05 December 2023

Let George do it - Weekly briefing - December 5, 2023

Human-curated Florida Keys news, all in one place. 

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Holiday celebrations kicked into high gear this week, dominating the front pages of The Citizen and Keys Weekly (our most frequently cited sources). But there was still hard news to share.

TDC audit fallout continued. 
Feds question Citizens solvency. The U.S. Senate Budget Committee has begun an inquiry into Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-backed company that provides Florida home and property insurance coverage as its "insurer of last resort." The committee wants to know whether Citizens  has enough reserve funds to withstand future disasters, as scientists warn warming oceans and sea-level rise are making storms more destructive.
Rapid intensification. With great interactive graphics, the New York Times marked the end of the official hurricane season in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific on Nov. 30. Both basins experienced an above-average number of storms, fueled by extremely warm ocean temperatures and El Niño. A high proportion of quickly growing storms this year exceeded the standard definition of rapid intensification — an increase of at least 35 m.p.h in sustained winds, over 24 hours.
  • Not a factor? The possibility of rapidly intensifying storms isn't listed as a factor in the state's hurricane evacuation model, whose latest revision may result in additional residential development in the Keys. 
  • But more impact. In a 2019 study, experts said storms that rapidly intensify are typically associated with more forecast errors and cause a disproportionate amount of human and financial losses.
Yawn. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis debated California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Fox News, apparently absent local coverage. Moderated by a clearly biased Sean Hannity, only the pundit class seemed interested for a couple of days. 

Get festive. Linda Cunningham recommended the best ways to celebrate December in Key West. 

Long legs and bird poop. Mark Hedden answered questions in his Ask the Bird Geek edition of his Wild Things column

Our Eyes

Breakfast! - Joan Shea

Previously in Key West Voices

Pier B whistleblower lawsuit dismissed. The New York Times reported at length on the history of recent challenges to cruise ships in Key West in the wake of the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Safer Cleaner Ships
  • The 149-page lawsuitfiled by Safer Cleaner Ships 14 months ago under seal in Leon County, relied on public documents showing that Pier B Corporation earned more than $90 million in revenue from cruise ship disembarkation fees, but reported only a fraction of this amount to the state.
  • Blocked. Last week, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody dismissed and unsealed the case, declining to pursue these allegations of fraud, and blocked Safer Cleaner Ships from continuing the case on its own.
  • The suit was dismissed in part on jurisdictional grounds, a decision that SCS said was a sign of continuing state support for Pier B Corp’s president, Mark Walsh.
  • Walsh has since doubled down, asking the state for permission to expand his operation to allow bigger ships with more passengers to operate legally out of the port.
  • Any doubt about the decision? The expansion request will be considered by Gov. DeSantis, who has received nearly $1 million in campaign donations from Walsh, as soon as the next Cabinet meeting on Dec. 12. DeSantis can approve the expansion with support from just one member of his Cabinet (of which Moody is a member). 
Keys Evacuation Model. After the presentation of FloridaCommerce's Florida Keys Hurricane Evacuation ModelMonroe County officials held a virtual meeting on Nov. 20 to review the model results and consider its pending recommendation on the rate of future development. Unlike FloridaCommerce's meeting the week before, questions and comments were accepted from the public. 

Key West ruins everything. Christopher Hamilton looked back on nine years on the Rock