Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vote Out Mayor Seiler: Election Rally January 31st

Fort Lauderdale's much-neglected electoral process collides with its much-maligned public officials February 10th!

All 3 races, including the Mayor's, include candidates on opposite sides of the "homeless hate laws" issues. While the Mayor easily sailed to re-election in 2012, his international notoriety for implementing the sharing ban has made things a little more interesting this time around.

Join the homeless support community of downtown Ft Lauderdale for an election rally on January 31st at Bubier Park at 2 pm. So far Chris Brennan, running for Mayor, and Didier Ortiz, running for district 3, have confirmed they will be speaking. There will be some musical entertainment by Jeff D.

It is also worthwhile to note that the voluntary, 45-day sharing ban injunction will lapse about a week after this rally.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Anti-Homeless Laws Face Election Test

Filing for the Fort Lauderdale City Commission elections was this week. While off-season local elections tend to be an even worse attempt at participatory democracy than Florida state elections, it's pretty obvious to most that there will be something a little different this time. Regardless of the reasons why the City's statist voting bloc will ultimately re-elect the vast majority of the City Commission in February, this election will also be a referendum on the biggest political quagmire the City has seen in years: Fort Lauderdale's Homeless Hate Laws.

Meet the Candidates

Incumbency in American political elections is a joke to be sure. For just a cursory example, every incumbent running for re-election for Florida state congress in 2004 won.  If Jack Seiler wins re-election for the 2nd time this year he will have reached the half-way point of his potential term limit of 18 years. This will effectively mean that Fort Lauderdale has only had 2 Mayors in 28 years. Commissioners Bruce Roberts and Romney Rogers are, in fact, sailing to re-election unopposed for their third and final terms.

However, the other 3 races could represent a crucial  change  in the City's disastrous approach to homeless policy.

Mayor

Outspoken "Rain Tree" advocate Chris Brennan and Republican Earl Rynerson are challenging Mayor Magic Jack for the big seat.

While Mr. Brennan does not have a campaign or website active as of yet, his involvement in the campaign to save the Fort Lauderdale Rain Tree would seem to place him in opposition to many of downtown's entrenched business interests.

Rynerson, despite carrying around the attribute of "Republican," (*City elections are non-partisan) opines regularly on his blog as a vocal critic of the Mayor, including against many of Seiler's most conversative stances. Therefore Rynerson is courting Seiler's foes in the fight for marriage equality (Rynerson is openly gay), homeless hate laws, police brutality, and yes, even the Rain Tree. So despite having lost this race to Seiler twice already, Rynerson has the unusual opportunity to challenge the Mayor when he has never been more unpopular, in part for his stances on these divisive issues.
How popular can this guy still be..?

District II

Dean Trantalis, the only City Commissioner to show even the slightest bit of hesitation when it came to the City's march to criminalize homelessness, is being challenged by David Tabb, who is on the board of directors for Riverwalk. While Tabb also does not have a campaign set up just yet, Riverwalk representatives regularly spoke in support of the Homeless Hate Laws when they were being discussed throughout 2014. It is relatively safe to assume that Mr. Tabb would bring the Commission even further into the pockets of Fort Lauderdale's classist plutocracy.

District III

The open seat for District 3 is the biggest opportunity for change in the City government in 2015, but it remains to be seen how much things will really "change."

Robert McKinzie, appointed by the City to close out Bobby Dubose's term, has already voted lock-step with the City on its remaining anti-homeless agendas, including voting to appeal the injunction against the sharing ban created in December by court order. McKinzie has already been the subject of criticism for carpet-bagging the Commission seat from the suburban comfort of nearby Plantation.

Donna Guthrie is also running for the seat and also spoke repeatedly at the City Commission in favor of anti-homeless laws on behalf of the Melrose Park Civic Association.

Ortiz at a homeless rights forum in October 2014
The third challenger is Didier Ortiz. Much like Brennan, Ortiz is an "activist" candidate that does not align with a major political party, represent a home-owners association, or own a business in Fort Lauderdale. He announced his campaign several months ago and has made his opposition to the City's Homeless Hate Laws a big part of his message. Ortiz still faces steep opposition as both other candidates represent business interests in a district that has benefited from tens of millions of dollars in redevelopment.

Mandates

In the seriously unlikely chance that Magic Jack loses, Trantalis keeps his seat, and Ortiz wins D3, it would be a spectacular electoral coup; there would likely be a commission majority AGAINST homeless discrimination. However, even a seriously close race, especially a March run-off election for the Mayor's office or District 3's  seat, would increase the likelihood of the candidate's positions on these unpopular policies having an effect on their success. It therefore increases the chance that even if the incumbents reign supreme in February, that they will see anti-homeless policies as a long-term threat to their political careers.

The election for Mayor and District 3 is February 10th. The District 2 election is March 10th.

*If any candidates for these races would like to further clarify their positions on this issue, let us know through the contact form. We are not going to track you down and interview you.*

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Xmas Sharings, Ray Is Free

Love Thy Neighbor's Wednesday sharing will go on as usual on Christmas Eve  at 5:30 in front of the Bahia Mar hotel in the Beach.

Rebel food sharers including Reverend Mark Sims & Reverend Gail Tapscott will be doing Christmas lunch on Christmas Day at noon at Stranahan Park.

Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs will be hosting its somewhat annual "Non-Consumerist Really, Really Free Market" the day after Christmas at their regular Friday time, 4:30, in Stranahan Park. Bring holiday leftovers, unwanted gifts, and warm clothes for the extra-sized sharing. 

And of course, all these sharings will be quite legal thanks to Monday's court hearing.

The other good holiday news is that Ray Cox was released from jail last week. It will probably not come as a surprise to anyone that his long stay was a typical result of our unjust court system.  With the Judge refusing to lower his bail or release him on his own recognizance, Ray was looking at sitting in jail until February to get a trial date, so he pled no contest and was given time served. 

While injustice still prevails in Fort Lauderjail, it is a bit of a relief to know that no homeless hate law fighters will have to sit in jail through Christmas. If only that could be said of all people whose activities have been criminalized by Fort Lauderdale's Homeless Hate Laws. Cheers everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

City Doesn't Want to Enforce Its Stupid, Pointless Laws

After months of insisting on the "rule of law" needing to be enforced, the City had written itself into a Dickensian corner this week. By voting on appealing  the ruling that created the injunction against the sharing ban at last week's Commission meeting, the City was essentially asking the court to re-instate the sharing ban during the very height of the "charitable" holiday season. So at the latest hearing for Chef Arnold's lawsuit against the City, their attorneys made one huge conciliatory step back and proposed a further 45 day amnesty for sharing food in Fort Lauderdale.

While Mayor Magic Jack's heart has probably not grown noticeably, his ability to understand the nuance of selective enforcement seems to have developed somewhat.

It may seem like a common sense public relations move on behalf of the City, but it's also one of the biggest concessions they've made when it comes to the implementation of their anti-homeless laws. Originally proposed in late January 2013, they hit very few snags or delays all year long for most of these ordinances. But now the sharing ban will still be un-enforceable over a year after it was originally pitched.

It also begs the further, obvious question, which is that if the sharing ban is too crass and odious to enforce through Christmas-time, how is the rest of the year any different? It certainly won't be any less fair, nor are homeless people somehow less needy the other 11 months of the year.

Protests against sharing ban continue 12.20.14
Perhaps even more glaring is the farcical way in which the City insists they can reach a compromise on this issue...with Arnold Abbott. Not the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit, nor any of the dozens of other people who are sharing food with the homeless downtown with little regard for City ordinances, or, most of all, the homeless people who need this aid in the first place.

It really goes to show how apathetic, disengaged, and facile the City is that, after all these months, they continue to act like this entire dispute involves one person alone. More than anything it proves that this law is doomed to failure.

More court updates and info about sharings downtown during Christmas coming up next.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Is The Sharing Ban Back?

Homeless advocates had a confusing past 24 hours as a couple of news reports surfaced that the sharing ban is maybe a thing again.

At this point there is a still a lot of uncertainty, but Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs' Friday sharing went on as if everything was normal. So far it appears that if enforcement is going to resume it will hopefully wait until another court hearing in the Arnold Abbott case, which will take place some time on Monday. Will Van Netta, who was cited for sharing food at Food Not Bombs on November 14th, will also have his first court hearing Monday.

The confusion appears to be a result of the City's decision to appeal the previous court ruling Wednesday night at the City Commission. See Commissioner Dean Trantalis' conciliatory statement against appealing the case from Wednesday:


Another Lawsuit Filed

Reverend Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Lauderdale has also filed a lawsuit against the City's sharing ban. Here's some of their press release from this week:

As a minister in a denomination that provides a spiritual home and a social justice forum for both believers and non-believers, Rev. Tapscott and Rabbi Silver think that her suit will bring some slightly different perspectives that will add to and enhance the scope of the suits already filed on behalf of other plaintiffs such as Arnold Abbot of Love Thy Neighbor, Rev. Canon Mark Sims and Rev. Dwayne Black. Although Rev. Tapscott has not been arrested or cited in relation to laws prohibiting public food sharing with the homeless citizens, she has put herself in a position to be cited and she fully intends to continue to exercise her moral right to act out of compassion for the less fortunate into the future. Rev. Tapscott and her attorney Rabbi Silver are also acting out of concern for the right of those not protected by religious affiliation to feed the hungry, They also believe that for many people on the street, especially veterans, churches and for that matter any enclosed space may not be a safe place in which to receive help.

 Broward's local Quakers' organization, The Fort Lauderdale Friends Meeting, also put out a statement to the City in opposition to the ban.  Read it here. Expect more news about the status of the sharing ban and further expected lawsuit filings on Monday.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Besieged City Can Only Hope for A New Year

As the year draws to a close, the City will be spending its time preparing for a long and  probably costly court battle over the sharing ban. It also faces the possibility of continuing disruptive street protests in downtown Fort Lauderdale as a result of the nation's crisis with unaccountable police killings.

Final City Commission of the Year 

The City will be voting on 2 consent motions this Wednesday at  City Hall at 6 pm,  one to appeal the court order to stay enforcement of the sharing  ban, and another to hire a law firm to represent the  City in Arnold P. Abbott and Love Thy Neighbor Fund, Inc. v. City of Fort Lauderdale, which also includes Pastor Mark Sims & Dwayne Black. 

As it stands the injunction against the sharing ban is still only good until January 5th. Further court hearings could make these injunctions more or less permanent as the cases proceed, but this has not yet happened.

Shut It Down Round 2

As food sharings downtown return to a somewhat normal state, the status quo in downtown has not. For the 2nd Saturday in a row, protesters angry with the  lack of accountability for killer cops and a racially biased criminal justice system took to the streets. While the protest mostly centered around Las Olas and Broward Blvd's, the situation was much more unusual due to the Winterfest Boat Parade going on at the same time. 2 protesters were arrested and the protest was eventually forced off the street after marching down Las Olas Way alongside Riverwalk, paralleling but not blocking the Boat Parade on the New River.

In yet another unusual collaborative effort for Fort Lauderdale, Dream Defender, Anonymous, and Food Not Bombs activists worked together on this protest. Besides signs damning the biased system that has let cops like Darren Wilson and Joe Pantaleo walk free there were many messages  to the City for its discriminatory homeless policies. After the march ended, Food Not Bombs led a rowdy celebration of "Shoe Day," and many shoes were thrown at the Mayor and killer cops alike. 

The result was the 7th straight week of unrest aimed at the City of Fort  Lauderdale that dominated the evening news and has taken a huge bite out of the City's tourism and holiday oriented image.

No new plans by the Dream Defenders or other #shutitdown protesters have been announced so far, but "Christmas Is Cancelled" may well extend to New Years' downtown. As it stands now the sharing ban could be enforced again in just over 3 weeks.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

#ShutItDown & The Mystery of the Limbo Cases

On Saturday December 6th, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs was headed to one of its weekly protests against sharing ban supporters downtown when we caught wind of a hastily-organized protest for  Eric Garner at the Federal Courthouse.

True to form, this assembly went street to street and shut down traffic for 3 hours or so. This included in front of many of the establishments we have been protesting, such as YOLO.  We were really glad to participate, as the lack of justice over police killings against people of color is completely outrageous. It was also a welcome sight to see even more people protesting in downtown Fort Lauderdale over the inequities and disenfranchisement that is built into our society.

We can only hope that homeless people, black communities, and all disenfranchised peoples of Fort Lauderdale benefit from the new plateau of dialogue we've reached this fall. Some of the leaders of this protest have said they
will gather again at 4:30 pm at the County Courthouse on Monday.

The Mystery of the Limbo Cases
The news  around Chef Arnold's case Wednesday was kind of confusing. The City never formally filed charges against him.

It actually turns out almost everyone ticketed for sharing food had not been charged. Even many of the 8 arrested at the DDA office over a month ago have simply not had trespassing charges filed against them yet. 

The takeaway here is that the City seems to be going it alone. The FLPD has not shown much enthusiasm for enforcing the ban and the courts seem to have absolutely no interest in prosecuting someone over it. This situation is actually not that unusual - the vast majority of laws that criminalize homeless activity are for the purpose of INTIMIDATION. 

For example, the police do not try to arrest absolutely everyone for sleeping on the streets, or peeing in the bushes. But many people are intimidated and  harassed from being homeless in certain areas because of the threat of arrest for these activities. The same has been the case for the sharing ban. Many sharing groups were intimidated into shutting down or changing their operations, and it now turns out that those that  resisted the law will face even fewer consequences than expected. This is not to say that food sharers will not have to deal with their tickets, but the mishandling of cases and growing lawsuit challenges seems to keep making things worse for one entity and that is the City of Fort Lauderdale.

SHOE DAY

With that in mind: We welcome you all to Shoe Day next Saturday as part of #christmasiscancelled ! Shoe Day is an annual anti-holiday celebrated by Food Not Bombs folk by going out in public with posters of famous tyrants and throwing shoes at them. This year will be a bit special - we'll be doing an "All-Fort Lauderdale" edition with posters of the local bureaucrats who have become notoriously despised for their  anti-homeless policies the last few months, and bring them to the Winterfest Boat Parade downtown. This will be a really fun one as public participation in Shoe Day (in this case, getting party-goers downtown to throw shoes at the Mayor and his croneys) makes it one of the funnest protests in South Florida. Take a Shoe to Tyranny next Saturday to #resisthomelesshatelaws  !