Undercurrents | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


"It's a party," the invitation from the Broward County Human Services Department read. "Please come to celebrate the closing of Tent City and honor those who made it happen! Two free drinks and buffet!" How charitable!

About 25 county employees, including a representative of Broward County Commission chairwoman Ilene Lieberman, attended the fete at the Iguana Cantina at the Las Olas Riverfront last Friday night. The bureaucrats scarfed the free booze and taco fixings, and there wasn't a homeless person or former resident of Tent City in sight.

As the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" rumbled over the sound system, Henry Templeton, assistant director of the Broward County Human Services Department, toasted the assembled celebrants, who looked pretty somber. When asked how the homeless would feel about the party, Templeton said it wasn't a celebration of the closing of Tent City, "it's to celebrate that county workers can now do a better job of providing services to them."

Robert Semak, vice president of Love Thy Neighbor, a group that feeds the homeless and is battling the city for the right to continue, called the celebration "a slap in the face" to the thousands of homeless people who now have no place to go. "The celebration is catering to the egos of people who started something that isn't finished."

One county fieldworker who dealt directly with the homeless took a gatecrashing New Times reporter aside and suggested a story on Tent City successes. "We were able to help people," he said, recalling one former resident who completed a graduate degree program.

But isn't the county worker glad that Tent City is closed? Wasn't it the Black Hole of Calcutta, as the politicians kept calling it? "That's what they say, not me," the worker replied, too quietly for the taco-munching bosses to hear.

For those who thought the Christian right might be chastened by the Clinton impeachment debacle, think again. Gary Bauer, former president of the Family Research Council, conservative guru, and almost-certain presidential candidate, was in town last week for the "Reclaiming America For Christ" conference. The event, put on by the Rev. D. James Kennedy (think the late Phil Hartman channeling Mr. Rogers) and Coral Ridge Ministries, attracted some 1700 right-wing revelers to the Broward County Convention Center.

The thin-lipped, squinty-eyed Bauer took on the idea that conservatives are in peril, in particular conservative icon Paul Weyrich (he actually coined the term "moral majority"), who last month declared defeat in the culture wars. "If that memo is right, then this conference is ludicrous," Bauer proclaimed. "But none of us believe that. Dr. Kennedy doesn't believe that. I don't believe that."

To thunderous applause and occasional shrieks of conservative fervor from the gray-haired lady sitting behind us, Bauer then went through a laundry list of familiar issues: feminism sucks, Promise Keepers is good, Patricia Ireland of NOW is the antichrist, capitalism is God's chosen economic system, and, of course, abortion is murder.

"Words like 'I give up' can't be in our vocabulary," Bauer declared. "'I quit' can't be in our vocabulary."

Guess that was just wishful thinking on our part.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

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