Food Extravaganzas: $65K; Food Sharing: Illegal!

Jeff Weinberger, Co-founder
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners McKinzie, Roberts, Rogers and Trantalis
Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

February 16, 2016

Dear Mayor Seiler, Commissioners and City Manager Feldman:

While little more than 15 months have passed since enforcement of Fort Lauderdale’s public food sharing restrictions, approved by you on October 22, 2014, rained international scorn down on our beautiful city, it now regrettably appears that both the public and international media backlash which your decision catalyzed is no longer on your minds.

Need you really be reminded of that shameful fiasco? Need you be reminded of the fact that your ordinance was stayed by a judge only a month after its enforcement began? And while you chose not to re-implement the ordinance’s enforcement subsequent to that stay, might that be because you realized you’d made a huge mistake, which also was evidenced by the multitude of lawsuits that the ordinance engendered, your defense of which has so far cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars?

Surely you wouldn’t want to repeat that mistake.

Now, however, not only have we learned of your plan to introduce an amended and still highly-restrictive version of the original ordinance – which is tantamount to a ban on compassion and Biblical mandates to feed the poor – but we see that you’ve allocated no less than $65,000 to supplement high-dollar events connected to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. I imagine you’re all well-aware of Sun-Sentinel columnist Mike Mayo’s take on that expenditure but, if not, here it is: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/michael-mayo-blog/sfl-mayo-fort-lauderdale-food-20160202-story.html

We, too, take exception to your unconscionable decision to invest even one nickel in food events which only the wealthy can afford to attend. But more so we take exception to your appropriating these funds against a backdrop wherein what’s on the table for hungry and homeless folk won’t be food but instead will be restrictions on food sharing. Based on your own actions and statements, it appears that funding “a branded photo opportunity experience” at a $175 Bloody Mary Brunch at the Ritz-Carlton is more important to your agenda than making sure food insecure people aren’t bloody starving.

In light of your decision, which was unanimously affirmed at the February 2 commission meeting, we will publicly be demonstrating at both of the events you’ve chosen to fund – one at the Bonnet House on Feb. 24, the other already referenced on the 28th. We also plan on continuing down this path until Fort Lauderdale embraces a culture of compassion, rather than the culture of cruelty which you’ve greatly advanced, and until affordable housing and equality, rather than unaffordable criminalization of unhoused people and their supporters, become the order of the day.

Respectfully yours,

Jeff Weinberger
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

Endorsed by the following:

Megan Hustings, Director
National Coalition for the Homeless

Reverend Craig Watts
Royal Palm Church/Member October 22nd Alliance

Reverend Gail Tapscott
Unitarian Universalist Minister/Member October 22nd Alliance

Pastor Frank Pontillo
REMAR USA

Sean Cononie
The Homeless Voice Newspaper

Father Bob Caudill
All Saints Catholic Mission and Soup Kitchen

Pastor Dwayne Black
The Sanctuary Church

Professor Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez
St. Thomas University School of Law

Paul Boden, Executive Director
Western Regional Advocacy Project

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)
Carmen Kunze, Organizer
Food Not Bombs (West Palm Beach)

Jon Dengler, Executive Director
Charissa Stepp, Operations Manager
The Well (Tampa)

Reverend Bruce Wright
Poor People’s Campaign (St. Petersburg)

Teresa Pugliese, Co-founder
Speak Up Florida (Orlando)

Dr. Arthur Carl, Director
Harbourview House Mission

Lynn Lewis, Executive Director
Picture the Homeless (NYC)

Aaron Jackson
CNN Hero and Director of Planting Peace, Inc.

Bryan Ellis
ANSWER Coalition (Sarasota)

James Jones
Pinellas Greens/Gulfcoast Greens

Barbara Wright
The Refuge (St. Pete)

Robert Schuster
The COSAC Foundation Inc

Reverend Lawrence Lacy
Senior Pastor, The Answer Church (Hollywood, FL)
Testimonial: “I certify that I’m in support of the letter and a collaborated effort to bring a heightened awareness to the general public regarding the plight of the homeless in these United States and exclusively to those who reside in the streets of the city of Fort Lauderdale and those surrounding municipalities.”

Roger Wickham
Co-Director, AMERICAN VETERANS OF THE IRAQ WAR NATIONAL HOMELESS COALITION, INC

Krown Deon
Revolutionary Road Radio Show

Christina Wright
Students for a Democratic Society at USF St. Pete

Jessica Biedron, Juris Doctor Candidate 2017
St. Thomas University School of Law

Ken Churchill, Author
American Homeless Land Model

DeBorah Gilbert White Ph.D., Founder/Coordinator
HerStory Ensemble (Delaware)

Josh Loomis Ph.D., Professor of Biology
East Stroudsburg University
Formerly 10-year social services volunteer at Jubilee Center (Hollywood, FL)

Don Sawyer, Director/Producer
A Bigger Vision, LLC

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About October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness

I've been an organizer and freelance writer exposing the systemic roots of social inequality, especially the brutality inflicted on persons experiencing homelessness by means of laws criminalizing their existence, for about seven years. While seeking change at the local, state and national levels via progressive legislation, legal remedies and creative resistance, I believe that only through a radical reorganization of society, brought about by unified struggle with the powers that be, will we be able to guarantee every citizen the humane existence which we all deserve. I work locally in Broward County, FL, as founder of The October 22nd Alliance; across Florida with Florida Homeless Action Coalition (FL-HAC) which I also co-founded; and am allied nationally with National Coalition for the Homeless and National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. I support all struggle for the full liberation and equality of historically dominated people, from Blacks and Native Americans in the US, to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, to women and LGBTQ people the world over, and wherever the crushing machinery of capitalism and imperialism produces its endless supply of human misery.
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