Yesterday the Brevard County Commissioners voted unanimously to enact an amendment to their proximity ordinance that would allow private businesses to self-declare themselves a “park”. As a “park” these businesses would be considered another landmark creating a 1000 foot exclusion zone within which registrants cannot enter. If you think this is a stupid idea, you’re not alone. It is a very stupid idea. It’s so stupid and useless that this law has actually been on the books for two years and nobody signed up for it. According to the Sheriff’s office, no businesses have self-declared themselves a park, there’s no list of “park-businesses” that the Sheriff’s office was supposed to maintain, and there have been no arrests for violation of this “park-business” ordinance. To our knowledge there have been no sexual crimes at any of these “park-businesses”. It’s done nothing other than been a huge burden on registered persons who are supposed to check a non-existent list before they leave their homes each day to see whether a non-park business entity decided to call itself a park. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
If you’re picking up a confusing statement in the proceeding paragraph, you’re right to be confused. Why would the commissioners vote to enact this amendment yesterday, when it’s apparently been on the books for two years? Good question. When the “park-business” ordinance was passed, the same proximity ordinance also prevented anyone on the registry from attending the County Commission meetings because the site of those meetings was within 1000 feet of a school. So, this “public meeting” at which people could show up and voice their concerns about the amendment was hardly open to the public. In fact, the very people who would be impacted by the ordinance were expressly banned from attending (yes, they asked for permission and were told they could not be there). Three FAC members, represented by the fine attorneys at the Florida Justice Institute, sued.
The commissioners might be complete ignorant jerks, but someone on their defense team must have told them they were about to get their asses handed to them for violating the First Amendment and Florida’s Governing in the Sunshine Law, because after the lawsuit was filed they agreed to allow registrants to appear at the Commission meetings so long as they jumped through certain hoops (the hoops are part of a continuing lawsuit and will not be discussed here). That same someone must have also informed them that the Governing in the Sunshine Law provides that any action taken in violation of the open meeting law could be declared void. Accordingly, that meeting they had in 2020 at which they passed this ordinance and at which they prevented registrants from showing up, had to be magically time shifted to the current day so it can take place with everyone who wanted to attend present.
Unfortunately not everyone who wanted to be present could be there because people who failed to provide “at least” 24 hours’ notice that they wanted to attend the meeting, even though they had no clue they were required to provide that notice because it had not become part of the municipal code and they were not given notice of the change, could not attend or they would be arrested (more info that’s part of a continuing lawsuit but just because we’re not addressing it here does not mean we’re not aware… no balls are being dropped here).
Bottom line the Commissioners voted (again) to enact their amendment, completely ignoring the comments of the brave speakers who opposed it or the dozens of letters in opposition that were written. And we are not surprised in the least. There was no chance in hell they were not going to approve it and nobody was surprised by their action. But recall what we wrote two paragraphs above; “Three FAC members, represented by the fine attorneys at the Florida Justice Institute, sued.” That lawsuit is still active, which is the most important take away from this post. Florida Justice Institute has been able to move the ball closer to the finish line (at least we’re able to show up a the meetings) just through what has happened in the litigation so far, and it’s not over.
So for all of the brave men and women who showed up in person to address the Commissioners, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. For all those who submitted letters, thank you also! All action to oppose this ordinance will come into play and if you think it made no difference, you are wrong. As one member pointed out, the fact that our voices could be heard is already a victory and we’re only getting started!