09 July 2024

Sparks at candidate forum - Weekly briefing - July 9, 2024

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

Subscribe to Key West Voices for free. See something that should be in Voices? Click here to share it with us.

Our Community

Sparks at candidate forum. Candidates for the Monroe County Commission District 5 seat wasted no time mixing it up, when challenger Melissa Ptomey accused incumbent and county Mayor Holly Raschein of 'betraying her community' by working behind the scenes to have the state Department of Commerce reverse its earlier denial of a zoning change. The re-zoning in Tavernier would enable to construction of a new Publix store at the site of the former Cemex plant. Raschein denied the accusations (video).

Mayor Teri snubbed for TDC job. Despite Teri Johnston's unique qualifications as outgoing Key West mayor and former city commissioner of the largest single driver of tourism in the Keys, a county-appointed search committee snubbed Johnston when it narrowed the pool of 24 candidates to six non-residents for the top job at the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. Johnston has a record of striking a balance between tourism growth and quality of life issues for Key West residents. Go figure

Candidate pledged to rehire Childress. Marci Rose, one of three candidates for Key West City Commission District 6, pledged in an email to voters that if elected, she would vote to restore the City Manager to office. Last month, four Commissioners voted to fire City Manager Al Childress without cause, despite public comment from nearly 100 residents supporting Mr. Childress and not one comment against him. In response to an email inquiry, candidate Thaddeus Cohen declined to make the same pledge; the third candidate, Aaron Castillo has not yet responded to the same inquiry. . 

Rapid intensification reality check. Hurricane Beryl, the earliest Category 5 storm on record ever, caused deaths and widespread damage in the Caribbean and Mexico, and strengthened again for its Monday landfall in Texas. While not a threat to the Keys, a storm intensifying as rapidly as  Beryl could narrow the window for safe evacuation of the Keys following an evac order.  

Costly veto. Governor Ron DeSantis' unexpected veto of $32 million in state arts funding will have a roughly $790,000 impact on 13 local museums, theaters and music programs, including ones that work with children. 

Common sense on Dengue. WLRN shared useful tips in the wake of confirmed cases of Dengue fever in the Keys

Our Eyes 

"Sure, they're clouds. But if you squint, it's a flamboyance of flamingos,
and what a fine collective noun that is." - John Teets

Previously in Key West Voices

Bubba coup. In a widely condemned move, four out of seven members of the Key West City Commission voted to fire Key West City Manager Al Childress. Three of those voting for the ouster leave office later this year. 
  • Ain't anywhere close to done. Linda Cunningham's spot-on coverage and analysis of Thursday's meeting is essential reading. Read it to learn about finger pointing, shouting, damning text messages, Sunshine Law challenges, etc. Lawsuits are nearly certain.   
  • Dueling narratives. One version is that Childress was incompetent, caused morale problems, and didn't understand 'how things are done' in Key West. Another version is that Childress questioned the performance of Key West's Chief Building Official, the brother of the City Attorney, Ron Ramsingh. Despite recusing himself from the proceedings, Ramsingh spoke at considerable length during the meeting to air his grievances with Childress.
  • No public support for the vote. Not one of the dozens of email, Zoom, and in-person public comments ahead of the vote favored the ouster. Commissioners Carey and Weekly claimed to have had constituent support for their votes to fire Childress, but none were on the record. 
  • Widespread coverage. Local media covered the action extensively, including Keys WeeklyCitizenWLRNKey West Island News, and a special alert here in Key West Voices
Rapid intensification. Although Hurricane Beryl is not forecast to threaten the Keys, it rapidly intensified. The National Hurricane Center defines rapid intensification as an increase in maximum sustained wind speed of 35 mph or more in a 24-hour period. Here's more about what that means. 
  • Earlier than ever and 'now a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane.' Beryl is now the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean and the only Category 4 storm ever recorded in the month of June. The early timing of the season’s first hurricane is unusual, given the average date for the first hurricane is August 11.
  • Less warning time. A rapidly intensifying storm (RI) threatening the Keys would reduce the time available for evacuation, at the same time modeling indicates that actual and proposed population growth in the Keys has increased the time needed to evacuate. 
  • Residents unclear on the concept. The more frequent occurrence of RI storms in recent years is not generally understood by the Keys residents whose lives are at greater risk because of the phenomenon. It's all the result of climate change. 
Denial reversed. State officials reversed their denial of a proposed Publix project in Tavernier.

Dirty water. Several Keys beaches are under swim warnings due to the high presence of fecal bacteria.
Citizens homeowners insurance rate hike. Keys property owners insured through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation could suffer another double-digit increase in 2025.  

Dengue. The Florida Department of Health in Monroe County confirmed that two Upper Keys residents contracted dengue fever from mosquitos.
Teri wants to run TDC. Teri Johnston, the outgoing mayor of Key West, is among the applicants to lead the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

Buffett. Parts of route A1A in Monroe and other counties will be named after late singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett after a bill was signed by DeSantis. 

Key Wests' PeopleforBikes rating improved. Chris Hamilton is pleased at the improvement, but there's more to be done.

Familiar, strange, and maybe a little blurred. Mark Hedden went to the mainland. and saw a scissor-tailed flycatcher on a wire, and killdeers