A nasty dispute over the public-toilet needs of Miami's homeless population — and the question of who should pay for them — ramped up again yesterday. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the agency in charge of promoting Miami business, unveiled new evidence in its battle with another agency, the Homeless Trust, and its chairman, Ron Book, over public toilets: A "poop map."
The map shows, with smiling brown emoticons, the locations throughout downtown Miami of 55 specimens of human feces that were catalogued within one recent eight-hour period. The highest concentration was found in the downtown core, around the intersections between Flagler Street and NE First Street with NE Second Avenue. There was also a cluster of the little brown guys in west downtown, at NW First Street and NW First Avenue.
As the Miami Herald points out, the release of the map was timed to coincide with a county commission vote on funding of a Camillus House shelter program; county commissioners later directed Book to study new programs. The move came after months of very public — and increasingly personal — squabbling between the two agencies over the issue of funding for downtown toilets.
In a statement yesterday, DDA executive director Alyce Robertson praised her agency's initiative on downtown homelessness and criticized the Homeless Trust, saying the agency "has resorted to passing the buck and ignoring the problem." In one email copied to city media outlets, Jose Goyanes, a board member of the DDA, said Book was "running the Trust like a third world dictator."
Earlier this week, incensed that Book opposed Homeless Trust funding for a $100,000 public-toilet pilot program, Goyanes also released a YouTube video with dozens of images of feces and urine. "This is a health crisis," Goyanes wrote in the email containing the video he sent to reporters. "And Ron Book, Victoria Mallette & The Miami Dade Homeless Trust with their $55 Million Dollar Budget won't do anything about it."
Book later told New Times he refused to even look at the video. “I'm sick of the personal attacks," he said, furious, after yesterday's meeting, the Herald reported. "Let someone else chair the thing."
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But the megalobbyist later said he was caught up in the heat of the moment and isn't going anywhere.
"I will not be giving up my chairmanship or my seat on the board," he tells New Times. "They’ll have to carry me out first. I am not going to let these folks drive me out just so they can be right and get their way."
As for the homeless, any solution that would lead to more public-toilet options looks unlikely in the short term. Expect that poop map to expand.