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by Michael Welber……. “Masquerading as a pro-solar energy initiative, this proposed constitutional amendment, supported by some of Florida’s major investor-owned electric utility companies, actually seeks to constitutionalize the status quo.” Those are the words of Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente who wrote a strongly worded dissent back in March when Amendment 1 came up for approval by the court. She went on to call the proposal “a masquerade and a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
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 [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.
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…]
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 Rick Boettger……. You would think I would be a big fan of the Ethics Commission. After all, I filed three complaints, and two were upheld for a total of three violations. Many people are amazed and impressed that I got any favorable holdings at all, given their own experiences. They told me the Ethics Commission is just like the FDLE and police internal reviews, just white-washing for the guilty. After seeing the details of how my case was handled, I now agree, with a [continue reading…]
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 Rick Boettger……. On Friday the Florida Ethics Commission meeting in Tallahassee concluded a 21-month investigation of long-serving George Neugent by finding “probable cause” he violated two ethical laws a total of three times. He got off, as expected, on the charge that initiated my investigation of his affairs: the destruction of SUFA, Stand Up For Animals, and its director, Linda Gottwald, in 2010. My second charge was clear. I saw his financial disclosure forms for two recent years and they were so poorly [continue reading…]
*****JOURNALISM AS A CONTACT SPORT***** Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Election Day this year is November 8. That may seem like a long time away, but it’s not too early to remind you that State Attorney Catherine Vogel– in my opinion the most corrupt state attorney in recent memory– is up for reelection. It’s not too early to remind voters of her on-purpose incompetence in “prosecuting” the Key West police officers who allegedly murdered 62-year-old Charles Eimers on the beach here on Thanksgiving Day 2013. [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…]
Dear Editor, I don’t know where to begin. I read with incredulity last week’s opinion piece by Mr. Kevin Diaz regarding the Florida Keys Stewardship Act (FKSA). It’s hard for me to comprehend how someone seeking to represent the citizens of Monroe County could so totally misunderstand what the Keys are about and it worries me that he could so totally misread this significant legislation. He has egregiously mischaracterized the Stewardship bill. Let’s start by explaining that there are some unique realities of land management [continue reading…]
by Kevin Diaz [candidate for State Representative, Dist,. 120]…… For many months now, we have heard our local leaders present the Florida Keys Stewardship Act as an amazing piece of legislation for Monroe County. However, there are many provisions within the Florida Keys Stewardship Act that put into question the purported positive impact of the bill. The Act essentially allows housing developers to build on environmentally critical land in our community. To top it off, it labels affordable housing as 160% of the median [continue reading…]
by Dennis Reeves Cooper… The Southernmost Point. That big red buoy at the southern end of Whitehead Street. One of the top tourist attractions on the island. But most Key Westers know that the big red buoy does not really mark the actual geographic Southernmost Point. The actual Southernmost Point is supposedly a few blocks on the other side of that fence on Navy property, right? But if the buoy were placed over there, very few tourists would be able to go there and get [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…]
by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. I hope you saw my story about the Key West chickens that appeared here in The Blue Paper April 29. In that story, I reported that, for several years, the Key West Wildlife Center (KWWC) has been contracted by the City of Key West to manage a program to rescue injured chickens, provide medical care, and arrange relocation to selected farms and orchards on the mainland where the chickens can retire in peace. As part of my research for that story, [continue reading…]
by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Today, if you dial 911 to report a fire, the Key West Fire Department will typically be at the scene of the fire within five minutes. When I was researching this story and former Fire Chief Eddie Castro gave me that information, I asked the question again. “Come on, Chief, five minutes from the time the call comes into the fire station to fighting the fire does not seem credible.” “Well, actually,” he said– lecturing me like one of my old [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…]
The Mayor’s Letter to the Editor: There’s some talk right now about changing to single-member district (SMD) voting for Monroe County Commission seats. From my perspective, SMD elections would diminish voter representation and lead to legislative gridlock. With SMD elections, you vote for one Commissioner every four years. In our current at-large elections, you get to vote for all five Commissioners every four years, and for at least 40% of the Commission every two years. Suppose your SMD-elected Commissioner disagrees with you on a particular [continue reading…]
Commentary by Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Have you been keeping up with the climate change/global warming controversy? Well, if you live in the Florida Keys– and especially if you own property here, where most of the land area is only about five feet or less above sea level– you might want to at least try to stay current on this topic. After all, former vice president and almost-president of the United States of America Al Gore has said that “sea level could be rising as much [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 Dennis Reeves Cooper……. Why does a chicken cross the road? No matter what the answer might be, one thing is certain in Key West– the chickens are always crossing the road. And in most instances, those of us who are driving cars or riding mopeds give them the right-of-way. Key West’s chickens are part of the color and history of the island. After all, they’ve been here for at least 200 years– or even longer. Some say that chickens came with the pirates who [continue reading…]
Dear Editor: On January 20, 2016, the six (6) members of the City Commissioners voted to approve funding for the “White Boxing” of the Douglass School Band Room & Shop Building and held their vote on whether the building should house the Roosevelt Sands Health Clinic. The members of the Frederick Douglass School Black Educators Memorial Project (FDSBEMP) had asked for consideration to be given to the fact that Commissioner Clayton Lopez had met with and promised their group over a 5 year period that [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.