Released Sept. 24, 2007
City's Arrogance Knows No Bounds As It Restricts Access to Lake Eola Picnic Tables to Paying "Customers"
The City of Orlando once again has shown that it will stop at nothing to drive the homeless out of public spaces such as parks and to try to stop groups that help them from using public spaces to do so. To achieve this goal, it is willing to inconvenience citizens and deny them access to the public amenities that their tax dollars pay for.
Within the last few days, the City has finished erecting a fence around the trees in the center of the picnic area at Lake Eola Park (the corner of Central and Osceola). It has placed the tables and chairs that formerly were on the circular brick walkway of the picnic area into the new fenced-off area and has put padlocks on the fence gates. It also has posted "No Trespassing" signs on two sides of the fence. Our understanding is that from now on only those who have paid rent to use the picnic area will be entitled to use the tables and chairs.
Orlando Food Not Bombs has been sharing every Wednesday at the Lake Eola picnic area for more than two years. It has continued to do so despite the fact that the City last year passed an ordinance that basically bans food sharings inside Lake Eola Park and more than three dozen other downtown parks. In recent months, Orlando Food Not Bombs has been joined at its sharings by other local groups who also bring food because of their desire to help the homeless, to show solidarity with FNB and to express their opposition to the ordinance. (OFNB is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the "large groups feeding" ordinance that will come to trial in June of 2008.) The City is, of course, greatly mistaken if it thinks that this petty action will keep homeless people out of the park, or deter Orlando Food Not Bombs and its allies from sharing food with them.
OFNB's sharings only last around 2-2 1/2 hours once a week; however, the City is so determined that the homeless get the message they are not welcome in downtown Orlando that it apparently doesn't give a damn about how its actions affect other citizens. Thanks to the arrogance of the Dyer administration those who live and work near the park have one less place where they can consume a bag lunch, rest, read or whatever. although Orlando's citizens pay taxes to build and maintain public facilities such as the picnic area the City is telling them that iif they wish to use this particular public facility they must rent it. Civic boosters and elected officials like to talk about how Orlando is on the cusp of becoming a "world class" city, but it's hard to see how citizens can have the sort of lifestyle that would seem to be in keeping with that exalted status when they city keeps restricting how they can use public parks. We are sure some Orlando residents will find this sort of treatment to be unacceptable and outrageous, and will wish to express themselves to the public officials who are supposed to represent citizens in the halls of government.
We hope that Orlandoans will realize that the changes to the park, besides being a high-handed way to treat those to whom the park supposedly belongs, represents something even uglier. It is another shameful attempt to practice discrimination against homeless people by seeking to deny them access to public facilities based upon the fact that they are destitute and homeless. Creating a category of second-class citizenship for poor and homeless people should not be tolerated by anyone who believes in equality, democracy and basic decency.
Contacts for Orlando public officials.
MAYOR BUDDY DYER
COMMISSIONER PHIL DIAMOND
COMMISSIONER BETTY T. WYMAN
COMMISSIONER ROBERT STUART
COMMISSIONER PATTY SHEEHAN
Commissioner Daisy W. Lynum
Commissioner Samuel B. Ings