Sarasota Homeless Ordinance by Mitch E. Perry

11/03/06

A long running legal battle dealing with the homeless came to at least a short term conclusion yesterday when a Circuit Judge ruled that Bradenton and Sarasota’s ‘No lodging’ Ordinance IS constitutional.

The city of Sarasota passed the controversial ordinances last year, but the ordinance was twice overturned and rewritten after judges expressed concerns about its constitutionality. Bradenton passed a similar law this summer.

The law bans unauthorized camping, lodging and sleeping outdoors.

Michael Stoops is the Executive Director of the Washington based National Coalition for the Homeless. (roll tape#1 o.q.�we plan to appeal�)

The organization put Sarasota on the map in a most unflattering way when it labeled it the Meanest city in the country for the homeless.

Fort Myers Attorney Chris Cosden represented 3 people who were charged with ‘lodging out of doors’ in Sarasota.’ He says the ordinance is unconstitutional because it’s too vague (roll tape#2 o.q.�is forbidden�)

Sarasota Circuit Court Judge Charles Roberts ruled that the Ordinance DOES provide fair notice of what conduct is forbidden, does NOT give police officers excessive discretion in enforcement, does NOT penalize innocent conduct, and does NOT criminalize the Homeless.

But Fort Myers Attorney Chris Cosden says the Judge made a mistake in his ruling, opening the way for an appeal (roll tape#3 o.q.�Circuit Court opinion�)

Whitney Coyne is an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Sarasota. (roll tape#4 o.q.�of the property owner�) WMNF asked him what the City did to tweak the previous Ordinance that led another Judge to declare the law unconstitutional (roll tape#5 o.q.�so that it does�)

Michael Stoops from the National Coalition for the Homeless says that when it comes to ordinances targeting the homeless, Florida is leading the way (roll tape#4 o.q.�for lodging, for camping�)

And Stoops is ready to retire. He says his organization is prepared to label Bradenton the meanest city in the country next year.

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