30 January 2024

Mayor Teri Johnston won't seek reelection - Weekly briefing - January 30, 2024

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Fourteen years of service. Key West Mayor Teri Johnston decided to not seek re-election, after serving a total of 14 years as a city commissioner and then mayor. Her decision, along with term limits for three commissioners, now means a minimum of four new faces on the city commission later this year. 
Haskell seeks commission seat. Key West resident Monica Haskell filed to run for City Commissioner in Key West’s District I, currently held by term-limited Jimmy Weekley.

Marathon wants to 'borrow' ROGOs. During a contentious and well-attended workshop, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi and County Attorney Bob Shillinger, outlined a deal that would 'loan' ROGO/BPAS allocations from Monroe County to Marathon. Several citizens rose to express opposition to Marathon's earlier request for up to 8,000 residential building permits, but some spoke in favor out of concern for 'takings'  liability. 
Florida Keys Day in Tallahassee. Continuing an annual ritual, Keys leaders descended on the state Capitol for the annual Florida Keys Day on January 25 to educate and lobby state officials on Keys' legislative priorities. 
Little Torch variance request postponed. The owners of Little Palm Island postponed their request for a parking variance from Monroe County for a redevelopment project of a Little Torch Key marina, putting the entire development project on hold. 

Grinnell garage deal authorized. The Key West Utility Board authorized Keys Energy Services to finalize and approve a lease for the City garage at Grinnell and Caroline. The 20-year lease that ends in 2044 includes a provision to extend. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2025, the City will make annual lease payments to KEYS of $225,000, with 2.5% annual increases thereafter. The Key West City Commission is expected to vote on the lease on Feb. 8.

Safer and cleaner ship christened. The American Glory, the second of American Cruise Lines’ new series of 100-passenger ships, was christened in Key West, Florida on January 21 by Mayor Johnston, among others. 

Duval revitalization redux. The City of Key West kicks off a series of public workshops for the Duval Street Revitalization and Resiliency project at a community open house on Wednesday, January 31 from 5-7 p.m. at the San Carlos Institute.

Sprawling coonties. Linda Cunningham rooted around in search of a rare butterfly

Not playing favorites. Mark Hedden was asked to name his favorite book about birds, but that's a tough question.

Our Eyes

The rare and endangered Florida Keys Atala butterfly loves the coonties at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden - Ed Cunningham

Previously in Key West Voices

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.