02 January 2024

Looking forward - Weekly briefing - January 2, 2024

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Looking forward. While other news sources were providing retrospectives and top-ten lists, Key West Voices looked forward to 2024, and expects:
  • New faces at the City Commission. No fewer than three, and perhaps even more than four new faces will appear on the dais at Key West City Hall. Commissioners Lopez, Wardlow, and Weekley are leaving due to term limits, Mayor Johnston has not yet announced her intent to run for her third and final term, and the coconut telegraph is noisy with speculation about candidates already filed and yet to do so. 
  • Campaign issues. The newly-constituted City Commission will likely be pressured to revisit two key topics; re-opening the city berth at Mallory Square to larger cruise ships, and the looming expiration of 160 transient licenses in Truman Annex (some say the number is higher) in 2025. There will likely be plenty of posturing and lawyering. 
  • Building permits. The Florida Legislature and the Governor's cabinet department will decide how many new building permits will be granted in Monroe County for distribution by the County and its municipalities, in the wake of newly released and hotly contested results from the hurricane evacuation model. The Monroe Board of County Commissioners sought to delay the process. 
  • Traffic will get worse. 
  • TDC audit. The outside audit of the Tourism Development Council will result in no sanctions, few substantive changes, and continued non-stop promotion of the Keys as a tourist destination.
  • The 239 year American experiment with democracy may come to an end. 
A seat at the table. Key West attorney and developer Robert Spottswood was named to the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. board of governors and the selection could give the Keys a greater voice in shaping not only rates but policy.
  • Expressing his concern about the cost and continual increases in rate, Spottswood called the subject matter “voluminous and complicated.”
  • FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe) welcomed having a Keys resident back on the Citizens board to give the island chain representation again.
No court consolidation. The Florida Supreme Court turned down the proposal to consolidate some judicial circuits across the state, including merging the 16th Circuit in Monroe County with the 11th Circuit in Miami-Dade County.
  • New battle. Monroe County State Attorney Dennis Ward warned of a new battle over the autonomy of state attorneys. A bill has been proposed that would give the Florida Attorney General power over individually elected state attorneys, similar to the power the U.S. Attorney General has over appointed U.S. attorneys in various federal circuits.
A rainy and chilly week. Linda Cunningham reflected on a quiet and cold week for locals, and offered visitors a concise list of recommended activities. "Locals are the ones with the hats, coats and gloves when visitors are in shorts and T-shirts...we’re freezing and complaining like it’s a Chicago winter."
  • Linda also updated three stories: Bahama lofts (the so-called 3.2), a tardy filing by Fantasy Fest planners, and ROGO/BPAS and the hurricane evacuation model. 
Dove bar. Mark Hedden's feeder attracted two varieties of dove, who aren't exactly dainty eaters

Our Eyes

Alyson Crean

Previously in Key West Voices

Water and power
FDOT pants on fire? “FDOT is lying to try to cover their ass,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay told Keys Weekly on Dec. 12 upon learning of FDOT's denial of his claim of warning them in advance of a deadly crash on Dec. 5, which was the lead story in last week's Key West Voices.  
BOCC seeks delay, perhaps referendum on new permits. The Monroe County Board of Commissioners met on Dec. 13 and passed a resolution asking the state to delay allocating any new building permits to local governments in the Florida Keys. Commissioner Craig Cates spoke in favor of putting the growth question to voters in a referendum in November.
  • The 30 year lease expires on Dec 31, and there is no new lease in place. Commissioners considered lease terms, the remote possibility that entry to the garage would be roped off on New Year's eve, or even demolition of the 27 year-old structure. 
  • Parking revenue is used to fund Key West transit services. 
  • Keys Energy Services operates under a franchise agreement granted by the City.
Lofts update. More than 50 people attended an informational update meeting Dec. 7 regarding the Lofts at Bahama Village residential development. AH Monroe is developing the affordable housing project. The Lofts at Bahama Village will be 126 townhome-style units of which, 98 will be used as workforce affordable housing by qualified renters. The 28 remaining units eligible for purchase by qualifying buyers are entangled in complicated affordable housing funding requirements arising from state legislation.

It’s their time. Linda Cunningham called for new generations of leaders in the Keys

Ibis you so much. Mark Hedden shared his thoughts on ibises, and notes that no matter how pleasing the form of their bills, it isn’t about aesthetics, but rather a form that facilitates function

Jackpot. A Key West man won $1 million with a scratch-off lottery ticket purchased at the grocery at Margaret and Caroline. He elected to take his winnings in a lump sum of $640,000.