Monday, March 28, 2016

Whacky 2018 Election News

Although the 2015 Fort Lauderdale general election resulted in a landslide for incumbent City Commissioners, 2018 sees most seats, including the Mayor's, open for the first time in years. Amazingly, Fort Lauderdale's political establishment has already started the election countdown. On Sunday, at 3 pm, the first Meet the Candidates event of the 2018 election takes place. 

Current Commissioner (and former FLPD police chief) Bruce Roberts, ex commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom, and occasional past Mayoral candidate Jim Lewis have already announced their runs to replace Mayor Seiler. During their tenure, Roberts and Rodstrom voted in lockstep with the City on anti-homeless laws, although Rodstrom left long before the 2014 laws were introduced. District 4, Romney Roger's district, also has a blue-blooded member of the political establishment announcing an early candidacy in Walter Duke, formerly a commissioner for Dania Beach. Clearly the political establishment is working way ahead of time to make sure the status quo remains unshaken in the years ahead. So far, one other outsider has announced their candidacy as well. Hunter Altschul, a young college student, is running against Duke for District 4. All these candidates along with (as advertised) Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioner Dean Trantalis will be at the Annie Beck House, 1329 N. Dixie Highway, this Sunday, April 3rd, at 3 pm.

We look forward to seeing how the political future of Fort Lauderdale will effect homelessness in downtown.

Fear & Loathing in Fort Lauderdale

Not to go unmentioned, the Sun Sentinel wrote a pretty extensive story recently on the ongoings of Stranahan Park.  Focusing entirely on quotes given by Mayor Seiler and the President of the Fort Lauderdale Women's Club, the result is an insulting hit piece on the people who are stuck living in the area around Stranahan Park, who are continuously re-victimized as undesirable "problems" by their wealthy commercial neighbors.

While the story stretches to claim some bent fences and dead fish as news, it entirely omits the newsworthy fact that the area for homeless people to occupy around Stranahan Park has rapidly dwindled in the past year. More and more people and their possessions are packed on 1st next to the park, and it is indeed curious for a news story like this to come out that so thoroughly repackages the narrative of this ongoing crisis.

As we have been reminding people for awhile now, privileged individuals have been complaining and divising schemes to displace undesirable people from Stranahan Park for perhaps 50 years or more. Not much has changed.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

No End in Sight for Prosecution of Rebel Food Sharers

In November 2014, a handful of activists and homeless advocates were infamously arrested or ticketed for sharing food with the homeless.

While outrage over this issue has waned over time, at least 4 of the people ticketed at Food Not Bombs sharings in 2014 have been stuck in courtroom purgatory for 16 months as the City refuses to either drop their cases or bring them to trial. Defendants have experienced a never-ending series of status hearings that go nowhere, or no updates or calendar dates whatsoever for their cases, which held a maximum punishment of a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

The City of Fort Lauderdale still has a resource page on its website to remind everyone how fair and necessary the sharing ban law is. But there is little explanation online, or in the courthouse, for why people who were arbitrarily punished for sharing food with the indigent in November of 2014 still have to retain legal representation and worry about how many more months, or years, they will have to wait until they get a day in court.

The sharing ban law, along with so many other City Municipal codes that target homeless activities, has always been, and still is, unfair. By contrast, the last Florida Congressional elections took place the same week as these arrests, and their terms are nearly up while these minor civil infractions drag on.

Price Tag Solution
On a related note, the Sun Sentinel published a story today, extensively quoting Mayor Seiler and other public officials, claiming that $11 million dollars is all that is missing for Broward County to permanently take care of all the homeless. If this sounds ridiculous to anyone than you haven't spent nearly enough time with anyone involved in the Broward County Continuum of Care Board, which is eternally convinced that massive government spending is all that is needed to help homeless people. True to the standards by which the media has covered homeless issues in the area, this 1,000 word essay is composed entirely of quotes by individuals whose job and reputation depends on painting a cheery picture on homelessness in the area.

No homeless people were quoted. Solutions such as opening the thousands of empty buildings in the County do not exist in this appraisal. Mayor Seiler is quoted as saying he will "consider" this funding, of which Fort Lauderdale would pay about $500k/year.