Jan 202017
 
Oceanside Marina: It's Getting Worse...

by Naja Girard……. The cloud over the new Oceanside Marina hotel is getting darker. For months questions have been lingering about the appearance of a luxury 175-room hotel on Stock Island when only 17 hotel building rights (called “transient rogos”) were on file for the project (instead of 175). Well, things just got worse. There is good reason, this week, to question whether 12 of those lone 17 transient Rogos even existed or whether they were created out of thin air using false documents. It is [continue reading…]

Jan 202017
 
Health Care in Key West:  Knowing the Unknowable

by Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D…….. I never thought that I would quote former United States Secretary of Defense, Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld.  But I have been driven to his epistemology of  “know-ability” by my frustrating search for the “Primary Care Clinic” funded to the tune of a half-million dollars annually by the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District (LFKHD).  Donald Rumsfeld, the master of using power to deliver ‘strategized confusion,’ explained on February 12, 2002, that US government’s knowledge about Iraq’s passing of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ [continue reading…]

 January 20, 2017  Posted by at 1:00 am * Featured Story *, Issue #202, Martha Huggins No Responses »
Jan 132017
 
Oceanside Marina / Time for an Independent Opinion?

Editorial by Naja Girard……. For the past 2 weeks The Blue Paper has been reporting on the controversial new hotel that just opened at Oceanside Marina on Stock Island. “Have you seen this article?” asked Commissioner Heather Carruthers in an email to the Planning Director, Mayte Santamaria, “Are the premises correct? Have we been hoodwinked? Or do they not have all the information? I think this warrants a response.” This week Ms. Santamaria, produced a 22-page document. It provides little direct analysis but is, rather, [continue reading…]

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

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 a true Pritam Singh”: A high [continue reading…]

Dec 232016
 
In Search of the Hospital District Subsidized "Primary Care Clinic"

by Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D……. Be Compassionate and Giving; Welcome the Stranger.  The sacred texts of major world religions—Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism—talk of the inherent goodness of the poor and extol followers to welcome the stranger and assist the needy.  Capitalism– in most of the modern world–elevated to that of a religion, considers poor people risky, a nuisance, and fiscally dangerous: Mere ‘things’ requiring “risk management.” Contracts are written and legal opinions delivered, to protect corporate wealth and its very well-paid executives [continue reading…]

 December 23, 2016  Posted by at 1:12 am * Featured Story *, Issue #198, Martha Huggins 45 Responses »
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
 
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…]

Dec 022016
 
Princess Cruise Lines To Pay Largest-Ever Criminal Penalty For Deliberate Vessel Pollution

Company to Pay $40 Million and Implement Remedial Measures on All Carnival Companies Visiting U.S. Ports During the campaign leading to the Key West Channel dredging referendum, the question of the efficiency of cruise ship waste water system came to the forefront of the debate. After years of litigation, the image of wastewater tanks regularly overflowing into the bilge of the Caribbean Princess is reaching the public. The Caribbean Princess is one of the cruise ships that visits Key West during the winter season. Here [continue reading…]

 December 2, 2016  Posted by at 1:02 am * Featured Story *, Environment, Issue #195, Water World 4 Responses »
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 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.

Oct 282016
 
Ethics Commission on Neugent: It's Final—A Light Slap on the Wrists

by Rick Boettger……. I flew again to Tallahassee to attend the sentencing hearing for George Neugent’s three violations of our state’s ethics laws. I went to object to their absurdly light penalties—in particular, only a single $500 fine for not reporting his golf membership for years, missing dozens of quarterly reports of the $1,500 quarterly gift, 15 times the reporting requirement of over $100. The Ethics Commission had given George a separate violation and $500 fine for each of the two years he had filed [continue reading…]

 October 28, 2016  Posted by at 1:10 am * Featured Story *, Issue #190, Rick Boettger 8 Responses »
Oct 142016
 
National Key Deer Refuge Responds to Screw Worm Infestation / Eighty Key Deer Have Died To Date

The National Key Deer Refuge (NKDR) is currently working with international, federal, state and local authorities to eradicate the New World screwworm from the lower Florida Keys.  Eighty Key Deer have died as a result of the infestation thus far. Screwworms are fly larvae (maggots) that can infest warm-blooded animals. They enter an animal’s skin, usually through an open wound and feed on living tissue. Screwworms were eradicated from the U.S. in the 1960’s, but their presence on the refuge was confirmed on September 30th [continue reading…]

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 4:10 pm * Featured Story *, Environment, Issue #188 No Responses »
Oct 142016
 
Mosquito Control District: Wolbachia Mosquito Trials Possible for Key Largo and/or Stock Island Areas in 2017

October 14, 2016, Monroe County – The Pesticide Registration Evaluation Committee of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has recommended approval, based on data supplied, for MosquitoMate (www.mosquitomate.com) to perform a field trial in Monroe County. This field trial, in conjunction with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District (FKMCD), will involve the release of male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with a bacterium named Wolbachia pipientis. The trial will be to test the effectiveness of releasing these mosquitoes in suppressing and eliminating the Aedes [continue reading…]

 October 14, 2016  Posted by at 2:31 pm * Featured Story *, Issue #188 1 Response »
Oct 082016
 
Part II: Shady Management; Shady Dealings:  Who Runs the Lower Keys Hospital System --  Unpacking the Nesting Dolls

by Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D……. Like a set of increasingly small wooden Russian nesting dolls placed one inside the other, Key West’s hospital cannot be understood by unpacking it.  Reputed as community and tourist-unfriendly, our hospital system consists[i] of two for-profit hospitals—dePoo Hospital on Kennedy Drive [ii] — and Stock Island’s, Lower Keys Medical Center. These two privately nested hospitals are part of a corporate superstructure dubbed, ‘Key West HMA LLC.’ But the Alpha corporation within our hospital system’s nesting set is the Delaware/Tennessee for-profit corporation, [continue reading…]

 October 8, 2016  Posted by at 4:23 am * Featured Story *, Martha Huggins 11 Responses »
Oct 082016
 
Neugent Punished by Ethics Commission ... but Not Enough

by Rick Boettger……. George Neugent avoided going before a state Administrative Law Judge by stipulating that he committed three violations of the Florida Constitution and Ethics Statutes. As reported here in August, he did not declare his free golf club membership for many years, and made numerous material false reports on his financial disclosure forms.

 October 8, 2016  Posted by at 2:00 am * Featured Story *, Rick Boettger 4 Responses »
Sep 302016
 
Part I: Shady Management; Shady Dealings—For-Profit Health Care in Key West

Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D……. The Physicians’ Hippocratic Oath includes the sacred pledge to serve “according to my ability and judgment, prescribe a regimen for the health of the sick; …[and] utterly reject harm and mischief.”  Just in case such a pledge becomes unimportant with health care’s profitability,  “hospital districts” and their boards of directors sometimes become a community’s watch dog over healthcare operations.  For its part, the Board of the ‘Lower Keys Hospital District’ oversees “hospitals, medical facilities, and other health care related facilities and [continue reading…]

 September 30, 2016  Posted by at 1:10 am * Featured Story *, Issue #186, Martha Huggins 7 Responses »
Sep 232016
 
“In other words, this was all a setup to give the contract to somebody else.”

by Rick Boettger……. County Attorney Bob Shillinger on Destroying SUFA: “In other words, this was all a setup to give the contract to somebody else.” That was his response in an attorney-client closed session to Commissioner George Neugent’s question, “Where do we stand right now?” This was in April of 2012. The County had destroyed Stand Up For Animals, which had an outstanding record of animal control in the Middle Keys for 7 years, by freezing their funds. The Third District Court of Appeals had ruled [continue reading…]

 September 23, 2016  Posted by at 1:06 am * Featured Story *, Issue #185, Rick Boettger 11 Responses »
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 192016
 
Sting Operation: Corrections Deputy Arrested in $150,000 Deal to Help Inmate Escape

A Corrections deputy assigned to the Stock Island detention center was arrested yesterday charged with making a deal with an inmate: cash in exchange for helping him to escape. He was also charged with providing the inmate with contraband in the jail. 50 year old Elizardo Ortueta was reportedly acquainted with the inmate he allegedly made a deal with, 35 year old Albert Vizcaino Gonzalez, prior to his employment with the Sheriff’s Office; Vizcaino is in jail, convicted on drug trafficking charges. He faces a lengthy [continue reading…]

 August 19, 2016  Posted by at 1:00 am * Featured Story *, Issue #180 3 Responses »
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.]