Monday, October 3, 2016

Sharing Ban Ruling Met with Dismay, Garlic Bread

The following is a statement from Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs after its sharing ban lawsuit was dismissed last Friday.


In 2014, the City of Fort Lauderdale passed many "homeless hate laws," the last of which was a ban on sharing food in public spaces within city limits. A series of lawsuits have delayed enforcement of this law for almost 2 years. One of those lawsuits was filed by Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs. We have been sharing food downtown in Strahanan Park for about 10 years. Like Food Not Bombs chapters all over the world, we do this as an act of solidarity with the marginalized homeless people of Fort Lauderdale, and to protest the greed and militarism that prevents equity needed for the poor and oppressed people of the nation and the world. 

A Recent Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs Sharing
On Friday, the judge presiding over our food-sharing-as-protected-free-speech case finally responded to the parties' motions for summary judgment, dismissing ours and granting those of the defendants'. Fort Lauderdale, and indeed the entire federal court system, now has a fresh court victory against the rights of homeless and homeless advocates. 

Hours later, Food Not Bombs volunteers and homeless folk shared hot soup and garlic bread under the gazebo inside Stranahan Park as the rain fell. Some of those arrested in 2014 still have active criminal cases dragging on to this day. As the rain tapered off, we talked about the uncertain future ahead. 

The world didn't exactly stand still in the last 2 years. The federal government has released several briefings in an attempt to discourage cities from criminalizing homelessness. So far there's not much indication that that is curbing the City of Fort Lauderdale's habits. Commissioner Dean Trantalis has actually said on a few occasions at public county meetings over the summer that he does not think the laws are working and he would like to have them repealed.

Food Not Bombs & friends
on a walking tour of downtown last weekend
There are still other legal challenges for the sharing ban and it may be difficult to enforce the sharing ban law at this time in spite of the ruling. The City has not released any updates so far about enforcement of the sharing ban.

In the end, the Judge ruled that our food sharings simply don't qualify as first amendment activities. This is a peculiar notion. Food Not Bombs and other activists have joined together at food sharings to show solidarity with the oppressed, and to express outrage over an inequitable status quo, for a decade now. The messages, solidarity, and actions that take place in Stranahan Park continue to reverberate across Broward County and the state of Florida.

We can't say for certain anything about the ongoing legal status of our sharings at this time. Besides Fridays at Stranahan, it's theoretically possible the Sistrunk Sharing could be affected as well, which takes place this coming Wednesday. For now we continue to encourage the rebel food sharers of South Florida to continue to visit Stranahan Park. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Downtown Disposium - The Tour!

As previously discussed, the DDA wants to impress its friends with its many accomplishments next week. We would like to impress our friends with its many failures, and the failures of the other cronies that make up Fort Lauderdale's upper crust.

On Saturday, September 24th, there will be walking tour of downtown Fort Lauderdale, starting at 3 pm at Stranahan Park. Food Not Bombs & company will be helping everyone take in the sights and stories of some of the most hotly contested parts of downtown. There's a lot more wrong with this City than the Mayor or the City Manager.

From FATS Village to Riverwalk, there's a lot of millionaires who are working closely to ensure that the future of downtown is one for the wealthy, and not for the homeless, the working class, or the Black community of Sistrunk. In the meantime, we have some infographics up as well as last weeks' introductory video,

Onward to the Downtown Disposium, next weekend!
All Aboard Florida/Brightline in Fort Lauderdale \ Downtown Disposium

Broward County Continuum of Care Board \ Downtown Disposium

Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority \ Downtown Disposium

Fort Lauderdale NW Progresso Flagler CRA \ Downtown Disposium

Stranahan Park \ Downtown Disposium

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Downtown Disposium

On Friday, September 23rd, The Downtown Development Authority of Fort Lauderdale will be hosting a "Downtown Symposium." Local developers and politicians will be rubbing shoulders with visiting DDA representatives from other states, and presumably touting the many exciting projects the DDA has been promoting in recent years.

In reality, the DDA is another piece of the problem in Fort Lauderdale; another City entity meant to serve the public interest, controlled by millionaire developers and property owners. They try to avoid the limelight, but there are plenty of stories out there about their recent efforts. There's their role in supporting the City's homeless hate laws. The money pit known as the Wave Street Car. Their attempts to privatize Huzienga Plaza. Their illegal campaign contributions to Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners. Another project, the "yellow shirt" Ambassador Program" is a low-security team recently implemented to make sure poor people don't bother wealthy people in the Riverwalk area. It also has a sleazy origin story within the DDA.

The biggest problem of all is that these entities don't even operate in great secrecy, but rather in a vacuum, deprived of public interest and oversight. Few can define what a Downtown Development Authority or a Community Redevelopment Agency is. Fewer still can explain how their relationship with the wealthiest interests in Fort Lauderdale can make incredibly toxic long-term consequences for the poor people of Broward County.

With that in mind, Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs welcomes the public to learn about these concepts, from a grassroots perspective, at their own Downtown Disposium at the end of September. We'll be throwing a lot of information on this blog between now and the end of the month to build this understanding.

On Friday, September 23rd, we encourage the public to help welcome DDA guests at the Broward Performing Arts Center.

Finally, on Saturday, September 24th, we're taking everyone on a tour of Fort Lauderdale for the Downtown Disposium. This walking tour of downtown will introduce everyone to concepts like DDA's, CRA's, and how it relates to rapidly gentifying streets, from Sistrunk to Riverwalk.

Lots of details will be announced later. For now, enjoy this educational video about the Downtown Disposium.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Homeless Board Doesn't Want Homeless Advocates & More

After a long delay, Broward County's Continuum Care of Board met again on Wednesday, September 8th, and there was much to discuss. One of the most surprising, and contentious subjects of discussion, was a proposal to reduce the amount of "homeless advocate" seats on the CoC Board from 4 to 1 and replace them with representatives from local Chambers of Commerce and other County administrative roles. The proposal also called for the seats reserved for the Homeless Providers and Shareholders Committee from 2, to 1, another seat that usually represents homeless services workers.

The overall effect was to replace almost all the homeless advocates on the board with even more bureaucrats, of which there are already close to 20. It would be misleading to say that this seemed like an overly popular idea amongst the CoC board, and frankly it's a bit of a mystery how this even came up in the first place. The proposal, which was not disclosed and voted on in a typical manner for the CoC, ignited yet another great debate at the meeting, and it was decided that the issue would be brought to the Broward County Commission sometime in the next month or two.

What will the Broward County Commission say about that? We hope to have more insight on that later.

County & City Dance Around Anti-Homeless Laws
One CoC Board Member who has not been seen much this summer is Broward County Commissioner / Vice Mayor Barbara Sharief. The Vice Mayor was actually pretty vocal this time, and, when weighing in on the ongoing quagmire that is the Fort Lauderdale Storage Ban Saga, said that she felt the County should do something right away to resolve this issue. But, she also felt the first step would be for the City of Fort Lauderdale should repeal the storage ban. And Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis agreed. 

This is not the first time we have reported Commissioner Trantalis as saying that the anti-homeless laws of Fort Lauderdale should be gotten rid of. However so far very few people have continued to push the Commission on this issue and it just seems to be all talk. At this time, the homeless hate laws are not going anywhere until there's a little more pressure on the people involved.

Fort Lauderdale's Brightline/All Aboard Florida station
Fort Lauderdale's Great Homeless Displacement Master-Plan Isn't Looking So Good

Also worth mentioning is a fantastic new article by the Florida Bulldog. Martin and Indian River counties have been suing All Aboard Florida, the commuter train line that has been putting in huge new train stations in Broward, Miami, and Palm Beach counties this year. The case is not going well for All Aboard Florida and has led to speculation that AAF is running out of money.

This creates a peculiar scenario for the City of Fort Lauderdale. The All Aboard Florida station in downtown Fort Lauderdale is at the center of a development plan to completely re-make the areas that have been the primary spot for chronically homeless people to stay in the area for decades. What would become of this massive, half built train station, and the retail and condo properties planned for the surrounding blocks, if AAF collapses? What would the City, DDA, and other elite interests do if their primary scheme for permanently displacing homeless people in downtown, results in even more un-used and half-realized properties in the very area that was to be gentrified?

Our only insight at this time is that the train station facade would make for a lovely new homeless shelter.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Commissioner McKinzie Really Doesn't Like The Sistrunk Sharing

Last year, the Sistrunk Sharing was created as a synthesis between Food Not Bombs and Black Lives Matter activists. On the first Wednesday of every month, the sharing takes place at Lincoln Park on Sistrunk Avenue, and usually has some vegan and vegetarian breakfast foods, baked goods, juice, coffee, etc.

Much like Stranahan Park, the Sistrunk area has its own issues over what classes are best served and where. And so for the 2nd time this year, Commissioner Bob McKinzie dropped by the Sistrunk Sharing to let people know that he wasn't happy about us being there.
McKinzie and the rest of the City Commission
"We don't want this here." He then went on to let everyone know they were illegally parked.
This attitude towards food sharings from the Fort Lauderdale City Commission is not exactly news worthy. Yet it is quite rare that one of them would feel the need to come to the sharings in person, not once but twice, to express this.

McKinzie, for anyone keeping track, was appointed to replace Bobby Dubose during the sharing ban controversy, and so far has mostly distinguished himself as being perhaps the most overtly nepotistic Commissioner in the City. You can read, among other things, about McKinzie's cozy arrangement with the new caretakers of the troubled "Fort Lauderdale Chronic Homeless Housing Collaborative" here. He's also recently run into trouble for taking illegal campaign contributions from another long-time frenemy of the homeless advocacy community, the Downtown Development Authority. McKinzie is also one of the only City Commissioners who is not term-limited to 2018.

Sistrunk Sharing September 7th, 2016
For anyone even mildly curious, sharing food in the City of Fort Lauderdale in a public park is still quite legal. Despite the millions of dollars going into the Sistrunk area, things aren't changing that much for the community. It seems like we need more things like the Sistrunk Sharing and less things like politicians that serve the whims of corporate and developer interests.

Friday, August 12, 2016

DDA Extortion For Huzienga Plaza Begins

A shadow has been hanging over one of the "public" spaces in downtown Fort Lauderdale: Huzienga Plaza/Beaubier Park is at risk of being privatized. The Downtown Development Agency, facing a large shortfall over many of its projects, has been threatening to sell the property unless the City of Fort Lauderdale rents it out.

On Tuesday, the City Commission of Fort Lauderdale will formally vote on the request to rent the park from the DDA for $100,000 a year. The undercurrents of this situation are sad but predictable. The DDA has engaged in a series of boondoggles that have gone nowhere for years, including the WAVE streetcar, anti-homeless programs such as the "Ambassadorship program" and supporting the City's anti-homeless laws, and trying to get a new Federal Courthouse built.

The DDA claims they have to get this revenue from the Park to make up for the lack of taxes that they are collecting from downtown businesses, and have even suggested that if the City does not rent it that they will sell it to a developer. The DDA themselves are a veritable cabal of millionaire developers and property owners, appointed by the Fort Lauderdale City Commission.

What the fuck gives them the right to extort the City for $100,000 a year for one of its parks, or risk it being privatized?  Homeless hate laws take on many forms, and this is surely one of them. The DDA has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars the last few years making sure Riverwalk and Huzienga are well-guarded against unsavory homeless people. They've also made a spectacular effort to revitalize and gentrify the area, a noble effort if at any point there was any provisions made for the indigent people who already live in the area.

Will the City support this effort? In the past they have not acted particularly happy with the DDA's demands for help with their budget problems. But we're now closing in on the last year of Mayor Seiler's tenure, and how many times have we seen this City Commission get a proposal forwarded to them by the City Attorney, and supported by downtown's 1%, that they did not like?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Stranahan Society Pt 2 - A New Shelter? And More

Following up on our recap on the first meeting of the CoC's ad hoc committee to address Stranahan Park issues...

Board Member Frank Pontillo talked at length about San Diego's ePATH program, which provides a full service shelter and sharing program. The real question is, is anyone else really serious about this? The City of Fort Lauderdale has staved off a new shelter program in downtown for 20+ years. Properties such as "The Tree," which is already a gathering place for homeless people, has languished for decades and is perfectly positioned. The Federal Courthouse is supposedly being knocked down and replaced. There are a number of interesting possibilities, but will anyone actually allow it to exist? It seems very unlikely.

Another thing that happened Friday was discussion over the "Broward Local Coalition." Mason Jackson of Career Source suggested that the business community should lead it. The business community, of course, wasn't there, but if you flip over the Downtown Development Authority's meeting notes you will see that they do seem interested in the issues - encouraging the sweeps of homeless people's property and discouraging downtown businesses from letting their employees share food with the homeless. Few would be against the reformation of the Local Coalition, which fell apart in 2009 or so, but leaving it in the hands of the same people who created the Homeless Hate Laws of Fort Lauderdale is abominable. We'll be keeping a close watch on that one, particularly considering how closely the DDA seems to be connected to the storage ban enforcements of the last few months.