23 January 2024

County Blindsided by Marathon - Weekly briefing - January 23, 2024

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Marathon's ROGO request. 
Marathon's hotel ordinance. As if the ROGO request wasn't enough, an ordinance that would expand redevelopment rights for hotel and motel units was once again tabled for future discussion. The proposal drew strong concerns from councilmen Kenny Matlock and Jeff Smith.

DeSantis backs down; quits the race. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Sunday that he is ending his 2024 presidential bid. Speculation is that he'll now be angling for the 2028 nomination. Needless to say, he endorsed Trump. 

Yeah, that'll fix it. Airbnb formed a new housing council to examine how to address the nationwide issue of housing affordability, focusing on increasing the supply and driving down prices. The group will explore how the vacation rental company can work with cities on short-term rental policies. The newly formed council will inform Airbnb on “affordability policy frameworks and research.”

Fraudulent vacation rentals targeted. Monroe County Tax Collector Sam Steele is used to being lied to; it comes with the territory. He's combining an information campaign to inform the lessors of their tax obligations, and software that compares online vacation rental listings with tax payments received. “Once you’re on my radar, there’s no getting around paying back taxes” said a member of Steele's staff.    

Profane t-shirts banned from public view. The Key West City commission passed a measure to require businesses to remove “obscene, vulgar, and sexually oriented materials” from storefront displays. The new rules allow businesses to display the offensive wares inside the store in an area not visible from the street or sidewalk.

Rainbow flag ban attempt. Flag displays that depict a “racial, sexual orientation and gender, or political ideology viewpoint” would be banned from any state or local government building, including public schools and universities, under the bill authored by Rep. David Borrero. Local officials voiced strong opposition.  

Tinker, tailor, soldier, dove. Mark Hedden's lovely prose connected common ground-doves with George Smiley (of the John le Carré spy novels), because everything about their persona, as a species, seems designed to make them underestimated and largely unnoticed.

Our Eyes

Orchids in Old Town Key West - C.J. Groth

Previously in Key West Voices

State of the City. Key West Mayor Teri Johnston delivered what could be her final State of the City address on January 11
Still more candidate filings
  • Margaret Romero. The former Key West City Commissioner filed to run for the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections, making her the third candidate and second Republican to run for the position. Romero was easily defeated by incumbent Key West Mayor Teri Johnston in her bid in 2022.
  • Speculation. Keys Weekly offered an overview of local election scenarios, including the possibilities of runs by familiar names Sam Kaufman and Mark Rossi.  
  • Term limits. Incumbent Key West  Commissioners Clayton Lopez,  Billy Wardlow, and Jimmy Weekley cannot seek reelection due to term limits.
  • Thaddeus Cohen. The former Key West planning director and unsuccessful applicant for the City Manager job is running for Lopez’s seat in District VI, which includes most of Bahama Village and parts of Old Town.
  • Donie Lee. The former Key West police chief  said  he expects to file his paperwork to run for the seat being vacated by Wardlow.
  • As yet unannounced. Key West Voices is aware of two unannounced candidacies by formidable local leaders. Rumors about others abound. Those interested are encouraged to consult keys-elections.org periodically for the latest filings. 
New financial disclosure rules for candidates.  A Florida law that took effect on January 1 requires disclosure of candidates' finances, even in  local races. Among other financial information, new candidates must disclose their net worth, assets, debts, real estate, jewelry, and 401k plan when they file. Several officeholders on the mainland have resigned as a result. Incumbents have until July 1 to file. 

Vote by mail worries. Incumbent Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin is concerned that voters aren’t aware that their vote by mail requests may have expired. Voters can review their status at keys-elections.org.  

No Park and Ride garage agreement yet.  The lease has expired,” said Key West City Attorney Rod Ramsingh. “We are currently holdover tenants. They (Keys Energy) are not discussing enforcing the lease or an eviction until at least Feb. 1.” 

Floodplain portal. The City of Key West and its software partner unveiled a new online portal to provide property owners with individualized floodplain and insurance zone information.  

Jimmy Buffett honors. A bill to honor the late musician and local favorite advanced out of committee in the Florida Legislature.   

Lake Margaret. Mark Hedden visited the pond on Summerland Key and appreciated the wildlife there

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