18 June 2024

New mayor elected - city manager in jeopardy - Weekly briefing - June 18, 2024

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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.

Our Eyes

Spoonbill one-two, check wheels down, cleared to land swamp three-five on Big Pine Key - Philip Dodderidge

Previously in Key West Voices

Music capital of the Southeast? The Key West City Commission received a presentation and discussed possibly spending $30 million on rebuilding or renovating the Coffee Butler Amphitheater, which opened in 2017.
  • Supporters of the idea, including the mayor and most commissioners, imagine that the upgrade would result in more big-name concerts that would yield up to $60 million annual benefit to the Keys economy due to increased tourism. The plan would tap TDC funds (from the so-called 'bed tax' on hotel stays to pay for the upgrade. The conceptual design can be viewed here.
Wait until July. The KW Commission delayed to July its consideration of adding referendums authorizing up to $300 million in bonds for a variety of long delayed projects. Recent letters to the Editor of Keys Weekly argued against and for the prospective bond issues.

Square groupers found by divers in Key Largo made national news.

Nobel Peace Prize nomination. A Key West man and his business partner in Miami were nominated for the prestigious honor for their invention of a machine that produces drinking water from air.

Airport construction topped off. The 48,802 square-foot addition bringing jet bridges and other improvements to the Key West International Airport is scheduled to open in Spring 2025.

Born of necessity. During and after Hurricane Irma in 2017, Linda Cunningham and retired journalist John Teets brought together vital storm and recovery information, all in one place. By the time they closed their “newsroom” in late September, they had reached more than a million people around the world.
  • As best she can tell — there is still no comprehensive Monroe County-Key West strategy for sharing with the public up-to-date hurricane news.in one easy-to-find place.
Big wins, on Key West time. Chris Hamilton celebrated progress on seven major projects in Key West.