking disruption puts people on edge and can make sleep impossible.
Joyner understandably worried during the session that such a law would unduly affect blacks and Hispanics. But most of the Tampa complaints came from neighborhoods with many minorities.
State legislation was considered this year because the Florida Supreme Court found the previous law unconstitutional due to exceptions provided for political and commercial broadcasts from vehicles.
Since lawmakers didn’t act, Tampa council members rightly want to help the victims of the thoughtless noisemakers.
As the Tribune’s Kevin Wiatrowski reports, there is some question whether an ordinance will withstand legal challenge. The court overturned a Lakeland rule, but a Sarasota ordinance has held up so far.
We think the city is within its rights to control noise. It has rules on predawn construction and other nuisances.
Councilman Frank Reddick, who led the charge for the regulation, said: “Make it strong. Let them challenge it.”
Council members may have made it a bit too strong.
The proposal now calls for a $250 fine for the first offense and $400 for the second, reasonable penalties. The third offense could bring a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.
That is probably too harsh, as Councilwoman Lisa Montelione says.
There is no question the obnoxious offense disrupts lives and deserves punishment. But we don’t think it wise to lock people up for it — particularly if they have no other criminal offenses.
Montelione’s proposed alternative of impounding the car on the third offense would be an effective deterrent and should be considered when council revisits the proposal.
Still, council is right to confront a threat to residents’ peace of mind and quality of life in city neighborhoods.