13 February 2024

Fiscal arrogance - Weekly briefing - February 13, 2024

Essential human-curated Florida Keys news, all in one place. 

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Fiscal arrogance alleged at TDC. The Miami Herald, WLRN, and local outlets reported on the second critical audit of the Tourist Development Council that uses tax dollars to promote tourism in the Florida Keys. It accused TDC's long-time public relations firm of regularly double billing by reimbursing a company that investigators say doesn’t exist.
Abortion access in court. The fate of abortion access will be decided by the Florida Supreme Court in two cases. 
  • Referendum. The first, which the court heard Wednesday, will determine whether Floridians can vote directly this November on a measure that would explicitly protect the right to an abortion in their state constitution.
  • An even stricter ban? The second, a challenge to the legality of Florida’s current 15-week ban, could lead the state to enforce an even stricter six-week cutoff, a law passed in 2023 that has not yet taken effect.
Gastesi to retire soon. Roman Gastesi, the Monroe County Administrator for 15 years, abruptly announced his retirement effective February 23, earlier than county officials had expected. One insider speculated that he'll return to the role after a required waiting period. 

Garage lease approved. The Key West City Commission met and approved key items
Category 6? A new paper published by leading hurricane researchers proposed adding a Category 6 to the familiar Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity. Climate change makes powerful storms more common.

Chris Massicotte profiled. Keys Weekly profiled the Key West resident with a background in accounting and political campaign advertising who is challenging Commissioner Jim Scholl for the District 3 BOCC seat. Although the district covers the western part of Key West, Monroe Commissioners are elected 'at large' by voters across the county.   

Our Eyes

Mercurial Sunrise - Lynne Bentley-Kemp

Previously in Key West Voices

Unchartered waters. The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) dropped its push to persuade voters to adopt a charter county form of government. Were it approved, it would have given the BOCC power to seek a new tax for infrastructure repairs, among many other consequences. It's hard to get people to vote in favor of new taxes. 

Future of the Keys. Last Stand hosted a rousing annual meeting (video) at Williams Hall with a panel of experts (video) considering where we'll be in ten years, and what we can do now to alter our course.
Duval revitalization. An estimated 200 people gathered at the San Carlos Institute for a workshop on revitalizing Duval Street. Sea level rise was a big concern.  

Monica Haskell profiled. Keys Weekly ran a profile of Haskell, who seeks to succeed Jimmy Weekly as District 1 Key West Commissioner. 

Chris Massicotte for BOCC. Massicotte, a Key West resident and co-owner of marketing firm Duval Street Mediaannounced his intention to run for County Commission District 3, challenging incumbent and two-time Key West City Manager Jim Scholl. Scholl, who was previously Commander of NAS Key West, was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis to fill a vacancy on the BOCC.   

Mooring field plan. The BOCC moved forward on a plan for a dinghy dock on Stock Island for a managed mooring field in Boca Chica Basin.

Watchdogs may be muzzled. Florida lawmakers are considering far-reaching legislation that would weaken an already beleaguered state ethics commission and would virtually wipe away the power of local ethics watchdogs to investigate and enforce laws intended to fight corruption. If the bill becomes law, investigations at the state and local level could only be prompted by a signed and sworn complaint from someone who possesses "personal knowledge" of a potential violation. 

FKOC now part of AH Monroe. The Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for the Homeless (FKOC) began operating as a subsidiary of AH Monroe on January 1. Leaders from both organizations call the move an “integration of services and expansion of missions.”

New digs. The  Monroe County Supervisor of Elections moved from its old headquarters on Whitehead Street to the site of the former Bayshore Manor at 5200 College Road on Stock Island. Don't go to the old office - it's closed.  
  • Spacious. Office space and parking is more plentiful at the new site
  • Check your  registration and VBM status. Because of rule changes, some voters may no longer be registered or have vote-by-mail instructions in effect. With crucial local, state, and federal elections this year, this would be a great time to check your status at keys-elections.org