30 April 2024

Six week abortion ban | only 3,000 buildable lots - Weekly briefing - April 30, 2024

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

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Abortions banned in Florida after six weeks. A ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy takes effect in Florida on Wednesday, May 1. The strict new law will replace a 15-week ban and require most Floridians and other Southerners seeking the procedure to travel to Virginia or farther.

3,000, not 8,000. Despite a proposal for 8,000 new residential building permits in the Keys, only about 3,000 possible vacant, buildable lots remain, according to the latest information provided by local governments in the Keys.
  • Late last year, FloridaCommerce considered a scenario to give the Keys as many as roughly 8,000 new building allocations, which would require raising the residential hurricane evacuation time to 31 hours to accept them. The roughly 8,000 figure represents the number of total vacant lots in the Keys, including those buildable and not.
  • Accepting more than 220 permits would require a change in state statute because such an allocation would increase the allowable hurricane evacuation time for residents and tourists beyond what is currently allowed. 
  • According to the statute, tourists are supposed to be evacuated 48 hours before a hurricane is expected to make landfall in the Keys, while residents must be able to evacuate 24 hours prior to a storm. But because the previously rare phenomenon of  'rapid intensification'  has become much more frequent due to record high water temperatures, a 48 hour warning may itself become a rarity.  
TDC's structure isn't the problem. Keys Weekly and the Citizen ran  follow-ups on the Monroe Board of County Commissioners' (BOCC) decision not to take over the bed tax-supported Tourism Development Council. It’s not the TDC’s structure – it’s the financial controls that were the problem, the BOCC agreed at its April 17 meeting.
  • In October 2023, County Clerk Kevin Madok launched the first of four separate audits on the TDC and its advertising and marketing partner agencies. 
  • Even nonprofits on shoestring budgets have to undergo an audit every year, yet the TDC went unchecked for decades, the commissioners noted. "...it was 20 years or longer since they had had an audit,” said commissioner Craig Cates.
  • The TDC's  four-cent “bed tax” on every dollar spent at Keys lodging establishments is used to advertise the Keys as a vacation destination, promote events that attract visitors and fund construction projects to enhance tourism. 
CEMEX Construction seeks exception for Tavernier Publix. In an email to his supporters, BOCC candidate Chris Massicotte expressed dismay over CEMEX Construction's proposal to the BOCC to obtain 86 building permits necessary for workforce housing units by circumventing the County's Comprehensive Plan.
  • County Staff determined that building the Publix and housing units in Tavernier would create a county-wide impact, affecting the ability of a 24 evacuation during a hurricane.
Six amendments on the ballot. The Citizen shared a summary of proposed amendments to Florida's Constitution to be decided by voters this fall.  
Money to harden homes. The Miami Herald offered a guide to applying for state funds from a popular state program called My Safe Florida Home that awards up to $10,000 to harden homes, saving homeowners (and their insurers) from costly repairs after hurricanes and storms.

Two Florida men met. DeSantis and former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis met privately Sunday morning in Miami. The Washington Post said that DeSantis agreed to help Trump with fundraising

Monroe County Sheriff's Animal Farm makes national news. CBS News ran a nice five minute segment on the animal rescue facility on Key West during its Sunday Morning show. 
  • The small zoo on the grounds of the jail in Key West was started by accident in the mid-1990s when word got out that the sheriff had rescued some ducks from a nearby road. Since then, many animals – abandoned, abused, confiscated or donated – have been brought to the farm, which is maintained by a small team of people incarcerated there. More than 100 animals currently live there. 
Conspiracy theory tragedy in New York. Local columnist John Bartus reflected on the sad tale of the man who self-immolated outside Donald Trump’s hush-money trial in New York City.

“Let the child read” Linda Cunningham said that it's simple: If you don’t cater to a book, play, sculpture or piece of music; don’t read, watch, look or listen. I’ll make my own choices, thank you.

Our Eyes

Serenity - Alyson Crean

Previously in Key West Voices

No big changes for TDC. The Monroe Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) agreed to not make any major changes to the structure of the county’s Tourist Development Council. A series of critical audits of TDC by the Monroe County Clerk of Court Office were released late last year. 
  • Serve at the pleasure. Commissioners want to allow removal of TDC board members before their terms expire if commissioners are displeased with their appointees.
  • ...and audits are still underway. Monroe County's Clerk of Court’s Office released critical audit findings of NewmanPR and Tinsley Advertising & Marketing, while its audit of contracts with Two Oceans Digital is not public yet. The County Commission's own audit is also not yet complete.
  • Won't become part of the County government. The BOCC won't make TDC a county government department, and didn't make any changes to its spending allocations.
  • Status quo. “I think the structure has worked for years, and should continue,” said Commissioner Craig Cates.
  • Calm down. “At this time, it would be easy to overreact,” Commissioner David Rice added. “We had a problem that needed solving, and we are working on that. The problems are not the structure.”
  • Keeping it running. TDC board Chair Rita Irwin said that TDC has “already corrected many things in the audit....It is important to keep this engine running.” Vroom. 
Sawfish mystery continues. Scientists still do not know what is causing critically endangered sawfish to thrash and die, or what is causing more than 70 fish species to spin and act erratically.
Iguana hunters. No less than the Washington Post reported on Florida's iguana problem
Hospital task force meets. The task force led by Key West Vice Mayor Sam Kaufman will gather information and advice regarding renewal of the lease of the Lower Keys Medical Center, set to expire in five years.  Kaufman urged local residents to attend the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District meeting on May 8.

Stock Island and Key Haven annexation study. Key West officials want to know what annexation of Stock Island and Key Haven would entail, and whether the residents of those areas even want to become part of the city. “I’d support a maximum allocation of $25,000 for the study to start at the bare minimum,” Commissioner Sam Kaufman said at the April 11 city commission meeting. “This is a vastly complex issue...there are pros and cons involving city services, facilities, voting districts, taxes and more.”
  • Stock Island Association's president offered mostly favorable reactions to the possibility of joining Key West, but wants more information, especially about taxes. "It’s time we stop talking about this, and bring it to a vote."  
Coral bleaching is happening globally. The world is experiencing a yet another coral bleaching event, according to NOAA scientists; the fourth global event on record and the second in the last 10 years. 
Amsterdam says 'enough' to over-tourism. Amsterdam's new crackdown on local over-tourism bans new hotels. New hotels can only be built if another closes down, and the city is urging developers to choose sites outside of the city center.

There's no there here.  Linda Cunningham got off the Rock, and it was weird

  • The rebuild incorporated FKAA water main upgrades and a $4.8 million investment in curbs and gutters, narrower and safer pedestrian crossings, lots of new trees, fresh and smooth asphalt, and an extra-width bike lane.
Buckled swash? Mark Hedden wrote colorfully about an attack by a swashbuckling piratic kingbird, a member of the tyrant kingbird family.