Here’s an email forwarded to me yesterday by Dennis Ward, who works for the Public Defender’s Office and is running for State Attorney. It’s a story about people who ought to care but don’t, and a story about people who don’t have to care and do. Pam Martin, the main author, is a political activist, and I believe she lives on Key Largo. Below her email are some of my own thoughts this morning, and below that is my reply to Dennis last night, when I was a tad more heated up. A tad. Sloan
Subject: meeting with village manager
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 – 4PM- 4:45PM
Meeting @ Village Hall
Islamorada, FL 33070
In Attendance: Islamorada Village Manager, Ken Fields; Public Defender, Dennis Ward; Islamorada residents (& UKSHAL Members), Pam Martin & Bobbi Haugen
The meeting was held to educate the new Islamorada Village Manager about problems with homeless & village police officers as suggested by the new Village Mayor Cathi Hill.
We discussed middle of the night raids, homeless threatened with arrest, having their personal property destroyed such as drivers license, birth certificates, tools, VA records, marriage license, divorce records, clothes & personal property destroyed, etc. (Things that the homeless have a hard time replacing.) Bobbi told of a case where because she was there taking notes… one of the homeless got his bicycle & cell phone back. (She felt that he would not have gotten his things back if she had not been there.) Also discussed was the incident where a homeless man was hit by a car & threatened with arrest if he pressed charges against the driver who hit him. He was taken to Miami for treatment for his injuries. Incidents at the park behind the Islamorada Library were discussed.
We encouraged a change of attitude on the part of Village Police as well as to encourage law enforcement to treat the homeless with dignity & respect & to give homeless campers time to break down a camp in order to secure there belongings, clean the camp & find another place to stay if they have to move. Also we asked if they would stop the middle of the night or early morning raids and the destruction of the homeless property. Also the threats that they couldn’t come back to clean up their site & take their property.
Dennis Ward talked about the Pottinger Court Case, his work with the homeless as a former police officer as well as his work with the public defenders office. The homeless count was discussed in regards to HUD. Some of the local homeless are longtime Upper Keys homeless residents of 10-15 to even 20 years as well as the large number of homeless Vietnam Vets.
Village Manager, Ken Fields, received our input and is going to talk to (?Captain Fenilli?) of the Islamorada Police Department regarding educating the Village Police in regards to responding to the homeless people in our community.
Mr. Fields was invited to the next Upper Keys SHAL meeting along with the police captain. We also offered to have another meeting with the police captain, Mr. Fields & Village police officers. Pam M. will check next week to get a progress report and see what the next stage is. Dennis Ward said he would have a private chat with the police Captain as he knew him.
We will give the new Village Manager a chance to take the next step, than follow up. We also asked him to format an official Village policy to deal with the homeless with dignity & not threats.
My thoughts this morning . . .
Yesterday, Sandy Downs and I had yet another of our many discussions about homeless people. For maybe the third time, I told her everyone should be homeless for 6 months. It would change their perspective completely. She countered with a week of being homeless should be enough. I said, no, it would take 6 months.
When I ordered my regular chamomile-lime herbal tea this morning at Sippin’ Internet Café in Key West, I noticed a man in line in front of me had left about 40 cents change on the counter after purchasing his coffee. When Holly, who works mornings at Sippin’, brought me my regular, I told her about the change on the countertop. She said she didn’t want to take it, because of who had left it. I said, yes, he had been homeless a long time, but I was putting it into the tip jar for him. I added that I had been homeless and had spent many days in Sippin’, getting out of the weather, waiting for time to go to my cubbyhole to sleep. Where was my cubbyhole?, Holly asked. Around the corner on Fleming Street, in a doorway next to the bookstore; I was glad to have it in those days, I said. She said she guessed I was. I was.
Here is my reply to what Dennis Ward forwarded from Pam Martin.
Wow, Dennis. This sounds — hard to believe– a lot worse than what Key West was doing back in 2001, after 911 got everyone all shook up and looking, it sure seemed to me, for some place take out their fear and resentment for the terrorist attacks.
We fought KW’s apartheid against the homeless people in the press, at homeless, conferences, in private meetings with city officials, and in city commission meetings, using the “One Human Family” motto Key West had adopted, to appeal to their higher values. We also used the Pottinger Case out of Miami, a copy of which decision I got from KW Attorney Sam Kauffman, as I recall. Sam threatened lawsuits in some cases, and got a pretty good settlement in one, where KW City had a homeless camp bulldozed with all the homeless people’s belongings turned over in the dirt.
KW officials were very slow turning, and a big piece of the turn was they finally saw the City would be in a Pottinger-like case, if they kept the apartheid up, filed either by Sam Kaufman or by me. I told them that if I filed the case, I would bring it as a KW West Citizen, pro bono, pro se, saying I was doing it on behalf of the City because it was unable and/or unwilling to do what was right. I compared the case that would be filed to a shareholders’ derivative suit brought by stockholders of a corporation, on behalf of the corporation, because the corporate directors and officers were doing stuff that was harmful to the corporation, and thus to the stockholders and the public.
Also helping the turn was KW West Police Chief, Buz Dillion, befriended me. He did not feel his police, or any police force, should be used to implement social/politcal policy. He felt police were supposed to uphold the laws and protect citizens from crime. He called some of his officers on the carpet about they way they were behaving against homeless people. Even so, Buz was handicapped by receiving orders from the City Manager, who was receiving orders from the City Commission, and also from powerful private citizens who could just pick up the phone and make a call and get something done, just because of who they were.
It was, in my opinion, a great loss for KW, mainstream and the homeless population, when Buz was forced to resign by the City Manager. By then, Buz and I were fast friends. I wish he was here now, because in the past year or so, KW citizens and some KW officials have starting making a lot of noise again that reminds me of the post-911 apartheid.
The key to stopping the apartheid always was getting the police not to go along with it, while at the same time the police saw to it that the rough element of the homeless population toe-ed the line, just as the police were supposed to do that with the general population and our many visitors.
What I’m saying here is this: What is described in your forwarded email about that Village meeting could only happen if the police are participating. Islamorada has a contract with the Monroe County Sheriff Office, doesn’t it, to provide police protection? If so, this goes back up the line to Sheriff Roth, and to whomever under him has management/supervisory control over what deputies do in Islamorada. It maybe be that concerned Keys people will have to go there, threaten litigation against not only the Village but also against MSCO; and threaten to bring in the ACLU, which handled the Pottinger case.
In that case, the City of Miami itself had tried to run all of its homeless people out of the City, by arresting and jailing them for sleeping outside at night, cooking outside, relieving themselves in areas where they could not get to a toilet because there wasn’t a public one nearby. The federal judge held that the City of Miami was guilty of constitutionally-prohibited cruel and unusual punishment, and the City got hit pretty hard with damages and a healthy attorney fee for the ACLU.
The judge also ruled that Miami could provide the homeless with a place to stay at night, and if they could not get there on their own, they had to be transported there by the City. If they then refused to go to a shelter, they could be arrested. But if there were no shelters, and no transportation thereto for homeless people without the means to get there, they could not be arrested.
That federal judge/court retained jurisdiction over all homeless matters in Miami. The city had to run anything new it did about the homeless by that federal judge/court, before doing it. As I kept telling KW City, having a federal judge take over your city is like having 100 mothers-in-law come to visit and they never leave. I also kept telling KW, as did Sam Kaufman and Father Steve Braddock, of Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, and Charles Davis, who was FKOC’s homeless outreach liaison person, that the same federal court in the Pottinger Case had jurisdiction over Key West.
Ditto for Islamorada and all of the Keys, the Miami federal court has jurisdiction. It was in that court that I was going to file suit against KW City on behalf of KW City, relying on the Pottinger case. I was not going to ask for damages but only for injunctive relief and ongoing federal oversite. I wasn’t looking forward to doing it, but I would have done it, if KW City kept the apartheid going. Now KW is trying to do it in more subtle ways, so more subtle resistance methods are being used, for now.
Not at all subtle, if Sandy Downs is elected Sheriff, she will not let MSCO be used by KW or any Keys cities or the County Commission or County government to harass homeless people. Sandy and her husband and children have helped feed and clothe the homeless since they moved to the Keys. They see them as human beings, not as criminals, although some of them indeed are criminals and need to be dealt with accordingly, just as some mainstream people are criminals and need to be dealt with accordingly.
In my opinion, speaking now as a lawyer, what Islamorada has been doing to its homeless people, as described in the email you forwarded to me, is criminal, and should be investigated and prosecuted by MSCO and the State Attorney. The investigation and prosecution should be against the responsible city officials and responsible participating deputies, and also their supervisors, for ordering/allowing it. You can bet your boots this would happen if Sandy Downs was now our Sheriff. She will not tolerate criminal behavior by anyone, against anyone.
And, I imagine, were I on the County Commission now, and I learned of what is described in the email you forwarded, I would be told to make a lot of noise about it. If that didn’t do any good, I imagine I would be told make more than just noise. I imagine I would be told to put the appropriate governments and law enforcement agencies and people into federal court, on behalf of Monroe County. I would not ask for damages, but would asked for injunctive relief and ongoing federal court oversight, not unlike the ongoing state oversight the Keys now have from Tallahassee, because Keys people and governments practiced environmental apartheid against the Keys. Sandy Downs doesn’t care much for that kind of apartheid, either, as quickly will become clear, if she is elected sheriff.
By chance, if you believe in it, which I don’t, I went fishing a couple of days ago with a bird colonel in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Persian Gulf War and now is stationed in Germany. He had nothing good to say about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, or the original US General in charge of taking Iraq, Tommy Franks. We talked quite a bit about Vietnam and the huge homeless population it spawned in America, and in the Keys, and the big increase in homelessness the Iraq war will spawn. I can’t help but wonder how many homeless haters in the Keys voted for George Bush and backed his war policies. I can’t help but wonder.
Political advertisement, maybe at the state mental, written, borrowed, approved and paid for by Sloan Bashinsky, non-partisan county commission candidate, District 3