‘City of Farm Life’: South Miami sign vandalized after begging law passes

The welcome sign at the entrance to the city of South Miami promotes the Miami-Dade suburb as “The City of Pleasant Living.” But in a recent case of cosmic irony or cynical hooliganism shared on social networks for Iceland Journal editor Jason Katz, the letter L on the sign has disappeared, and the motto of the municipality now reads: “The city of peasant life”.

According to Sally Philips, Mayor of South Miami, the unfortunate typo is believed to be an act of vandalism that the city is already working to correct. While Philips can acknowledge the hooligans’ ingenuity, she doesn’t find the current phrase funny or accurate.

“I don’t find it particularly funny, but it was smart,” says Philips. new timit is. “What a difference that letter makes.”

You are right: the small suburb of about 12,000 inhabitants is not exactly known for its “peasant life”. According to U.S. Census data, South Miami’s median household income of $66,769 is well above the overall county average of $53,975, and its poverty rate of 12 percent is well below the state’s rate. 15 percent county.

That said, Philips theorizes that the vandalism could be related to the city’s homeless population and a recent ordinance criminalizing panhandling.

“Every city has homeless people and beggars,” notes Philips.

“Camping” on public property is already prohibited in South Miami. But on April 5, commissioners voted unanimously to pass a resolution restricting panhandling by prohibiting people from soliciting money, goods or services from others while on public transportation, at a bus stop, at an ATM or on someone’s car window when stopped at a traffic light. Anyone found guilty of panhandling can be fined up to $200 and face up to 30 days in jail, and if found to be “aggressively” panhandling, the fine can be as high as $500 and jail time increased to a maximum of 60 days. days.

“One way to stop panhandling is to stop giving people money, but you can’t arrest people for giving money,” says Philips. “However, you can tell the beggars not to be aggressive.”

While Philips is proud of the commission’s work to address homelessness in the city, homeless advocates like attorney Dante Trevisani, who grew up in South Miami, call these resolutions “anti-homeless laws.” homeless” and argue that they do little to prevent or solve the problem. issues that make homeless people beg for money or sleep on benches.

“Like many cities, its people complain that homeless people are close to downtown businesses,” says Trevisani, executive director of the Florida Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm. . “The step they take is criminalization, but that is wrong on many fronts and ineffective. It does nothing to address the root causes of homelessness.”

Trevisani says similar legislation against panhandling and camping has been struck down for violating First Amendment rights to free speech and Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment. The South Miami ordinances, he adds, read almost identically to a similar ordinance passed by the city of Fort Lauderdale, which was struck down by a federal judge last June. Fort Lauderdale was ordered to revoke the ordinance and pay damages to several homeless people who had sued

It’s not just that these laws are unconstitutional, explains Trevisani. By criminalizing homelessness, the laws further traumatize some of the city’s most disadvantaged residents.

“People end up on the street worse because now they have criminal records, fines and fees to pay, and the trauma of being in jail,” says the lawyer. “For people who have nowhere to live, this criminalizes their very existence.”

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