Over-Development, Cronyism, and Corruption in the Middle Keys

Cities and towns love development. The more the better. More money – for rich people – more tourists, and more – low paying – jobs. That’s partly why the Marathon City Council rubberstamped a proposal to redevelop the Sombrero Country Club into what will become Florida Keys Resort.

The newly approved development may also endanger a threatened bird and the sanity of nearby residents, while calling into questions the ethics of elected government in Marathon.

Burrowing owl photo0001

The Bird

It’s well documented that Burrowing owls have lived on the Sombrero Country Club golf course for many years. The club uses the image of the owl in its logo. Continue reading

It’s The Law, Man

Marijuana poster

Wasting police time; wasting taxpayer dollars

There aren’t many issues that Americans agree on in this era of divisive politics. The country has been fractured by innumerable partisan confrontations from foreign wars to immigration to birth control. And yet a clear majority of people in the United States do consistently agree on one issue: legalization of marijuana.

Not medical marijuana either. Smoking dope, man.

When the White House created its website Change.Org it asked the public to vote on the “Top 10 Ideas for Change in America.” The result? The call to “legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana” placed #1 in the 2010 Change.org online vote. Continue reading

It’s Hot! It’s Exciting!! Nobody’s heard of it!!!

Hot Hot Hot

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What is it? GreenKeys! Yes, exclamation point. That’s how terrific it is. Terrific!

So what is GreenKeys!? It’s hard to say precisely. It seems to partially be an outreach effort by the expensive consultant hired by the county whose task it is to design how the Keys will implement its climate action plan and update sea level rise modeling (SLR).

Problem is, GreenKeys! didn’t do a particularly effective job at reaching out. It appears that only 23 or, to be generous, 27 people in the entire county responded to a survey distributed via Constant Contact. But the consultant only sent it to 89 people. Continue reading

Fouling Our Nest Part II: Let Us Spray

Spray
Workers digging trench for sewer line in front of the author’s house stand in chest-high salt water.

Workers digging trench for sewer line in front of the author’s house stand in chest-high salt water.

Anyone who has lived in the Keys for any length of time knows that the ground we live on is very porous. Made up of either coral or limestone rock, the surface of these islands resembles flat colanders, allowing everything that falls on it to eventually pass directly through the ground to the salt water below, a mere few feet.

When the contractors dug trenches for the sewers in Marathon, those cavities immediately filled with salt water that rose and fell with the tide. As a result, anything that is sprayed or poured onto the thin skin that separates us from the ocean below finds its way into that ocean.

So, for example, herbicides that anyone sprays throughout the Keys would not only kill weeds and other plants but also would eventually become part of the ecosystems in our oceans.

Who sprays in the Keys?

Continue reading

Fouling Our Nest Part 1: Mosquito Control and the Ecology of the Keys

Mosquito

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 3.32.57 PM I woke up this afternoon

I saw both cars were gone

I felt so low down deep inside

I threw my drink across the lawn

 — Martin Mull, Shaker Heights Blues

I read in the Keynoter that the president of the gated and very wealthy Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo pleaded for an aerial spraying before last Friday because of an invasion of salt marsh mosquitoes.

“Most of our nearly 2,000 or so members and guests will have had their Fourth of July ruined,” Ocean Reef President Paul Astbury wrote to Mosquito Control.

Tragic.
Continue reading

Murder-for-hire Perpetrator Gets Maximum Allowable Sentence

Pistol

Pistol“I am the victim. My life has changed dramatically.”

So said an emotional Bruce Schmitt at a court session for the man who tried to have him killed.

At the session, a clearly frustrated U.S. federal judge, Jose E. Martinez, imposed the maximum allowable ten-year sentence on admitted murder-for-hire perpetrator Dennis Zecca in a sentencing hearing at the Federal Court Building in Key West on Wednesday. Zecca has been convicted of hiring someone – who turned out to be an FBI informant – to kill Schmitt, a Marathon realtor, for reasons still unknown.

Martinez wondered aloud what everyone else familiar with the case has been wondering since late 2012: why. Continue reading

Let ‘em fry!

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Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test, [the poor] fail, and for this they are despised.

– George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, 1933

Apparently it never rains in the Keys. And the hot sun doesn’t beat down mercilessly.

That must be the thinking of the local gendarmerie and town fathers in Marathon. While moving a commuter bus stop from a site in front of a local liquor store and bar might make sense, designing a new stop with no benches and no cover certainly doesn’t. But that’s what is going to happen in the Middle Keys as a result of a June 24 city council decision.

The bus stop in question serves two round-trip routes. One provides transportation to Key West while the other does the same between the Keys and Florida City. The people who use the latter are primarily service workers who travel two hours to slightly better paying low-end jobs at places such as Kmart, Winn-Dixie and Publix. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: Sustainable [R]evolution [North Atlantic Books]

Sustainable Revolution coverReading Juliana Birnbaum and Louis Fox’s new book is both exhilarating and depressing. Exhilarating because the volume describes in varying detail more than 62 ecovillages, urban farms, and communities from all over the world working toward sustainability.

But the paperback is also a downer because it highlights what can be accomplished but isn’t in almost all cities and towns. Here in the Keys for instance, a place that is more than suitable for cutting-edge efforts to reduce human impact upon deteriorating habitats and our climate, nothing of the sort has been contemplated let alone implemented. Continue reading

More Bull from Marathon City Council

Lego Lighthouse

 Lego Lighthouse

The Marathon City Council on Tuesday agreed to spend as much as $ 9,250 to investigate the true cost associated with moving a historic Fresnel lighthouse lens back to Marathon.

Florida Keys Keynoter

This is not a joke. Well, not an actual meant-to-be-funny-joke anyway. It might be Vice Mayor Chris Bull’s idea of a joke, but it’s hard to imagine that most of the taxpayers in Marathon would get the punch line.

That’s $ 9,250 in taxpayer’s money. That’s $ 9,250 that could have been spent on making the new city hall more energy efficient. Or the city itself. It might even pay for making a replica of the lens out Legos.

A little background. Sombrero Reef lies about eight miles off Marathon’s shores and is a much sought after spot for divers and snorkelers. The lighthouse on the reef was put in service in 1858, automated in 1960, and is still in operation. The upper platform, 40 feet above the water, held staff quarters but now the light is automated. The original lens, what’s known as a first order Fresnel lens, is on display in the Key West Lighthouse Museum. Continue reading

Welber on Welber: Special Interest Trumps Climate Action

welber interviews welber

welber interviews welber

“I’m very proud of that,” Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent said after looking through the climate assessment last week. “I’m very proud to be part of an initiation in a region that contains millions of people.”

– Neugent commenting on praise for four-county compact that produced the Southeast Regional Action Plan

Blue Paper

We want to welcome back environmentalist Michael Welber for another in-depth interview.

Welber

More like survivalist.

Blue Paper

Oh? And why is that?

Welber

You’ve probably been snoozing this month, which would actually be a good thing given the continuing inexplicable actions of some of our fine county commissioners.

Blue Paper

What is it this time? Did they buy another restaurant? Continue reading