Thursday, December 25, 2014


Media tells only
Half of the story


RECENTLY THERE HAVE BEEN at least two local stories in which the media only reported half of the facts.

Story #1: Preacher feeding the poor at the beach in Fort Lauderdale.

Story # 2: Two brothers in hit-and-run accident; one died.

Feeding the poor

This was a big tv story - old preacher sets up feeding station and is arrested (but not jailed, only cited) for illegally feeding the poor.

And now, as Paul Harvey would intone, "the rest of the story."

Turns out the reason the city fathers created a law banning food give-aways in Fort Lauderdale was because the homeless and destitute congregate in the area. Never mind that they were in the area before.

The city fathers complain that the homeless defecate and urinate on the sidewalks, and sleep wherever they can find clean space.

The council offered to find a place where the preacher could feed the people inside. He refused.

Florida is having a warm winter (so far; January and February are still to come) so dining near the beach is comfortable.

Florida has a law that requires all fixed places that serve food to provide restrooms.

I think the "fixed places" was added to the law when Claude Kirk was governor (1967–1971). It seems a child had a summertime popsicle stand and the local authorities shut it down because, among other things, the stand lacked a restroom. (See the St. Petersburg Times for Oct. 21, 1967 for the details.)

Since the preacher set up the feeding station each day in the same location, it could be argued that the site falls under the "fixed location" requirement of the law.

The tv reporter told everyone that it was a Fort Lauderdale law to have restrooms at places that served food. It is a Florida statute. Read it for yourself at

So, yes, the Fort Lauderdale city fathers want to "clean up" (read "remove the homeless") from a commercial district without driving them into the "better" residential districts (in which the city fathers live), but they also

  1. Have Florida law to enforce and
  2. Offered to provide an indoor site with "facilities" so the food could be served off the street

Granted, "off the street" also is "out of sight, out of mind," but it does satisfy several needs of both the city and the homeless/less fortunate community.

For the record, I am not a Fort Lauderdale resident.

Hit and run

According to news reports two boys were walking home after attending a basketball game at Attucks Middle School when they were streuck by a vehicle that did not stop. The Broward Sheriff's Office said the boys were walking on the right side of Bryan Road and it was dark.”.

Google Maps seems to verify the "it was dark" comment; there appear to be few, if any, street lights on that stretch of Bryan Road; the only lights are on private property.

Click on image to enlarge

HOWEVER if the Sheriff's report is correct, the boys were walking along the east (right) side of the road
  • With their backs to traffic and
  • Not using the sidewalk on the west (left) side of Bryan Road.

This information was missing from every news report I read or heard.

THAT DOES NOT excuse the fact that the vehicle that struck the boys failed to stop.

The Sheriff's Office charged Zachary Vincent Benjamins, 22, with failing to stop at an accident involving a death and evidence tampering, jail records showed. He was being held on $350,000 bond.

Anaee Barbeito, 20, his girlfriend and passenger in the vehicle, was charged with insurance fraud (for trying to get her insurance company to pay to repair the vehicle), tampering with evidence and accessory after the fact.

As it happens, Florida law requires pedestrians to walk on sidewalks when provided and, when absent, to walk facing oncoming traffic; the theory being if the driver fails to see the pedestrian it is likely the pedestrian will see the vehicle in time to move out of the way.

Without a doubt the accident is a tragedy that devastated the family. But, like most accidents, it might have been prevented.

And now you know "the rest of the story."

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