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Politics

Tampa City Council votes to ban loud car music


Published:   |   Updated: June 7, 2013 at 07:09 AM

TAMPA - Your thumping car stereo will get you a fine and maybe even jail time if you're a repeat offender.

By a 6-0 vote, council members approved an ordinance Thursday that would make it a civil offense to play music in a car loud enough for it to be easily heard 50 feet away. Councilwoman Lisa Montelione supported the measure despite repeatedly failing to get her colleagues to remove the possibility of jail time on the third offense.

Councilwoman Mary Mulhern was absent from Thursday's council meeting.

As with previous discussions about the noise ordinance, residents urged the council to bring them some relief from what they described as relentless disturbances in their neighborhoods.

"I am tired of coming down here for the same reason," said East Tampa resident Betty Bell. "They sit in the neighborhood in their cars and just boom their music."

Bell and other speakers said they've given up asking people to turn their music down.

"At one time, I used to go out and say 'will you cut that down,' " Bell said. "But I don't do that any more because you're threatened with your life."

Council members created the noise ordinance after state legislators failed to enact a law that would have criminalized driving with music blaring from car stereos. An earlier law that did so was struck down because it exempted political and business speech. The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeal said that was unfair.

The state Senate tied 19-19 on the revised law. Tampa Sen. Arthenia Joyner said she voted against the measure because it amounted to racial profiling.

Across the city, residents have made thousands of calls about nuisance vehicles over the past few years, Tampa Police Major Diane Hobley-Burney told the council.

Hobley-Burney said TPD has created a category for dispatchers to track noise complaints.

Last year, TPD got 6,054 calls about noise, Hobley-Burney said. Of those, 851 were specifically about noisy cars, she said.

Officers who respond to noise calls have few options, Hobley-Burney said.

"We have no tools to support us," Hobley-Burney said. "We can stop the vehicle and say 'can you please lower your music?' If they do not, they do not."

Life Malcolm, 38, accused the city of using "tricky numbers" and "tricky language" to exaggerate the problem. Those hundreds of calls could have come from a small number of people complaining over and over again, he said.

"Which makes them more of a nuisance than what we're talking about now," Malcolm said.

Malcolm said the city is punishing young people for doing something that ultimately doesn't hurt anyone.

"The last so-called luxury we have is to ride down the street and enjoy our loud music," Malcolm said.

Defenders of the ban said the conflict is a matter of respect and civility.

"We were counting on the Florida Legislature. They didn't get it done," said Councilman Frank Reddick. "It's the responsibility of this council to get this done and get it done today."

kwiatrowski@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7871

Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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