16 April 2024

Hot water | Shirley - Weekly briefing - April 16, 2024

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

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Our Community

Record hot water. The tropical Atlantic is abnormally warm, helping set the stage for a busy hurricane season, according to an early forecast by scientists at Colorado State University. Higher ocean temperatures provide more energy to fuel stronger storms.
  • Ready to get out? Linda Cunningham made a compelling case for beginning preparations now.  Getting out of Key West even in the days before Irma was a nightmare. No gasoline, no supplies, packed roads, and no safe hotels along the way. With thousands more people and their vehicles, safe evacuation in 2024 might be a pipe dream.
Remembering Shirley. Keys Weekly and the Citizen published fond appreciations of beloved community icon Shirley Freeman, who died April 6 at the age of 89.

Taking Stock? KW annexation study approved. The Key West City Commission agreed to study annexing South Stock Island and Key Haven. A university or institute would research how to provide police, fire and other essential services and the infrastructure. 

First sawfish rescued.  The first sawfish rescued since the endangered species started mysteriously dying was transported from the Florida Keys to a Sarasota rehabilitation facility. Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission made the initial rescue on April 5.

Paul McCartney headlines all-star tribute to Buffett. For more than three hours, superstars entertained a sold out crowd at the Hollywood Bowl as Los Angeles said goodbye to the late Jimmy Buffett. McCartney told the crowd he had been asked to visit Buffett shortly before the singer’s death in September 2023 and sing some songs.

Abortion and cannabis refernda (referendums?) and voter turnout. Florida Democrats are planning an all-out assault on Republicans’ extremist positions on abortion, believing it will bring victory in presidential and US Senate races in November.
KW City Manager report card approved. The Key West City Commission unanimously approved City Manager Albert Childress’ first annual performance evaluation since he was hired a year ago. 
  • Ten categories.  Childress was graded on ten overall categories, including individual characteristics, professional skills and status, relations with elected members of the governing body, reporting, citizen relations, staffing, supervision and fiscal management. 
  • Mixed scores. Despite unanimous approval, commissioners were mixed in their evaluations on a five point scale. Commissioners Kaufman and Hoover graded Childress a 4.9; Lopez: 3.6; Weekley: 3.5, Wardlow: 3, and Carey: 2. Outgoing Mayor Johnson, gave Childress a 4.0.
Homeless shelter replacement. Long overdue work began to replace the decrepit facility on Stock Island
  • New name. The new John Jones Navigation Center is named for former Assistant City Manager Jones, who led development of the original facility called KOTS in 2004. 
  • Costly delay. Since the city started plans to rebuild KOTS in 2019, costs increased from $7.3 million to $8.5 million, but the city secured a state grant of $4.3 million for the project in April 2022.
Marathon injection well. Marathon's city commission unanimously-authorized paying over $3 million to an engineering firm to prepare for installation of the waste water deep injection well. Public commenters opposed the selected site by the city’s Area 6 treatment plant on Coco Plum’s Avenue I.

Fort Zach Australian pines. On behalf of local nonprofit group Save Our Pines, founder Helen Harrison asserted that removal of two Australian pines at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park violated a 2008 agreement made with Florida's Department of Environmental Protection

Taking on takings and capacity. Keys community advocate Last Stand hosted an in-depth conversation with expert land use attorney Richard Grosso in a hybrid virtual and in-person event in Key West and Key Largo (video). 

Gentrification. The Citizen ran an opinion essay on gentrification in Key West

Duval Street revitalization. Along with about 75 others, Chris Hamilton attended and reported extensively on the Duval Street Revitalization & Resiliency Project Workshop held April 4th. His key takeaway? The sheer number and prevalence of pedestrians from noonish until late at night on upper and especially lower Duval. Paraphrasing one critic of the consulting firm sponsoring the workshop, "well, duh."

Mood indigo. Mark Hedden's rich writing about buntings had nothing to do with baseball.  

Our Eyes

A male Indigo bunting seen recently at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden
Mark  Hedden / Keys Weekly

Previously in Key West Voices

300 million KW bond referendum under consideration. In a workshop meeting on April 3, the Key West city commission reviewed a proposal to put a referendum on November's ballot for voters to authorize borrowing up to $300 million for a lengthy list of infrastructure projects
Record hurricane forecast. An "extremely active" hurricane season is likely, according to forecasters from Colorado State University. The forecast includes the highest number of hurricanes ever predicted in an April forecast by Colorado State since the team began releasing predictions in 1995.

Abortion ban, referendum. Local, regional, and national news media offered perspectives on the six-week abortion ban will soon take effect in Florida after the state Supreme Court upheld a ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but agreed to let voters will have a say on removing those restrictions.
  • Turnout surge? The referendum, along with a separate one to allow recreational cannabis use, is expected to drive increased voter turnout. 
Annex Key Haven, south Stock Island? The Key West planning board voted unanimously in February to urge the city commission to “initiate an annexation study for portions of Key Haven and Stock Island.” 

Sawfish rescue effort. In an effort led by NOAA Fisheries and FWC in partnership with four Florida-based and national organizations, teams were given the green light to rescue ailing fish and transport them to quarantine facilities for observation, research and rehabilitation.

Sargassum report. Linda Cunningham warned us that while waters are mostly clear now, lurking off the horizon is a record-breaking sargassum bloom, one experts worry could be the worst we’ve seen. The Keys are a bellwether for looming global environmental and economic disaster.

No love for dietary opportunists. Mark Hedden wrote about turkey vultures. Carry on, Mark