Meal limits still being debated by city commissioners

Published: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 11:54 p.m.

Last Thursday, City Commissioner Jack Donovan joined some homeless advocates in asking the City Commission to suspend enforcement of the meal limit at the St. Francis House soup kitchen during the winter. Donovan said with the development of the one-stop homeless center planned for Northwest 53rd Avenue moving more slowly than expected, there were few options besides the St. Francis House out there for the homeless and the agencies that feed them.

With a light agenda last Thursday evening, Donovan wanted to discuss the issue at length, but commissioners Scherwin Henry and Jeanna Mastrodicasa urged him to wrap it up. Mastrodicasa said she did not want debate to continue without all "stakeholders" present.

So Donovan made a motion to hold a vote at the Jan. 21 meeting on suspending the meal limit for 60 days and another vote on whether or not to start the petition process through staff, the advisory planning board and, eventually, the City Commission on a total repeal of the meal limit.

His motion died for lack of a second.

On Feb. 18, the city will meet on the petition that it originally initiated, one that is moving through the process. The City Commission's proposal was to suspend enforcement of the meal limit on three national holidays each year. During a lengthy hearing in December, the Planning Board recommended the daily meal limit be suspended on all 11 national holidays and went beyond the petition before them to recommend the City Commission consider eliminating the meal limit altogether.

City Attorney Marion Radson told commissioners last Thursday that, if they were to pursue the total elimination of the meal limit, they would need to begin a separate petition process, which would go through staff, the planning commission and then back to them. He also urged them not to suspend the limit because that would make it more difficult to withstand a legal challenge and undermine its original "public policy" purpose: to dispense services for the homeless.

Also, the Catholic Action Resource Exchange, which opposes the meal limit, will host a debate on the issue from 7 to 8 p.m. Jan. 20 in the social hall of St. Patrick Catholic Parish, 500 N.E. 16th Ave.

AIRBOAT CURFEW: There soon may be a new proposal on the table in the long-running fight over an airboat curfew. As a citizens' group tries to gather enough support to put a referendum on a 7 p.m to 7 a.m. airboat curfew on the ballot for November, the County Commission may discuss a new curfew idea, one modeled after a proposal in Osceola County.

Down there, the settlement offered would have a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew with a series of exemptions during alligator hunting season and weekends. County commissioners Paula DeLaney and Cynthia Chestnut said during an informal County Commission meeting last Tuesday that they would like to consider a modified version of that - possibly from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. with a $250 fine for violatios.

County commissioners plan to discuss the curfew again during their next informal meeting, likely on Jan. 19.

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