[Hpn] Homeless Voice LAWSUIT - Police arrest 69 streetpaper vendors (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Thu, 22 Feb 2001 22:50:16 -0800 (PST)


Several South Florida cities have passed or proposed laws to sweep away Homeless Voice street newspaper vendors. In recent weeks, police in Weston have ARRESTED 69 Homeless Voice hawkers. http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/bpiep/20010221/en/_b_h1_miami_herald_designing_news _racks_h1_b__1.html FWD Editor & Publisher - Wednesday February 21 08:02 PM EST MIAMI HERALD DESIGNING NEWS RACKS To many city and suburban officials in southern Florida these days, there's a new Miami vice: the proliferation of newspaper street hawkers and news racks. Miami officials want to replace all freestanding news racks with modular units. Aventura two weeks ago banned street hawkers from its busiest streets, joining other suburbs that already have similar ordinances against street sales. And, in recent weeks, police in Weston have arrested 69 hawkers of The Homeless Voice, a semimonthly put out by the Helping People in America homeless shelter in Hollywood. In response, newspapers - especially The Homeless Voice - are fighting back. On Feb. 9, the paper sued Hallandale Beach, claiming the city is discriminating by banning its hawkers while letting vendors continue to sell The Miami Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, based in Fort Lauderdale. Homeless Voice Publisher Sean Cononie said that next week he will file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Aventura ordinance and that he would follow with suits against similar hawker bans in other Broward County and Dade County suburbs. "I'm a constitutional stickler, and when you start telling me I can only distribute 20 papers instead of 5,000, you're restricting my rights," he said. Cononie said his shelter needs the earnings hawkers split with the paper. Barely a year old, The Homeless Voice sells an estimated 70,000 copies an issue. In January, he added, the paper generated $122,000 in revenue - enough to run the shelter for a month. To some suburban authorities, however, public safety has been threatened by the addition of Homeless Voice hawkers to the street vendors who for years have peddled the Herald, the Sun-Sentinel, and such products as flowers, oranges, and toys. The Homeless Voice stations crews of six vendors, all wearing bright orange T-shirts and hats, at intersections. Homeless papers have faced similar problems recently in Cleveland as well as Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona, said Brian Davis, coordinator of the North American Street Newspaper Association. "Cities think it's bad for their image to have people on the street corner selling papers," he said. Miami Herald General Counsel Robert Beatty said the paper has not decided whether to challenge the street-hawker ordinances. But the paper is negotiating with the City of Miami over a proposal to replace freestanding news racks with multiple-title racks, he said. The Herald is designing a modular rack that would meet the paper's goal of keeping the distinctive yellow color and logo it uses on all its boxes, Beatty said. Miami's 19-page proposed ordinance - clearly crafted to meet legal challenges - specifies that the entire modular rack be painted a color it identifies as "Deep Waters." [ Mark Fitzgerald is editor at large for E&P. ] http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/daily/detail/0,1136,37500000000112832,00.html FWD Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel / Web-posted: 11:55 p.m. Feb. 21, 2001 Florida USA SUIT MAY LEAD TO NEWSPAPER STREET SALE BAN By Vicky Agnew HALLANDALE BEACH -- If the city can't resolve its legal battle with the founder of a homeless newspaper, officials may consider banning all newspaper vendors from city streets, City Attorney Mark Goldstein said. The city is embroiled in a lawsuit brought recently by Sean Cononie, founder of the Homeless Voice, a newspaper that advocates the rights of the homeless and is sold at intersections throughout south Florida. Cononie is suing the city over its law restricting charitable organizations from soliciting for more than five consecutive days a year. Cononie said his paper has a 70,000 circulation, and is a legitimate publication. Other papers, like the Sun-Sentinel, sell in the intersections, and he's entitled to the same right, he said. Last week, U.S. District Judge Norman Roettger issued a temporary restraining order, which allowed Cononie's vendors to sell on city streets. But on Sunday, city police tried to run his vendors off and threatened to arrest them, Cononie said. Police have said the vendors were interfering with traffic and didn't have a permit. Cononie said Wednesday his attorney has sent an affidavit of Sunday's incident to Roettger, alleging the city violated his order. The matter of the restraining order is set to go before Roettger on March 5, when Goldstein said he would ask the judge to dissolve it. In the meantime, Cononie has said he will keep his vendors out of the city, and the city commission said police should leave the vendors alone while the lawsuit is pending. If Roettger rules against the city, Goldstein said he would ask city commissioners for permission to appeal the ruling with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Goldstein said he would discuss the matter with city commissioners March 1. If the city loses its legal battles, Goldstein said he would ask city commissioners to consider banning all newspaper vendors from selling on city streets. "Frankly, I feel boxed in at this time," Goldstein said. "I'm sure in my mind there is a factual difference between the Homeless Voice and .... the Sun-Sentinel, but if I reach the conclusion that it's an all-or-nothing proposition, that everyone has to be in the streets or no one, I would turn that over to commission." Sun-Sentinel spokesman Rich Pollack defended the paper's sales methods. "We recognize that the city has concerns about safety, but we don't believe our methods of delivering the paper to our readers compromises that safety," Pollack said. "As always, we welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with the city attorney and other appropriate city officials." The City of Sunrise has been enforcing a no-street vendors state law since 1986, city attorney Jeff Olson said. "There have been numerous accidents including deaths involving newspaper vendors in Broward County," he said. [ Staff Writer Jeff Shields contributed to this report. ] ***** http://www.newtimesbpb.com/issues/2001-01-25/news.html FWD New Times Broward-Palm Beach Online / 2001-01-25 BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE Cities that try to restrict the sale of Homeless Voice hear from the voluble Sean Cononie Word on the street: Commissioners in several South Florida cities have proposed laws to sweep away Homeless Voice vendors By Amy Roe Exhaust wafts from tailpipes and mingles with the acrid stench of sun-baked asphalt. It is a crossroads: In the middle of rush hour at the intersection of Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway, there's a confluence of classes, a face-to-face exchange between rich and poor. Homeless Voice vendors are often seen (and sometimes heard) here, though their product is not so much a scream from the streets as a whisper to the collective conscience of commuters. To buy it, motorists simply wait for a vendor in a bright orange-and-black T-shirt to stride down their line of cars. Today, however, a female driver doesn't seem to see the salesman. More likely she is pretending not to notice. He may be saying something, or perhaps he's merely mouthing the words. With engine idling and CD player playing, who can tell? The distracted drivers aren't buying, but Cononie's ragtag team of once (and sometimes future) homeless vendors are smiling anyway. They know things could be worse. Elsewhere a backlash against their work is burgeoning. In the past two years, at least five Broward and Miami-Dade cities have considered ordinances to restrict the sale of Homeless Voice. Cononie is now filing a lawsuit against Hallandale Beach. What was once a simple transaction has turned into a showdown. The 16-page tabloid is a mishmash of fact, opinion, and personal history; it's a twice-a-month digest of life on and (barely) off the streets. Published by the COSAC Foundation, Sean Cononie's Hollywood-based nonprofit agency, the paper examines hard-knock lives in stark but optimistic terms. Proceeds go to COSAC's Hollywood shelter, the area's largest provider of emergency beds for the homeless. Cononie started the charity in 1997, bankrolling it with half a million dollars in worker's comp settlements he received in 1983 and 1990 after taking a fall while working as a security guard. In 1999 he started the newspaper, which now has a circulation of 70,000. Its pages contain success stories and Bible-tinged testimonials. Cheerful reminders and commonsense advice from local social service professionals are rife; occasionally a poem appears. Once Cononie, a boyish, heavyset man of 36 years, contributed a heartfelt essay about his childhood reverence for actor Lee Majors, a local supporter of homeless rights. But over the past two years, police officers in Hallandale Beach (which has no antivending ordinance) have repeatedly kept his vendors from selling there, Cononie says. Fort Lauderdale attorney John David is handling Cononie's case against the southeastern Broward County city. David, who last year represented homeless advocate Arnold Abbott in his unsuccessful quest to continue feeding the homeless on Fort Lauderdale beach, says he'll file a federal lawsuit against Hallandale Beach this week, citing discrimination and violation of his client's First Amendment rights. "We're suing them because they're preventing my clients from selling a newspaper [that] represents a political point of view," David explains. Moreover, he says Homeless Voice is unfairly singled out: "At the same time, they don't restrict The Herald and the Sun-Sentinel." Legal action is a last resort, David says. In September, he claims, he sent a letter to the city: "We asked them to stop and they didn't." However, Hallandale Beach city attorney Michael Goldstein says he never received the missive. "I've not heard from [Cononie], and his name doesn't ring a bell. And I haven't heard anything from my people about that." In fact the impending court battle is only the latest development in a series of apparent attempts to sweep Homeless Voice vendors off the streets. In 1997, in a stated effort to protect fundraising schoolchildren, city commissioners in Davie and Pembroke Pines considered ordinances that would have restricted soliciting donations on the street. After Cononie spoke before both commissions, officials eventually agreed Homeless Voice workers were selling papers, not soliciting donations, and exempted them from the restrictions. Vendors continue to sell in both places. But that hasn't kept other cities from trying to stop Cononie's crews. In May 1999 Weston police arrested six vendors for violating the city's laws against soliciting donations. Officers said some vendors weren't carrying the newspaper, which was, and still is, marked "$1 donation." The charges were later dropped, but the issue re-ignited in October 2000, when Weston commissioners gave final approval to a controversial measure banning vendors along five major roads. Cononie says he may challenge that ordinance in court, too. He's also had skirmishes with Miramar, a city he says has flip-flopped its position on vendors. "Miramar said, "No, you can't do it,' about a year and half ago. John David contacted them, and Miramar said, "Feel free to solicit; we were never stopping you.' We went back out there, and they started to stop us again." Miramar city attorney Jamie Cole says if such an incident occurred, it must have been a misunderstanding. "We talked to the police about that. Miramar doesn't prohibit any of the newspapers [from being sold at intersections]. Bottom line, we don't treat [Homeless Voice] any differently than The Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel." Cononie has already won one battle. When Hollywood commissioners last year considered an ordinance that would've restricted where roadside peddlers could stand, Cononie joined forces with The Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel to oppose the proposal. Fearing it would not withstand a constitutional challenge, commissioners backed down, rejecting the ordinance in a 4-to-3 vote. Earlier this month Cononie persuaded the City of Aventura to reject an ordinance that would have kept his vendors off the streets of that burg. Commissioners agreed to hold a workshop on the issue and return with a proposal that would not prohibit the sale of the newspaper. The turnabout was in part due to impassioned opposition by Commissioner Jay Beskin, a Davie attorney. "At bottom I think the purpose of this ordinance is insidious," Beskin says. "It's to keep people we don't want in Aventura out of Aventura. We want to keep newspaper [vendors] who are not homeless but [are] close to homeless out of Aventura. We can't differentiate between different types of vendors because of the content of what they're vending. [The proposed ordinance] is a blot and a stain on the people of the City of Aventura." Likewise Cononie says Hallandale Beach's response reflects poorly on that city. He says he can't figure out why officials resist his vendors' presence, particularly after other cities have grudgingly accepted them. "Maybe," Cononie says with a sigh that belies his usual feistiness, "they just think they're better than everyone else." END FORWARD **In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.** SEE ALSO http://www.herald.com/content/today/news/broward/digdocs/054195.htm FWD Miami Herald - Wednesday, February 14, 2001 JUDGE ALLOWS HOMELESS VENDORS BACK IN HOLLANDALE BY GRIFF WITTE Vendors of the Homeless Voice will be back on the streets in Hallandale Beach today after a federal judge allowed them to return to work pending the result of a lawsuit. http://www.herald.com:80/content/today/news/broward/digdocs/088754.htm Published Thursday, February 8, 2001, in the Miami Herald Newspaper hawkers show their scorn for Aventura vending ban BY DANIEL A. GRECH In a show of defiance against an Aventura ban on street vending at its busiest intersections, Homeless Voice newspaper hawkers stationed at a four-way stop sign just outside of the exclusive Williams Island condominium Wednesday afternoon. Visit HPN for CONSTANTLY UPDATING NEWS on Homeless People: *************************************************************** Over 10,000 articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people Been Homeless? Then JOIN! EMAIL Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net> Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy ***************************************************************