by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. You know things are bad when an attorney says to you, “I hate lawyers!” “I do! I truly do!” repeats Michael Halpern who is pacing in his law office above The Lazy Gecko Bar on Key West’s famous Duval Street. What is one of the most feared attorneys in Key West losing sleep over? Being hunted by a billion-dollar corporation that he believes wants his hotel: the iconic Southernmost House. The “corporation” is Remington Lodging & Hospitality. What we wanted to know [continue reading…]
IF PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE TO SURVIVE… Commentary by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Last week’s Blue Paper report on the re-segregation of Key West’s public schools has generated a lot of comments and questions. What makes the new charter schools so appealing to mostly white parents? The video of a recent fight at Key West High speaks for itself. Academics are a great concern for parents and so is safety. We had previously received similar reports of kids ganging up on a lone student: Four kids [continue reading…]
The controversy over Key West’s charter schools rocked the school board during last week’s meeting. “How do we know this is not going to be another white-flight school?” asked longtime school board member Andy Griffiths about a new charter middle school. Some fear an exodus of white students toward charter schools will leave the district run public schools with insufficient resources and failing grades. For others, the specter of re-segregation is simply intolerable. The numbers are telling: Key West’s Horace O’Bryant [HOB], the district run public [continue reading…]
The homeless man was found face down on Smather’s Beach with his throat cut. Detectives are investigating. SHAL Raising Funds for Homeless Bus Tickets From SHAL’s Press Release: The Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL) is asking for community support for its popular reunification program this holiday season.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. A Hillsborough County firefighter and active member of the Outlaw motorcycle gang has been identified as one of the assailants in a bar room brawl that occurred during the annual Poker Run in Key West in September. Clinton Neal Walker, 33, was captured on surveillance video at Rumors Lounge on September 27th punching a man repeatedly in the face. Law enforcement agencies had been forewarned that members of the Outlaw motorcycle gang would be coming to Key West during the [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. It’s 4:45 p.m. in New Town, Key West. A silver Honda has just crashed into the car of two rangers from Dry Tortugas National Park. The Honda driver, reeking of alcohol, is stumbling away from the scene toward Duck Avenue. He is Robert Bethel, the 34-year-old son of Harry Bethel, a former City Commissioner.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. A few months back The Blue Paper discovered an infamous loophole by which the City of Key West rewards illegal vacation rental owners with transient rental licenses. This week a closer look at Monroe County’s property taxes revealed another troubling disparity: Some property owners have maneuvered to pay up to nearly 10 times less in property taxes than other owners of comparable properties.
The U.S. Coast Guard responded early Tuesday morning to a Mayday call on vhf radio sent by fishing vessel “Little Angenette.” About an hour before sunrise the “Little Angenette” missed the entrance to Key West harbor. The captain initially reported that he’d hit a channel marker and was sinking fast.
by Malcolm Willison….. Oh, Connie! Can you be gone? Can you really have taken away your impish face, those penetrating eyes, wry smile, the devastating remark? You would throw out an article or craft a poem that captured us—you could revel in a phrase or reveal a deepest longing. We so counted on you–your quick wit, your sly remark, your careful edit of your own and others’ exposition and choice of words, your trenchant critique. Now who will offer us that same left-handed support, the [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….. The U.S. Navy is considering moving some 400 military families to Key West. They would be supporting the Navy’s new Triton surveillance drone program. According to the Navy, the deployment shouldn’t be a problem, in terms of housing for new personnel, since the preliminary impact study drafted by the US Fleet Force Command shows that the Lower Keys area has a 43% housing vacancy rate. Key West, they claim, is a little bit tighter with only a 34% vacancy rate. The draft [continue reading…]
Commentary by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….. Four thousand dollars a week is not unusual for the rental of a house in Old Town – as long as you can rent to tourists – that is. Last Wednesday on US 1 Radio’s Morning Magazine, City Manager Jim Scholl went on the defensive amidst accusations that the City has been rewarding illegal transient rental operators. In a story published last week in The Blue Paper we revealed that in 2013 the City had changed the grandfathered-in date in its [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Prominent businessman Ed Swift got caught again illegally renting to tourists. The Conch Train owner and, ironically, advocate for affordable housing, was reported this week by The Keynoter as having been set up, again, by code enforcement officials who went undercover and rented two of his condo units at Key Cove Landing for 6 nights for roughly $600 a night. That was, apparently, the third time in a little over a year. Swift certainly made a mistake. Or did he? [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….. To allow an additional 60 plus apartments on his property, a Key West developer nearly doubled the size of his parcel – on paper. And some of the City Commissioners, who last month signed off on the development agreement, knew all about it. Under Key West zoning density ratios, developer/lawyer Barton Smith needed a minimum of 4.5 acres to build 62 new housing units on his property at Sunset Marina.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Liveaboards and low-income renters may not be the only victims of the Sunset Marina development agreement approved last month by the City Commission. Sunset Marina’s $2700/month “affordable housing” project appears to have also cheated small commercial boat owners out of over 100 legally required parking spaces. By the look of things, developers may also be lining things up to cheat the building department on permit fees by an estimated $125,000 [by misrepresenting construction costs by nearly 7 million dollars.]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. How do they do it? In the past few months developers convinced the City of Key West to pay them 12.5 million dollars for the promise not to raise rents beyond $2709 per month. That was Peary Court, where 83% of the 2-bedroom units can now rent for that “middle-income” affordable level, $2709/month. [Low-income affordable is $1545.] Four weeks ago, it was Sunset Marina LLC [developers Barton Smith and Greg Oropeza] that managed to get around the City’s requirement for 30% [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Remember, the first time you drove down US 1 all the way to Key West? We would like to take you from that glittering vision of hundreds of little green islands suspended over endless turquoise waters and sit you down in the boardroom of the County Commissioners who are in charge of protecting that whole magical expanse called the Florida Keys. Few issues in Monroe County have stirred as much passion and cloak and dagger plots as the development of those [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. “I love the place,” says Bryan, a taxi driver, who lives on a boat at Sunset Marina on Stock Island, “I can’t believe we’re going to have to move.” Living aboard — this Key West style solution to affordable housing — is in jeopardy at the marina. While discussing the approval of expanded development during the City Commission meeting last Wednesday, Barton Smith, the developer, revealed that liveaboards would no longer be tolerated at the docks. Smith, an attorney, is [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. This week The Blue Paper received a copy of the FBI’s investigative report on the in-custody-death of Charles Eimers. About a year and a half ago Key West’s Citizen Review Board (CRB) wrote to the Department of Justice asking for an independent review of a drama that shook the town. On the morning of his first day on our island paradise, 61-year-old tourist/homeless person, Charles Eimers, died in police custody. Initially it was reported by KWPD that on Thanksgiving morning an [continue reading…]
by Alexis d’Albissin and Arnaud Girard……. “We’re guinea pigs in their science experiment,“ said Dick Nalley. Like many of his neighbors in Key Haven, he has dotted his front yard with angry placards. The government, you see, together with a British biotech company called Oxitec, plans to release three million genetically modified mosquitoes into their small island neighborhood, 5 miles northeast of Key West. The ultimate goal is to test this new tool for stopping the propagation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries dengue, chikungunya, and [continue reading…]
FRONT PAGE COMMENTARY by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. NOT TO SPEAK IS TO SPEAK, NOT TO ACT IS TO ACT We wondered this week just how the Monroe County School Board was going to justify the rehiring of a disgraced employee, twice embroiled in school district financial scandals. While the board did approve the $105,000 a year salary for Mike Henriquez in his new, specially tailored, Director’s job, they simply made sure, during the public meeting, to never once utter his name. This is how the board, in [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard…… This must be an all time record for how fast a small City like Key West can vet, vote, and authorize payment on a 12.5 million dollar deal. In just 2 weeks time the City dispatched 12.5 million dollars to a private company that will provide affordable housing [for up to $2709/month] for rent-burdened Key West workers. The last leg of this race to closing played out this week: the County’s Land Authority pledged the entire City reserve plus $300,000 [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. It all started with a dead body being hauled down US 1 on the back of an open-bed pickup truck. That was the unceremonious business practice of the new Monroe County Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Beaver. Families complained. Then employees at the Medical Examiner’s office began leaving. The first one to leave, Ryan Moe, claimed he was subjected to abusive treatment. He told the Keynoter last May that Beaver would leave him alone to conduct critical autopsy procedures, “He’d have [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. After 58% of voters rejected the purchase of Peary Court six weeks ago, some City Commissioners have a new plan: give the City’s affordable housing funds to a private company that wants to buy the entire former Navy housing complex on White Street for 60 million dollars. The City would pay the buyer 12.5 million. In exchange, the buyer would deed restrict the 157 existing units and any other units constructed on the 24 plus acre property for use as [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Taking a look behind the scenes at the ill-fated 55 million dollar Peary Court purchase proposal has opened a door into the shadowy marshland of Key West politics. An investigation by The Blue Paper reveals possible Sunshine Law violations, officials concealing information from the public, and a blurry line between public office and the interests of private organizations.
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. From power trip to assault of patrons, some Duval Street bouncers seem poorly trained or out of control. The Blue Paper sampled this week’s bar brawls to report on the issue. Robert Lee Klieves can’t remember why he was put into a helicopter with a brain bleed and flown to Kendall Regional Trauma Center in Miami last Saturday night. He is 60 years old, from Hudson, Florida. He came to Key West for his “first real vacation in 20 years” to [continue reading…]
by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Even though the debate at City Hall this week was not officially about race, it shed an unflattering light on Key West’s cultural divide in ways that no journalist could express better than the passionate speakers did on Tuesday night. You’re just going to have to listen for yourself and be amazed. But before you click on the video, we need to make you privy to a few basic facts and to the one little secret that no one “in the know” that night had [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. This week FEB Corporation and Roger Bernstein, the wannabe owners/developers of Wisteria Island, have lost their case before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. When most local politicians seemed all too ready to allow real estate moguls to build their posh hotel resort, who would have thought that an old Navy letter penned almost a century ago was going to place the federal government in front of the bulldozer and save the last desert island in Key West harbor? The [continue reading…]
Wisteria, the last desert island in Key West harbor, will not be developed any time soon. A three judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a 1951 letter from the U.S. Navy to the State of Florida was more than enough to meet the requirements to establish the U.S. claim of ownership and to start the twelve-year statute of limitation running under the Quiet Title Act. F.E.B. Corporation’s owner, Roger Bernstein, has recently spent considerable time and money lobbying the County [continue reading…]
El Galeon will be at the Historic Seaport through Sunday March 27, tours are from noon to 8:00 pm, tickets: $15.00 Hōkūle’a will be here through noon Friday March 25 [or longer depending on weather] For more information about the El Galeon and the Hōkūle’a visit their websites linked below: Website for El Galeon: http://www.elgaleon.org/ Website for Hōkūle’a: http://www.hokulea.com/ DID YOU LIKE THIS STORY? SUPPORT THE BLUE PAPER Help us continue to bring you local investigative journalism… CONTRIBUTE:
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Two years ago when we asked where Matthew Shaun Murphy was we were given records showing that Murphy was a criminal at large; his name on the FDLE “Wanted” list. When we asked to see FDLE’s investigative report we were told there wasn’t one. But after spending a month verifying rumors of Murphy’s death at the hands of a KWPD officer, we found him… in Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. He had been there for over 3 years, left in a [continue reading…]
Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. Over 56% of voters said “No” to the purchase of Peary Court in spite of the housing crisis. The $55 Million project to save 157 units rented at $2400/month appeared an uphill battle from the start. “Jimmy [Commissioner Weekley] is saying he prays that Peary Court tenants will not be evicted by the next owner,” says citizen advocate Christine Russel, “I think Jimmy and others who pushed this should pray the mysterious next owner pays at least $55 Million [continue reading…]
by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The image of the gray PT Cruiser parked sideways on South Beach with the huddle of Key West police officers who’d just realized the man they’d piled on top of had stopped breathing is probably going to remain in the memories of Key Westers for a long time. What went wrong on that Thanksgiving morning in 2013 has been the center of considerable controversy. “My dad always had this dream of spending a winter in Key West,” Treavor Eimers, Charles [continue reading…]