The Fort Lauderdale police have spoken: No intrusive video camera shall videotape the type of harassment the homeless receive. And of course the so-called Broward Coalition For the Homeless caved in and agreed.
Well, if cameras were out there on the streets and in the parks, the videotape would undoubtedly document situations similar to the one experienced by our reporter.
New Times staff writer Harris Meyer: At about 9:30 a.m. on July 27, I sat down on a bench in the park along the Riverwalk just west of the Sun-Sentinel building. I was unshaven and wearing grubby shorts and a Tshirt and had a bedroll and a backpack on the bench. In front of me was a can of Coke in a brown paper bag. Within ten minutes a female motorcycle cop from the Lauderdale P.D. pulled up and looked me over.
"What kind of beer ya got there?" she asked.
"It's just a Coke," I replied.
She dismounted, picked up the bag, examined the can, then gingerly brought it to her nose for a sniff. Without asking permission the officer poked her hand into my open backpack, peered in, and asked to see my ID.
"Am I doing something wrong, officer?"
"I'm just doing my job," she said. "It's illegal to drink beer in the park, and that's how a lot of people hide it."
"Why do you want to see my ID?" I asked.
"Why don't you want to show me your ID?" she responded. "You got something to hide?"
She kept poking into my bag, now a bit more cautiously. "That's my stuff," I said. "Why are you looking in my bag?"
"What's your name?" she asked, changing the subject.
"Why do you want to know?" I asked.
"Just so I know what to call you," she replied.
"Just call me Joe," I said.
She looked at me skeptically, then said, "Well, have a nice day, Joe," remounted, and roared off.
Civil rights violation? Umm, maybe. Questionable profiling and unwarranted harassment? Yes.
We're at home here. Well, actually we're at home plate.
Yep, New Times found out that one of the proposed sites for the new baseball stadium is plopped right on top of our offices near NE Fourth Street and Andrews Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Intriguing plan, a downtown stadium. But the idea comes out of left field and has as much chance of succeeding as the Marlins.
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We don't want to move our offices, and realistically speaking it probably won't happen. Here's why: 97 parcels of private property and their owners stand in the way. Ol' John Henry would have dozens of homeowners and landlords to haggle with. Even if a majority did want to sell, there would still be the holdouts, those American homeowners who wouldn't move no matter what money and threats were thrown at them.
And that would bring on the political hot potato known as eminent domain. The hand of Big Government would come crashing down and take some poor (and undoubtedly old) person's home, and those vultures in the press would swoop in and turn the eviction into a self-righteous tearjerker. Politicians hate that.
Our Flagler Heights neighborhood could use an infusion of capital and confidence. Some abandoned houses could stand bulldozing. But the hassle of turning acres of private property into a public ballpark could be too much of a deterrent. And besides, can you picture the traffic jam at Broward and Andrews an hour before game time?
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