23 April 2024

Status quo at TDC - Weekly briefing - April 23, 2024

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Our Community

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.

Our Eyes

Green Heron at the Blue Hole  - Philip Dodderidge

Previously in Key West Voices

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.