25 June 2024

'Bubba uprising' at KW City Hall - Weekly briefing - June 25, 2024

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'Bubba uprising' at KW City Hall. In what local columnist Linda Cunningham dubbed a 'bubba uprising,' political intrigue is swirling around Key West's City Manager, who may be out of a job as early as Wednesday, June 26th.
(We don't) love that dirty water. FloridaHealth for Monroe County issued a press release detailing unsafe water due to enteric bacteria, an indication of fecal pollution. Only two of ten Monroe beaches' water was rated 'Good.' Water at Higgs, Smathers, and South beaches in Key West was rated 'Poor' and advisories were issued.

DeSantis cuts arts funding. Several organizations in the Florida Keys will need to seek funds from another source following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto of $26 million in grants for the arts.
  • MARC hit. The director of Monroe Association for ReMARCable Citizens, a nonprofit which is the only provider of services to adults with developmental disabilities in the Keys, wrote a letter to the editor to protest the cuts.
  • $800,000 local impact. Chris Hamilton detailed local impacts of the cut, which made national news. Impacted organizations include Waterfront Playhouse, Bahama Village Music Program, Mel Fisher and History of Diving Museums, Monroe County Council of the Arts, Key West Art & Historical Society, Key West Literary Seminar, Reef Environmental Education Foundation, and Red Barn Theatre.
Unopposed. Across the Florida Keys, 20 political races were settled outright on June 14, when the qualifying period for county and state races ended with no other opponents on the ballot.
Statewide referenda. Keys Weekly gave us a concise summary of six proposed amendments to the Florida Comnstitution we'll vote on this fall, address topics including abortion, marijuana, and school boards. 

TDC director job search. The Florida Keys is hiring a new president and CEO of the Tourist Development Council, Monroe County’s multimillion-dollar tourism agency.

Our Eyes

Fire and rain - Lynne Bentley-Kemp

Previously in Key West Voices

New mayor elected. For the first time in recent history, a Key West mayoral candidate won the office without competition.
  • Uncontested. Danise “Dee Dee” Henriquez ran without competition for departing Mayor Teri Johnston's open seat. Henriquez is well-known in the community, having been born and raised in Key West and serving multiple terms as the tax collector for Monroe County.
City manager in jeopardy. Three Key West lawmakers who are leaving office in a few months, plus one incumbent, want to fire the city manager on their way out the door.
  • Al Childress, who started the job in April 2023 with a four-year contract, got a call Friday evening from city attorney Ron Ramsingh, who said “...there are four votes from commissioners to fire me; they’re planning to call a special meeting," now scheduled for Wednesday, June 26. Childress told the Keys Weekly on Friday night, still reeling from the news.
  • Parting shot? The four voting to oust him are Commissioners Weekley, Lopez, Wardlow and Carey; the only one of the four remaining in office.
  • Not without cost. If the move happens, it likely will cost the city about $100,000 under terms of Childress' contract.
  • Assistant city manager resigned. News of Childress’s jeopardy came two days after assistant city manager Todd Stoughton resigned.
Local election slates set. Passing the June 14th deadline for candidate qualification, there were no further late entries, and several candidates are unopposed.
  • Recap of who's in, and what's not decided. The Citizen presented its recap of the races. Of particular note are contested races for Key West City Commission in districts one and six, Supervisor of Elections, and Monroe County Board of Commissioners district three.
  • The two upcoming elections are on August 20th and November 5th. Voters should check their registration status now at keys-elections.org. Rules have changed, and standing requests to vote by mail may need to be renewed. You'll probably want to vote in each.
  • Meet the candidates. With the end of the qualifying period, The non-partisan Hometown! organization hosted its traditional Meet the Candidates forum on Friday. Video here.
BOCC to assert its power over TDC. At its May 15 meeting, Monroe County's Board of Commissioners advanced an ordinance to clarify in the county code that Tourism Development Council board members serve “at the pleasure of the five commissioners.” Commissioners set a public hearing on July 17 in Marathon before their plan to enact the new language.

DeSantis approved TDC funds for housing. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill to allow surplus TDC funding to be used for affordable housing, but only on a one-time basis.

Russian on by. News reports this week showed four Russian warships arriving in Havana Harbor, just 90 miles from Key West.

No blank check. Linda Cunningham isn't ready to support Key West's plan to float $300 million in new bonds. Each of the four bond issues that voters will likely consider in November identify a handful of projects that “could” be done, but the referenda themselves aren’t specific except for the total dollars. Over the 30-year lifespan of the bonds, that’s giving a blank check for future leaders.

Mandy's world, according her dad. Mandy Miles acknowledged that everything her parents told her was generally correct, despite her best and repeated efforts to prove them wrong.

Thinking about time. Chris Hamilton remembered his dad, who passed away last year.

Least terns. Mark Hedden noted that least terns land quickly, as if they’d been raptured accidentally and the unnamed forces of the universe were trying to put them back as fast as possible so no one would notice.