[Hpn] Florida drives yet another nail in the U.S. Constitution's coffin

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Thu, 08 Feb 2001 14:17:25 -0700


Published Wednesday, February 7, 2001, in the Miami Herald

Aventura passes law restricting street vendors

One by one, Homeless Voice hawkers walked to the microphone at the Aventura
Commission meeting Tuesday night. Their stories differed, but their request
was the same: Please let us sell our paper.

Despite an hour of testimonials to the healing power of hawking -- and
another hour of impassioned debate among commissioners -- the Aventura
Commission swatted away several amendments and passed 4-2 a strict ordinance
that keeps vendors out of the city's busiest intersections. It followed the
lead of Weston, which passed a similar ban last year.

``We are not some ogres up here,'' Commissioner Ken Cohen told the rows of
homeless people at the meeting in their safety-orange hawking T-shirts.
``This is not about the homeless, it's about safety. We're here to not get
people hurt.''

Commissioners Patricia Rogers-Libert and Jay R. Beskin opposed the ban,
citing First Amendment concerns. They also emphasized the importance of the
Homeless Voice, a 40,000 circulation paper, in rehabilitating the homeless.

``We are not an island,'' Rogers-Libert said. ``The general success of the
entire community depends on our actions.''

The Aventura ordinance bans panhandling, begging and all other forms of
street solicitation from Biscayne Boulevard, Country Club Drive, Aventura
Boulevard and Northeast 207th and 213th Streets.

``So this means we sue?'' Sean Cononie, executive director of the Homeless
Voice, asked attorneys Jamie Benjamin and John T. David after the ordinance

``Yeah,'' they answered.

``There are no alternate avenues of communication for newspaper solicitation
left in the city,'' said Benjamin, an American Civil Liberties
Union-sponsored attorney and a First Amendment expert. ``For 200 years, we
have passed out ideas by selling newspapers in the street. Aventura has
toppled that.''

Aventura's attorneys carefully crafted the ordinance to withstand First
Amendment scrutiny.

Cities can regulate the time, place and manner of protected speech, as long
as they do so as narrowly as possible. A city attorney emphasized at the
meeting that the commission consider the ban only in light of safety

Cononie left the meeting planning to deploy his hawkers ``on every
residential street corner, in front of every condominium.''

``That,'' he said, ``will have the commissioners phones ringing off the

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