Arnaud and Naja Girard

Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.

Mar 242017
 
Is Monroe a “Sanctuary County”?

by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. If you’re like us, you probably think, what in the world is a Sanctuary City or County? Some sort of governmental civil disobedience? This week we followed the case of an immigration “hold” detainee at the county jail where we learned of the Monroe County Sheriff’s position on the subject. In the following order: Monroe County is not a sanctuary county, then it is, and then it is not.

Mar 172017
 
Deportation of Two Legal Restaurant Workers: The Beginning of the End?

Commentary by Naja and Arnaud Girard……. The plane that carried Jean Dervil back to Haiti landed late Thursday in Port-au-Prince. With him were 250 more deportees from the United States. To put it mildly, it has been puzzling for our readers to watch our documentary about a beloved, hard-working Haitian man, married to an American citizen, and to come to the realization that it may now be the policy of the federal government to deport people with valid work permits. 

Mar 032017
 
Planning Director Out at End of March

by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Key West Planning Director, Thaddeus Cohen, “came to a mutual agreement” [with the City Manager] “to end Mr. Cohen’s tenure with the City.” The official explanation is quite diplomatic: “The transition will better serve the City’s needs.” “Planning is a complex and challenging department…” reads the official PR statement that the City sent to The Blue Paper.

 March 3, 2017  Posted by at 1:04 am News 4 Responses »
Feb 102017
 
A Time-Bomb in the County's New Land Use Code?

Feb 10, 2017 Commentary by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….  Contrary to popular belief, adding one or two “lock-outs” to your home and renting them to tourists without getting any separate building allocations was legal after all! Developer, Pritam Singh, bless his soul, has shown us the way: He took 79 “permanent residential” building rights [called ROGOs] and transferred them to Oceanside Marina and, after adding 79 “lock-outs” and 17 hotel rooms, he’s now renting all 175 “units” to tourists. It could appear unlawful and it has upset a [continue reading…]

Jan 272017
 
Key West's Hospital Privatization Deal: A Preliminary Autopsy

by  Arnaud and Naja Girard……. Once upon a time Key West had a large piece of land on Stock Island where our Hospital District built a brand new hospital. It was meant to “protect the availability of needed hospital services to residents of the district, including indigent residents.” That was 1972. By 1999 the Hospital District had signed a deal which, in essence, privatized the entire lower Keys hospital care system. The deal went down in the midst of intense controversy, as a completely opaque [continue reading…]

 January 27, 2017  Posted by at 1:00 am Issue #203, Naja and Arnaud Girard, News 2 Responses »
Jan 062017
 
Oceanside Marina Part Two:  The "Condo Wars"

Just as we were wondering whether Pritam Singh’s soon to open “175-room Hotel” on Stock Island was legal, The Blue Paper received an interesting tip. Pritam Singh is suing 7 of his neighbors for alleged unlawful vacation rental use of their condos at Oceanside Marina. He wants them to rent long-term. The $100 million question is whether there is in fact any difference between those old condos (2003) and the new ones recently built by Mr. Singh at that very same marina. They look like [continue reading…]

Dec 302016
 
Oceanside Marina: Bait & Switch

December 30, 2016 by Naja Girard……. He is renowned for his real estate prowess, selling 100-million-dollar hotels in Key West as if they are going out of style: Parrot Key Resort on Roosevelt Boulevard in 2014 sold for $100,000,000 and only 1 year later, in March of 2015, The Marker near Key West Bight sold for $96,250,000). Pritam Singh, dubbed the Donald Trump of the Keys, is now ready to unveil his latest creation: Ocean’s Edge Key West on Stock Island (the old Oceanside Marina). People will say, “It’s [continue reading…]

Dec 162016
 
Could the City Take Back the Hospital?

by Arnaud and Naja Girard……. “He put some superglue on the wound, a piece of gauze and taped it,” says Dan Schramm, who went to the ER at Lower Keys Medical Center last year for a deep gash above his eye. “The doctor didn’t even clean up the wound at all and later it got infected.” The whole thing took about “two minutes.” He says the hospital charged him $4,000 for the ER and he was billed another $800 for the doctor. Over the past [continue reading…]

Dec 092016
 
SOUTHERNMOST FEUD: City Attorney and Police Chief Sued for Alleged Conspiracy

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…]

 December 9, 2016  Posted by at 1:24 am News 32 Responses »
Dec 092016
 
Fight at Key West High / Student Arrested

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…]

Dec 022016
 
MONROE COUNTY'S SECRET ROADMAP TO RE-SEGREGATION

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…]

Nov 252016
 
Thanksgiving Celebrated at Homeless Shelter in Shadow of Terrible News

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.

Nov 182016
 
Outlaw Member Involved in Greene Street Bar Brawl Arrested / Suing St. Pete Police

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…]

 November 18, 2016  Posted by at 1:09 am Issue #193, News, Public Notice 7 Responses »
Nov 042016
 
Is Local Politics Getting in the Way of Public Safety?

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.

Oct 282016
 
Giant Property Tax Breaks For Some: But What About Long-Term Rental Owners?

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.

Sep 162016
 
Mayday!! Fishing Boat Lands on Top of Rock Jetty [video]

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.

Sep 092016
 
Oh, Connie!

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…]

Sep 022016
 
A FEW GOOD LIES

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…]

Sep 022016
 
City Manager Defends Amnesty Program for Hundreds of Illegal Transient Rentals by Claiming it's Not Happening

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…]

Aug 262016
 
Crime Pays in Key West, Especially When you Get Caught

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…]

Aug 192016
 
Developers to Build on Imaginary Land at Sunset Marina

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.

Aug 122016
 
New Development at Sunset Marina: Commercial Slip Owners Cry Foul

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.]

Aug 052016
 
Key West Government and Big $ Developers, A Relationship Riddled with Impropriety

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…]

 August 5, 2016  Posted by at 12:56 am * Featured Story *, Issue #178 18 Responses »
Jul 222016
 
"Devious" Developers Score on Offshore Island Development, 2016

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…]