A new day for downtown Miami


With the hopeful approval of the Miami City Commission and that of a federal judge, a new day will dawn in Miami soon. Homeless persons in Miami will have more opportunities for shelter, dignity and reintegration into society, while residents, workers and visitors to our city will be able to carry on without some of the concerns they face all too often in their encounters with the homeless.

The city and the American Civil Liberties Union have presented to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Federico Moreno a modification to the landmark Pottinger case that will allow the city of Miami to enforce laws concerning homeless people who had previously been granted special protection for “life sustaining” activities, while continuing to afford the homeless protection without fear of arrest.

One misunderstood point of much controversy must be highlighted: There is no move to “criminalize” homelessness in Miami. Those protections will remain in place.

The city and the ACLU also agree that now it is up to the Homeless Trust to step up to the plate and fulfill its mission from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: End chronic homelessness by 2015. Doing that will require funding. The city and the trust have allocated money for additional shelter beds in 2014. I have called on the Trust to allocate a portion of its excess funding for more beds, which would prove invaluable.

This agreement will make downtown Miami a more viable place for residents, workers and visitors while continuing to protect the rights of the homeless.

It also expands the definition of available shelters for the homeless, and that part alone will help numerous homeless persons get into shelters, into the continuum of care and back as full members of society.

The agreement must still be ratified by the City Commission and then approved by Judge Moreno, who has set a hearing for February 28.

The modifications include:

• Homeless people registered as sex offenders or sexual predators will not have special protections;

• A homeless person may be arrested for public nudity if it is done intentionally and in plain view of others;

• Public nudity for a “call of nature” won’t be allowed if there is a public restroom within one-quarter mile;

• No fires will be allowed on public land, including parks;

• No temporary structures will be allowed on public land, including parks;

• Blocking pedestrian passage by lying across a sidewalk is not allowed, after one warning;

• No littering allowed within 300 feet of a trash receptacle;

• If the “life-sustaining” activities cause imminent threat of physical injury, police may arrest the person if he or she is warned and refuses to stop.

• The definition of an “available shelter” for the homeless is expanded to include mats of at least three inches, in addition to beds;

• Shelters outside of the City of Miami borders may be included, if the homeless person agrees to such a shelter. Now, only shelters within a one-mile radius of the city may be used.

The homeless population in Miami-Dade County has decreased by 90 percent since the Pottinger agreement was reached in 1998. Simultaneously, downtown Miami has blossomed into a more vibrant city with thousands of new apartments and residents, new restaurants, stores and nightlife.

This agreement will benefit all residents of Miami.

Marc Sarnoff is chairman of the Miami City Commission and of the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald



    Judge has faith in the law, and in human potential

    I am a circuit judge in Miami-Dade County serving in the criminal division. Every day, I make decisions about whether to release defendants who are awaiting trial and whose families rely on them for basic needs; whether to grant requests by victims of domestic violence to remove stay-away orders that keep their families apart; and whether to sentence convicted defendants to prison, house arrest or probation.



    There’s got to be a better way to seat judges

    When I think of the traits that are essential for someone to be a good judge, I immediately identify characteristics such as legal ability and understanding of legal principles, courtroom experience, record and reputation, temperament and community involvement. As a Miami-Dade County voter, and as someone who has served on several endorsement panels for various organizations, I have serious concerns about the quality of the candidates that are running for this very important post. I also have reservations about the election process through which we are selecting the members of our lower courts.

Jack Orr cast the only vote in the Florida Legislature in support of school integration.


    A man of vision, principle — and flaws

    It was 1956, and the Florida Legislature was considering a bill to get around the U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring racial segregation in schools. Only one of the 90 House members voted against the bill — a young lawyer from Miami named Jack Orr.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category