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  1. #1
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    May 2007
    South West Florida (Behind friendly lines but still in Occupied Territory)

    Bill Would Force Florida Sports Teams to House Homeless in Stadiums

    Homeless Bills Targeting Pro Sports Teams Make Legislative Rounds

    January 24, 2012 6:07 PM

    Reporting Jim DeFede

    MIAMI (CBS4) – A pair of bills making their way through the Florida legislature could have local homeless sleeping on the 50-yard-line of Sun Life Stadium or up in the rafter of the AmericanAirlines Arena.

    Florida State Senator Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) and State Rep. Frank Artilles (R-Miami) have introduced bills to demand Florida’s professional sports franchises to either start housing homeless folks in their stadiums and arenas, or give back the hundreds of millions of dollars they have received from the state.

    “I want to make good citizens out of them,” Bennett told CBS4 News Tuesday. “Here we are cutting money for Medicaid, we’re cutting money for education, we’re cutting money for homeless programs and shelters and all these other things and we’re saying, you know what maybe we should ask for that money back since they didn’t do it, they didn’t comply, they chose to ignore the law.”

    The law Bennett refers to is a provision of a 1988 statute requiring teams that take state money to convert to homeless shelters when the teams aren’t playing. In the 23 years the law has been in existence; it has never been enforced.

    Bennett and Artilles point out that every sports team in South Florida has taken millions of dollars of state taxpayer’s money. Across the state the total figure is more than $270 million.

    “I think they should follow the rule and the rule was you took the money you were supposed to use it for a program for homeless people and you didn’t do it and therefore we want our money back,” Bennett said.
    But homeless advocates argue warehousing homeless individuals in large facilities is not the answer and would actually be counter-productive.

    In 1988, when the stadium homeless law was first enacted, there were more than 8,000 people living on the streets of Miami. Today, there are fewer than 800 – with many of those refusing help.

    “Miami-Dade has a more comprehensive, broader program than most anyplace else in America,” said Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

    The Trust was created in 1993 and spends more than $45 million a year on helping the homeless.

    “The 27 person homeless trust board would never look at a solution as to housing people in our stadiums and our arenas as an acceptable method to end homelessness,” he added. “That’s just not what we do.”

    It should be noted that Ron Book is also the lobbyist for the Miami Dolphins. Whether this bill will make it very far remains to be seen.

    It seems unlikely that legislators will actually be able to claw back the millions they’ve given the various franchises. At the very least though, it offers legislators a chance to beat up on the pro sports teams and their billionaire owners; a sport that is always fun for politicians.

    Homeless Bills Targeting Pro Sports Teams Make Legislative Rounds CBS Miami
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  2. #2
    Senior Member AirborneSapper7's Avatar
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    May 2007
    South West Florida (Behind friendly lines but still in Occupied Territory)
    Florida Proposes Using Ballparks and Stadiums as Homeless Shelters

    Mac Slavo
    January 26th, 2012
    Comments (40)

    As more Americans than ever before join the ranks of the unemployed, and with insurance benefits starting to dry up for many who have exceeded the 99 week maximum, homelessness across the country is quickly becoming an issue that can no longer be glazed over by politicians.

    There are over 3.5 million people officially listed as homeless in America, and with tent cities popping up all over the country as a result of foreclosures or inability to pay rent, the trend, like the rising number of food stamp participants (48.5 Million) and those living on the edge of poverty (100 million), is not abating. In fact, as the economic health of the United States further degrades, we can expect to see homelessness rise at a record pace. Most Americans are just a paycheck away from disaster, and once that income stops coming, there is no alternative except to join the millions already living on the streets.

    There is, however, some light at the end of the tunnel, at least for those living in Florida, where legislators may have come up with novel solution for sheltering those without homes:
    Back in 1988, Florida legislators passed a law that would allow sports stadiums to collect about $2 million per year from the government to build new shiny stadiums that would increase economic investment and improve the quality of life.

    Tucked into the statutes is an obscure homeless shelter provision, which has mostly been ignored for 23 years, and could be a $300 million “Oops” for stadiums, arenas and spring training facilities across the state.

    The law states that sports teams that accept taxpayer dollars to build facilities must house the homeless on off-nights, and lawmakers have brought it back from the dead in a pair of bills gaining steam this legislative session.

    Senate Bill 816, which would make teams and stadium owners return millions of taxpayer dollars if they can’t prove that they’ve been operating as a haven for the homeless on non-event nights, passed its first committee in the Senate on Monday with a unanimous vote.

    There was some charged language aimed at taxpayer-supported sports franchises during the hearing:

    “We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, $8, $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium,” said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, who is sponsoring the bill. “I can not believe that we’re going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from the homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we’re continuing to support people who are billionaires.”

    Source: Miami Herald
    Florida reports that there are over 60,000 people living on the streets or in shelters, not counting an additional 50,000 school-age children who also don’t have homes. While it may not work well for the owners of those stadiums, since the taxpayers are the ones who paid for them it begs to reason that they can decide how to use those facilities in the 270 or so off nights per year. Given their size, it’s reasonable to suggest that the state may be able to fully house, at least for those nights that their home teams aren’t playing, the majority of those who have nowhere to go when the sun goes down.

    It’s a controversial issue, yes, but with States and cities running out of money, new and innovative solutions for these growing problems will need to be considered.

    We’ve got trillions of dollars to bail out bankers and citizens of other countries, perhaps we could kick a little support over to those who don’t have food to eat or a place to sleep.

    We’ll see how team owners respond to the new idea, but according to ‘Duk of Yahoo Sports, we shouldn’t hold our breaths:
    With this being an election year, it’s not too much of a surprise that state lawmakers might find a headline-grabbing way to show that they’re concerned about the rights of the little people. And what better target than professional sports, where exorbitant salaries and construction costs are printed in the newspaper every day?

    I don’t suspect that this bill will pass, though. The rich folk behind the ballparks have way too much lobbying power. The homeless advocacy does not. It’s simple math.
    Hat tip Scott

    Florida Proposes Using Ballparks and Stadiums as Homeless Shelters

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