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David O’Keefe: Vote No on Proposed Leon County Homelessness Ordinance

OPINION

BY David O'Keefe

January 24, 2022

David O’Keefe, candidate for Leon County Commission submitted the following to Our Tallahassee regarding tomorrow’s Leon County Commission vote to schedule a public hearing on the proposed “homelessness ordinance”. 

The proposed nuisance and homelessness ordinance that comes before the Leon County Commission tomorrow is not ready for approval and should be voted down. The ordinance identifies the problems – panhandling, public camping, and other nuisances – but offers no real solutions. The primary solution being offered only adds new laws and criminal penalties. 

Commissioners should reject the current ordinance and send it back to find thoughtful solutions that will decrease the public nuisances it tries to address.

The proposal claims to have no budgetary impact, which can’t be accurate. The increased criminal penalties include a jail sentence. Putting people in jail costs significant taxpayer money that could be used for temporary housing or other programs for people experiencing homelessness. 

David O'Keefe

People who choose to live outdoors are often dealing with untreated severe mental illness or addiction. Putting them in jail only overburdens a facility that is not designed to treat either of these conditions and is not well-equipped to improve living conditions for anyone. 

By creating brand-new criminal charges in this proposal for those who already have no place to live, this policy would only make it that much harder for our most vulnerable to find stable housing and employment after being released from jail. 

This ordinance makes life more difficult for all involved – people dealing with homelessness, deputies tasked with enforcement, corrections officers dealing with an increased high-need population, and the public who will see more nuisance issues as offenders are shuffled from one place to another throughout town. 

The recent increase in panhandling, camping in public, and other public nuisances is a major problem and it deserves well thought out solutions. This ordinance as proposed does not offer sound long-term solutions and needs more work.

David O’Keefe is a candidate for Leon County Commission, District 5. You can learn more about his campaign at www.DavidforLeon.com

 

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2 Responses

  1. Candidate O’Keefe mentions the proposed action was indicated by County staff to have no budgetary impact?

    Either County staff who determine fiscal impacts of proposed Agenda Items have no clue what they are doing or someone is amending fiscal impact language prior to being seen by all Commiszioners to solicit a favorable or non-favorable vote possibly on the pretext it is much easier for Commissioners to support items where they don’t have to justify expending additional $ (Staff said it would have no fiscal impact).

    Where is the accountability to Leon County Taxpayers that they can be assured their Commissioners are being given all the true facts and figures before they make a vote on proposed Agendas?

    Of course, the reality is, most Commissioners probably could care less how much things cost as long as it isn’t going to cost them an election.

    I challenge OurTallahassee, or Candidate O’Keefe, especially if elected, to look at the Agenda Items approved by the Commissioners over the last 5-10 years to learn how accurate the Fiscal Impacts projected truly were.

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