In response to the homeless feeding ordinance
I write regarding the City of Miami's Homeless Feeding Ordinance proposed by Marc Sarnoff, City of Miami Commissioner. I must say I am speechless. Now, if we have rampant death, illness, etc. that is causing distress to our homeless residents due to this non-regulated feeding of them, I welcome correction to my opinion. In light of this proposal, I have some very serious questions for Mr. Sarnoff and the City of Miami Commission and our Mayor:
1. The City of Miami is now in trouble again for improper accounting procedures and methods. In this economy, this issue is extremely serious and precarious. Eventually, there is no money from state or federal entities for 'bail outs". We cannot look to Miami-Dade County for exactly one main reason - Jackson Health. Miami-Dade County’s real estate tax base is struggling with collections (and this will not be fixed anytime soon). Our fair City must make the harsh decision to stop borrowing. Period.
2. The City of Miami is dirty - very, very dirty. I myself pick up trash on my block daily. This debris of rotten food, glass, etc. causes more of a health problem than unregulated feeding of our homeless residents.
3. South Florida releases sewage into the Atlantic Ocean right off of our shores. That needs to be addressed and creates problems that anyone with any common sense and intelligence can ascertain on their own.
4. Commissioner Sarnoff's own district is facing extreme economic hardship right down the road from his own residence in the Coconut Grove business district. Many empty storefronts are well-known and have existed there for quite some time.
5. The City of Miami recommends "classes" to be available for free, etc. Well, how much money is this going to cost our municipal government who is facing severe cash flows issues (see No. 1)?
6. The whole of South Florida has a severe water issue. Water is necessary for human life. Are we addressing that? No. If we were, every home in District 2 (and the City) would have cisterns (if possible) and be educated about efficient water collection and re-use as much as practicable. (We are lucky that we have so much rain that we just let go….) We as a community would be looking at outfitting residents etc. with individual or small desalinators. Hurricane 5 destruction will not be able to rely on FEMA. One lengthy power outage for any reason - no clean water as power is used at water treatment plants. We must be able to rely on ourselves and watch Haiti's plight (and remember New Orleans after Katrina) as a true lesson and learn from it by changing our current actions and priorities. Frankly, we must all be able to answer the question - if you cannot get water from the municipal water supply - where would you get it without relying on others? Right now, the City of Miami and most of its residents cannot truly answer that question in a meaningful way. And, the answer to that question does not involve Costco or Publix.
7. South Florida has an electric grid issue but the most sunshine available to it. Are we addressing that? Not one bit. I follow governments in a lot of places and there is a lovely place called Spanish Wells in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The citizens got together and put up their own generator/solar/etc. grid without government assistance after a hurricane. It appears we are moving towards the mantra, "if you want something done, do it yourself." A Bahamian told me recently, "dey don't scream to da government, dey fix it dey selves." A good example for us to possibly follow from this point forward it seems.
8. Commissioner Sarnoff touts on his website to go green and buy American cars. Really? Can we not go green and truly recycle, conserve water, protect our waterways and seriously in peril ecosystem. Buy a car? Many of my clients lost their jobs and businesses and are getting rid of their cars altogether. They are not alone in this decision.
9. Does the City of Miami have a plan if this country experiences a serious oil shortage that will result in transportation problems which means Publix has limited deliveries; or, rampant inflation spiking food prices out of most citizens' budgets? Can the City of Miami feed itself? Obviously not as many are going hungry every single day.
10. Kansas City, MO just closed half - yes, half - of its entire public school system. I don't even need to get into our public school system.
11. Has the City of Miami solved its housing crisis? Not one bit. I still must laugh as I drive through downtown Miami and view all the glittering tall buildings that have no lights on in them. This foreclosure and overdevelopment problem is extremely serious and systemic. It will absolutely not be fixed in couple of years. I remain perplexed at building high rises in hurricane zones and distinctly remember Brickell Avenue covered in glass and other debris after Wilma. I do not profess to know anything really, but these building decisions made no common sense. But then again, I personally questioned former Mayor Diaz when he wanted to get everyone to walk in a City with a large number of senior citizen residents who are told not to walk when the temperatures are high during our long summer months. Oh, and during rainy season – it really rains here.
12. If our fair Magic City ends up broke - which I am of the personal belief that it truly already is if one was able to do a true audit with fair, balanced and accurate accounting procedures (not the new Financial Accounting Standards Board's decision to do away with mark to market valuations), what are we as citizens willing to give up? Fire department, police department, 911 service, etc.? Are municipal pensions really going to be paid out in the future? Can we even afford them considering the times? What hard decisions are we as a collective going to have to make? These times require such a true assessment. One who hopes for the best but plans for the worst - and really has a plan for the worst - always does better than one who does nothing at all but waits for the future to solve present problems.
I read the letter from Stand Up for Kids, but would take it one step further - is this issue so important that it even needs discussion at this time? My opinion is absolutely not. Mr. Sarnoff - I implore you - the City of Miami government needs to focus entirely on two things right now and two things only - our budget problems and human survival in harsh economic times (water, food, shelter, waste management, police/fire/rescue, healthcare). I can't find one municipality in the State of Florida who is really doing an honest assessment its own community and shedding light on the truth of our collective situation. I am starting to believe that most municipal governments don't even know what to do in such harsh times as they have never experienced same. Well, they are here now and they are real. And, I did read that your opinion of said budget problems was that you relied on others. Well, I for one am tired of my representatives "relying" on others who make/made bad decisions. You represent Us - the people. I relied on you - a lawyer who is obviously very educated to do more than just rely on others about such a serious issue. I really did and I remain disappointed but now, the milk is spilled so we must move on and look to solutions. And, I am now of the belief that the best solutions involve all of us - each and every citizen, including our homeless residents. We as a City can easily take a good harsh look at our collective "household budget" - the numbers can be put together - and collectively modify our priorities and change the way we live so that we can actually have a real future that is in balance (the exact opposite of what we are doing right now).
Finally, every restaurant in town wanted to do feeding programs for many years but government precluded them from doing that. So, we have citizens going hungry and food going to waste every single minute of everyday. We can all agree that this makes no sense. I am confident that we can come up with better solutions to human hunger that do not involve a government that cannot efficiently and truthfully manage its own finances - which, in actuality are our finances. And, I will go ahead and say it. I feed a few homeless people who are permanent residents of Coconut Grove. I also feed their animals. I consider them my neighbors. If I have leftover dinner, I do bring a plate to someone who may enjoy a hot meal cooked from my home by me. To date, I have had no one get sick, including me. I am confident you don't even know who "Crackers" is but I know and I care. I am thanked for the generosity and thought every single time. And, ordinance or no ordinance - I will continue to help my brothers and sisters, and their pets who live here as that is just the decent and civilized thing to do.
A reminder, we are not the only City facing such problems but we can truly be a Magic City and be the first to look at ourselves truthfully and actually do something meaningful about it.
Elizabeth Goings, Coconut Grove
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