Ft Lauderdale Mayor Defends Citing 90 Yr-Old for Feeding Homeless
by Allen Williams
Recently I had an e-mail exchange with Mayor Jack Seiler of Fort Lauderdale, Florida over a second citation of a 90 year old man for feeding the homeless. Details of the incident can be found here. I received two separate responses from the mayor and two additional from the city's webmaster, who simply reiterated the mayor's position. Here is my opening e-mail to the mayor:
Mayor Seiler: We just published the report about the city of Ft. Lauderdale citing a 90 year old man for feeding the homeless. It seems government goes out of its way these days to punish citizens for being compassionate to their fellow man. "Abbott was the first to be charged with a new ordinance that makes it a crime punishable by up to 60 days in jail to feed the homeless in public." Your ordinance is interfering with this gentleman's right to exercise his religion under the First Amendment. "Mayor Jack Seiler..said the law is meant to help the homeless, not to keep them from eating. "Mr. Abbott has decided that he doesn't think these individuals should have to have any interaction with government, that they should be fed in the parks. We disagree," Seiler said." When an elected official tells someone what he must do in order to be a good citizen, then Fort Lauderdale is ruled by fascism. Government is NOT the solution to America's problems, most everything you people touch turns to shit. The current status of the country more than makes my point. America is full of elected imbeciles like yourself, who not only don't understand the constitution, but don't want anyone exercising their rights without your approval. Rest assured, the public will learn that the city of Ft. Lauderdale cannot legislate away constitutional rights. You need to be sued right out of your budget for the next 10 years.
Homelessness on the street brings home the public reality that the economy is in shambles as a result of government fiscal policies. Getting them off the streets and out of sight perpetuates the illusion that all is well even though a few individuals may be experiencing tough times. That's not to say that the homeless should be left to stew in their present circumstances but help must come from outside goverment. It is not the function of government to perform charity. It builds dependence and this is the mechanism that drives slavery. A principle well understood and utilized by the current president of the United States.
So, why does Ft. Lauderdale seek to punish those outside goverment willing to help? Because outside help is not good publicity when running for re-election. Allowing the free exercise of religion prevents authorities from building special interest cartels for friends of the administration.
Elected officials today are disjoined from reality, preferring their own narrative that redefines events to minimize political damage and when expedient, to garner political capital for future campaigns. Note that the mayor never responds to my allegations in several exchanges but continues the alternate reality narrative, that Ft Lauderdale is dedicated to public safety, a euphenism for violating constitutional rights The mayor's responses reflect a new breed of American politician, whether democrat or republican, that believes they have no accountability to an electorate and no occasion to respond to criticism. The inference that this 90 year old gentleman and his two pastoral assistants, feeding the homeless on a Fort Lauderdale Beach is unsafe, unsecure and/or unsanitary is simply ludicrous. If true, he's admitted that the city is unsafe under his watch, so beach picnicers beware, you are unsafe and unsanitary dining there.
The Mayor - "Thanks for your input and for caring. I truly appreciate the concern and the respectful approach. Perhaps you are not aware that I do substantial charitable work for the homeless here in South Florida, volunteer at the local homeless assistance center, contribute financially to assist homeless programs and benefits, and work on several successful homeless veterans programs and projects. We did not realize that requiring the homeless be fed in safe, secure and sanitary conditions would be deemed an attack on the homeless. We did not ban feeding the homeless in the City of Fort Lauderdale, we only regulated the location of those feedings. Further, the cycle of homeless and homelessness on the streets of Fort Lauderdale is unacceptable, and I will do everything possible to get them off the streets and into the right programs, to the appropriate facilities, and to the proper resources necessary to turn their lives around. Your assistance is also appreciated. Best wishes. John P. "Jack" Seiler Mayor City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida
My second e-mail to the mayor:
While I appreciate Ft. Lauderdale's altruistic efforts on the behalf of the less fortunate, I reiterate my point that government is not the solution to America's social or economic problems. Neither of your responses denies the city's ordinance providing up to 60 days in jail for feeding the homeless, you simply avoid mentioning this point in your responses: Mayor- "Contrary to reports, the City is not banning groups from feeding the homeless. We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community. The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner."
The constitution does not mention that government can enact laws for the 'greater social good'. It's not the purpose of the city or anyone else to establish 'food distribution ordinances' in a free society that govern how, where and under what conditions people may eat, homeless or otherwise. Mayor- "At a recent outdoor food distribution, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety. Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody." Again. you avoid the issue, as I didn't mention anyone being taken into custody in my complaint. What this ordinance infers is that citizens of Ft. Lauderdale cannot have a picnic in the park and offer anyone a sandwich without violating this ordinance. Mayor - "...We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community." If you so choose, picnickers could be cited, but you wouldn't because there would be a virtual riot and that might hurt your re-election bid. You haven't explained why this 90 year old gentleman and his two pastor associates have been excluded from Ft Lauderdale's "...numerous agencies, non-profit, charitable and faith-based organizations that, like us, are dedicated to effectively addressing this complex and important issue. My guess is that there are permits, substantial fees and other revenue garnering instruments for the city that must be completed satisfactorily in order to quality. Not to mention, what it might be costing the Ft. Lauderdale resident in higher taxes, park usage fees, etc to support the city's charitable enterprises. Here's a news flash for you Mr. Mayor. It's not the city's charter to be in the charity business. You're acquainted with the supposed 'Separation of Church and State', I presume? I'd suggest that your city attorney take a good look at the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because your ordinance is burdening this gentleman's exercise of religion under that statue in addition to the First Amendment violations. I think Ft. Lauderdale needs to be sued. I hope these gentlemen exercise that option because cities across the country need to be sent a message that we will not tolerate the abridgement of our individual liberty.
The mayor's second response
Mayor Seiler: I further appreciate the opportunity to clarify much of the misinformation that has been prevalent in the media recently regarding the homeless. Contrary to reports, the City of Fort Lauderdale is not banning groups from feeding the homeless. We have established an outdoor food distribution ordinance to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our community. The ordinance does not prohibit feeding the homeless; it regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner. While the ordinance regulates outdoor food distribution, it permits indoor food distribution to take place at houses of worship throughout the City. By allowing houses of worship to conduct this activity, the City is actually increasing the number of locations where the homeless can properly receive this service. At two recent outdoor food distributions, citations were rightly issued for non-compliance with the process enacted to ensure public health and safety. Contrary to what was reported in the media, no one was taken into custody. Had these activities taken place indoors, at a house of worship, they would have been in full compliance with the ordinance. Experts agree, however, that homeless individuals need more than just food. The homeless need shelter, clothing, and comprehensive medical and social services in order to help them get back on their feet. To set the record straight, few cities have done more for the homeless than Fort Lauderdale. We are taking a comprehensive approach by working with numerous agencies, non-profit, charitable and faith-based organizations that, like us, are dedicated to effectively addressing this complex and important issue. Our overarching goal is to provide a long-term comprehensive solution for the homeless population. While aiming for that goal, we are concurrently working to protect public safety and maintain quality of life for our neighbors, businesses and visitors. Our efforts include: • Fort Lauderdale was the first City in South Florida to establish a dedicated Homeless Assistance Unit as part of its Police Department. This Unit makes approximately 8,000 referrals a year working with the homeless to provide them with access to housing, critical medical care and social services. The award-winning initiative stands as a model that has been replicated by local, state, and national police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country. • Fort Lauderdale is home to the only full service comprehensive Homeless Assistance Center in Broward County. The Center has been operating here since 1999. Recently, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance allowing the Homeless Assistance Center to expand its size and scope of operations to accommodate more beds and serve more homeless. • The City maintains an active partnership with Mission United, an organization dedicated to providing housing and social services to homeless Veterans. • In addition to Mission United, the City maintains partnerships, provides resources and support to Broward County, the Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Salvation Army of Broward County, United Way of Broward County, Hope South Florida, and the Task Force for Ending Homelessness. These partnerships represent an outstanding example of how homelessness needs to be addressed – by bringing together a variety of agencies and organizations to collaborate, share resources, and leverage strengths in a unified effort to comprehensively impact homelessness through the coordination and delivery of essential programs and services. • Fort Lauderdale is the only city in South Florida and one of 235 communities in the United States taking part in the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a national effort to move disabled, chronically homeless people from the street to a place of their own. Using the motto "Housing First," the campaign reverses the traditional approach that required the homeless to go through addiction counseling and job training before earning a roof over their heads. • Through the Housing First program, Fort Lauderdale is providing the most vulnerable homeless individuals with housing, medical, and social services. The program is funded by a $441,000 federal grant that the City of Fort Lauderdale secured from HUD. It is currently providing permanent supportive housing for 22 chronically homeless people. • The City is proud to report that our initiative was recently re-funded by HUD. During the current year, we will have an additional $455,000 to continue to operate and expand this effort to serve even more chronic and vulnerable homeless in our City. As part of our comprehensive strategy, the City has passed new ordinances that aim to reduce the public safety hazards and inappropriate nuisance activities that are negatively impacting our community. As a City, we have a responsibility to ensure that all of our public spaces are accessible and can be safely enjoyed by everyone – families, children, residents and visitors. Our quality of life in Fort Lauderdale and our economic viability are directly linked to our stewardship of public spaces. The City continues to provide leadership in the implementation of innovative ideas to protect our quality of life while ensuring continued funding for programs and initiatives that address humanitarian needs. The City, our neighbors, and our businesses have a long and distinguished history of compassion toward those in need. If you would like to make a contribution to local non-profit agencies that help fund homeless assistance, substance abuse, and community support services in Fort Lauderdale, please visit: www.fortlauderdale.gov/give Again, thank you for your interest in this important humanitarian issue.
Seiler's response although expanded has not changed; Ft. Lauderdale's programs are better suited to promoting sustainable development, a UN sponsored Agenda 21 intitative, than charitable help. The charge of media misinformation without specifics is meaningless. He still does not confirm or deny the 60 day jail sentence for feeding the homeless in public while still claiming media 'misinformation'.
The mayor is not banning groups from helping the homeless; he's simply banning groups outside the sphere of his and city council's influence as in the case of this 90 year old gentleman and his associates. How does feeding the homeless on a public beach restrict access and substantially differ from a large family re-union? The answer: It doesn't but it's viewed as offensive by certain influential members of the community and therfore not good city public relations. If you're eating publically in Ft. Lauderdale at other than a city approved location, take heed because you're endangering the community, at best you're a public nuisance and at worst a public safety hazard. The Churches will be happy to learn that the mayor and council approve of what meals they may serve under their first amendment free exercise clause rights in their various parishes. They probably won't require a special use permit (at least for now) if they want to have a pot luck dinner activity there.
Homelessness is symptomatic of a much larger problem. It's what happens when an economy is centrally managed and the free enterprise system bridled. Federal grants do nothing more than guarnatee dependence. It appears that Ft. Lauderdale's charity afiliation is quite a revenue enhancer. Wonder how many kickbacks flow to get on the Mayor's approved charity list in Broward county?
Keep on electing these squirrels and America will continue to sink into the abyss.