Jul 212017
 

“Garbage”, by Piotr Siediecki

by John Donnelly…….

Being scolded and threatened by individuals visiting the Florida Keys with their large vehicles and trailers as they create traffic jams and dangerous driving conditions for the citizens that live here, because we’ve asked our County Commissioners to decrease their destructive impact, via the creation of a “toll road” for entry onto our islands, identifies a certain type of contempt, insensitivity and indifference for the safety and basic needs of Monroe County residents.

Intrusions from the vehicular invasion that’s upon us, has resulted in increased deaths, injuries and property damage in Monroe County. The regular stream of litter and pollutants deposited by visitors on our roads and waterways has reached epidemic proportions. Civic minded citizens living here, have been forced to routinely pick up extensive fields of debris strewn along our shorelines and roadways by reckless visitors to our islands, in an attempt to stave off the more “toxic infestations” resultant from lethal waste and poisonous chemical disposal.

The quality of life we sought via the monetary investments we made when purchasing our homes, has been eroded and destroyed by unrestricted and excessive vehicle congestion, which has intruded into every facet of our lives, destabilizing and darkening our normal routines.

Reasonable and responsible leadership from those in positions of governance; requires immediate action that will maintain our infrastructure and protect our reefs, while safeguarding our waterways and fragile aquatic ecosystem so that the people who live here are not ruined and crippled by the unrelenting onslaught of nonresident conveyances. Coalescing with forces that are destroying our neighborhoods and communities, identifies a particular type of callousness not usually exhibited by “democratically elected officials”, entrusted to safeguard and represent the best interests of their constituents.

A recent headline addressing the barbaric conduct of some mainland visitors we’ve welcomed into our communities: “Men hog-tie 3 endangered Key deer, put one in the trunk” and “One of the 3 hog-tied Florida Keys deer must be  euthanized”.

Inviting cruelty and killing into our island communities and neighborhoods via a never-ending stream of traffic bearing poachers and garbage heaving litterers, illustrates a reckless incompetence and callousness by those charged with protecting our health and well-being.

Along with chronic “resource violators” routinely coming done to the Keys to pilfer and kill undersized and endangered sea life there are the innocuous “day trippers” tossing lighted cigarette butts, dirty diapers, cans, bottles and fast food wrappers from their moving vehicles.

I pay many Miami-Dade County tolls going to and coming from the Miami VA, every time I seek treatment for my combat wounds. Vacationers can most assuredly pay “one” Monroe County toll  to offset the infrastructure and environmental expenses we’re subjected to, in order to keep and maintain the structures and services these visitors seek and enjoy on our islands.

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John Donnelly
John Donnelly, a resident of Key Largo was born, raised and went to high school in the South Bronx. Upon graduation he was awarded several scholarships to college. He chose to enlist in the United Sates Marine Corps. While serving in Vietnam John was wounded in action. He received two meritorious promotions, one during combat. Upon discharge and return to America, John had a difficult time transitioning back into civilian life. He found himself homeless for the next 4 years. As he worked out some troublesome concerns, he began to yearn to make some sense of his experiences via education. He sought and received his GI Bill benefits. He later graduated frpm the University of Miami on the President’s Honor Roll. While working at a Maximum Security Prison Facility for criminally insane adolescents, he earned a Master of Science degree from Florida International University.
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More Articles by John Donnelly prior to November, 2014.
 July 21, 2017  Posted by at 12:38 am ~ Column ~, ~ Opinion ~, Issue #228, John Donnelly  Add comments

  13 Responses to “Vehicular Assaults, Gridlock & Environmental Destruction…Endanger Our Lives & Islands…”

  1. I agree totally with this concept. This is not to say that visitors are responsible for all the trashing of the environment because I have no doubt that residents contribute as well, but at least there will be money designated specifically for trash removal. Improper disposal of trash has been a perennial problem, and only recently has there been more than one effort to address that problem. RV resorts and vacation rentals also accomodate many people who frankly don’t give a damn about wildlife and the environment. I have witnessed this personally.

    Full-time residents can be issued car stickers linked to their home address to enable them to pass toll free, but investors, many of whom are snowbirds since they generally rent their homes when they aren’t using them, and visitors would have to pay a toll to enter and leave the Keys. Provisions can be made for routine commercial traffic (that with a history of regular entry/exit) – Winn Dixie trucks, postal service trucks, etc.

    The environment of the Florida Keys is extremely fragile as the waters are affected by the pollution in Florida Bay as well as local toxic pollution and trash, and the lands suffer toxic pollution of vehicles leaking fluids and deliberate improper disposal of trash by uncaring people. For years, only one small group worked to keep the environment clean, and now, a few more are doing it, but none can keep up with the polluters. It is definitely time to address this issue.

  2. Keysmiata,

    So glad for your comment with its comprehensive solution and method for application. The brilliance and simplicity of your plan is “spot on”.

    It will benefit residents and visitors alike. Maintaining and improving our infrastructure, while increasing the beauty and environmental splendor of our islands for those seeking a vacation or respite from city life “stressors”.

    Sincerely appreciative your input. The solutions and answers you bring to the table are invaluable.

    Thank you again.

    Blessings & Respect…

  3. Thank you John and KeysMiata. Your messages here relate well to the discussion that former KW City Commissioner Bethel has opened up regarding the use of TDC funds. These tourist-supplied dollars are being used primarily to advertise the Keys to the rest of the world

    A very small portion of those dollars today go towards maintaining and enhancing the infrastructure that made the Keys the treasure that it is — or once was.

    I hope that the Blue Paper will encourage its readers to coalesce around a movement to address the future of our beloved Keys, as they have already done with things like preservation of Wisteria Island and Key West Harbor, public safety and affordability, among others.

    When we moved from Key West two years ago, we left a piece of our hearts there. We want to continue to visit the places we knew and they people we came to know and love. We’re just not sure that we’ll able to visit very often, or will even want to.

    The governments who (should?) control where the TDC money gets spent continue to dole out large amounts of it right back to the TDC.

    We often call the Keys paradise. If we build it and maintain it, they (the visitors) will come. Time for a product refresh.

    Who will do it?

    Bob & Janet Kelly
    Whiskey Creek, FL

  4. Bob & Janet @ kwshoes,

    So beautifully written and laid out. Thank you so very much. I appreciate your comment and words of wisdom. They go a long way in bringing attention to an area of concern that has reached its “Tipping Point”.

    I am aware of former City Commissioner Bethel advancing the idea of TDC funds being used to preserve our infrastructure and environmentally sensitive islands from further destruction. I support and stand with him 100%. It’s extremely refreshing to have a former Commissioner come out and identify a serious matter of concern, while offering a solution that will alleviate the suffering our residents are forced to deal with.

    As you alluded to, it’s really a matter of common sense and survival. If we continue to allow our Islands to be torn to shreds and toxically polluted; we will have placed our own necks into a noose for the executioner to have his way with us; as our homes and land are turned into a vast “wasteland”.

    I’m deeply grateful for your contribution to the discussion. Perhaps a coalescing of the powers that be, will make their voices heard and began to responsibly work together and spare us an unholy end. The luxury of time is no longer upon us. Corrective action must be taken, if we want to live with some semblance of peace and harmony within our homes, neighborhoods and communities.

    Again, my sincerest thanks and appreciation for your valuable insights.

    Blessings & Respect, Always…

  5. John emailed this column to the County Commissioners and a few others, including myself. I answered him with a comment to “reply all”:

    Hear, hear , John! I’d forgotten about the various tolls I pay when I drive to the Miami VA for my own disabled veteran treatments. Please, Commissioners, spend the money wisely.

    Mayor George Neugent, I am glad to report, answered thus:

    Richard & John,

    I wanted to Thank both of you: John, for your excellent letter which articulates several salient points that accurately point out why it’s the least they could pay.

    And, to Richard for pointing out, even our Vets have to pay a Toll to visit the VA for treatment in Dade County.
    ……….
    Kind regards to both.

    Sincerely,

    George Neugent

    I am glad it seems we have someone on the Commission receptive to your plea, John. Since the email is public record, I am not betraying a confidence here. Thank, you, Mayor Neugent.

    Helena aka Miata, I like your trying to get the investors to pay. One way would be only to give the passes to those homesteaded here. BUT: that screws the renters who are legitimate residents. Any ideas how to be fair to them?

    • Richard, Certainly glad you brought up renters. I did not run into too many renters who were renting full time (or legally), but of those I did, most would not be driving in and out of the Keys because of their limited incomes. A few who would, like those working for the refuge and being given subsidized housing, would be another story. I’ll give it some thought. – Helana

  6. Rick,

    Always appreciate your valued insights and perceptions. Thanks for all that you do for the veterans and fellow residents living in the Florida Keys.

    Rick, you bring up an excellent point. There are a multitude of ideas and answers that will completely protect renters who are legitimate residents living in Monroe County, from paying a toll.

    Keysmiata, in the first comment to this article points out: “Full-time residents can be issued car stickers linked to their home address to enable them to pass toll free”.

    Also, an electronic toll such as a Sun Pass type system can detect all Monroe County license plates registered to a Monroe County address passing through the toll; and exempt each and every driver from the toll payment, no matter how many times they pass through the system.

    Another possibility is that every renter/resident living in the Keys, is issued a small electronic pass to be positioned just beneath the rear view mirror on the front windshield, exempting them from a toll payment every time they pass through the system.

    Since the inception of the Electronic Sun Pass Toll System, I’ve not had one mistake, overcharge or false reading attributed to my vehicle, as I’ve used this system many thousands of times.

    All will benefit from the revenue secured from a nominal toll charge, to enter our Islands. Infrastructure maintenance, repair and development; along with cleaning up and protecting the fragile aquatic ecosystem we call home, will flourish under a “toll system”. Residents and visitors will be treated to improved facilities and refined aquatic environments, bringing joy and comfort to everyone.

    Rick, thank you for your service. Both in and out of uniform. Many lives have been changed and uplifted because of your magnanimity.

    With Love, Blessings & Respect…

    • Thanks to you both, and especial appreciation for John’s generous appreciation.

      I think the Sunpass exemption for Monroe plates may be the best answer we are likely to come up with. Both owners and renters have Monroe plates. But, does my Reef Relief plate make me ineligible? I could ask for a regular plate and make my donation separate.

      I am taking it you have to have a legitimate Monroe proof of residence to get a Monroe plate. And yes, John, the system seems very accurate–though I still feel bad for all of the toll taker jobs lost to technology again.

  7. Rick,

    Thanks for getting back to us. I’m certain a “Reef Relief” plate, along with any of the “specialized plates”, will be linked to the address of the purchaser and donor. Thus, free passage onto the islands we call home.

    Appreciate the invaluable insights and understandings that your regularly contribute to the general public. Thanks again.

    Blessings & Respect…

  8. REMEMBER SANIBEL AND CAPTIVA ISLANDS CHARGE TO GET IN!! I think it’s five bucks toll to get on those little islands. Nobody minds paying because we know they’ve got to limit the amount joy-riders who just want to run their cars up and down a scenic highway. I do it myself on Sundays. A toll for the overseas highway is a no-brainer. It’s not new, it’s been tried and now that tourism is booming, it’s time to bring it back.
    The other half of the TDC over-stuffing the Keys without regard to the deterioration in our quality of life. It is time to agree with Harry Bethel and sunset the TDC. Tourism has been fully developed and all they can do now is overdevelop tourism to our pain.

  9. The idea might create funds needed but likely illegal to not charge residents too.
    So just how much will the toll be ? Hope you don’t think it will stop tourists. And just how do we know who is trashing it. I dam sure never toss trash. Put it in a bag and most gas stations have trash cans. Will agree that many that attend Fantasy Fest create huge mess for no reason. Many are from the buses hauling them from Miami. They typically bring own booze and food. What would the toll be for that bus ?
    If they make extra lanes then gladly pay a toll but residents must pay too.

  10. Navigaiter,

    Appreciate your comment and insightful understanding. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to the article.

    You nailed it, spot on; TDC has become poisonous and toxic for residents making their homes in the Florida Keys. It ‘s the generating engine behind the destruction and denigration of the environment and quality of life we sought for ourselves and families in Monroe County.

    TDC must be terminated immediately. Any funds remaining need to be funneled back to the citizens. Legal action against TDC should be considered, as it appears they may be culpable, and or responsible, in loss of life and injury related accidents caused by their incessant and excessive drive to draw tourist driven vehicles onto our small and delicate chain of islands. Many have taken the position that in their minds, TDC’s negligent and reckless behavior is in part a reason that our one and only “highway road” US 1, is suffocated and strangled with gridlock.

    These dangerous conditions were brought on by “overkill advertising” and “money intensified” activities, with little concern for the adverse impact and effect they have on so many ordinary folk’s daily lives.

    Long ago, TDC outlived its usefulness. Any funding going to this agency must stop. Many people believe their money is responsible for destabilizing and injuring our communities and neighborhoods.

    The Madness must End.

    Again, I sincerely appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

    Blessings & Respect…

  11. Jiminkeywest,

    Value and appreciate your comments and understandings. Thank you so very much.
    Nothing illegal about not charging residents the toll. It’s been done many times throughout the Unites States. It has made communities, neighborhoods and families strong, while offering visitors enhanced opportunities and enjoyment during their stay.

    Jiminkeywest, I worked, tutored and coached in the Florida Keys for 42 years. I was required to exercise injured areas of my body so they would remain functional. This prompted me to ride my bicycle for approximately 3 hours each day in Key Largo during the course of 42 years. While riding North and South along US 1, I’ve witnessed an ever increasing trashing of our island. On my trips into the different neighborhoods and along the waterways I’ve regularly come across individuals from stopped and moving vehicles dumping toxic materials and throwing assorted debris from their cars and trucks. Many of the vehicles could be identified as not being from Florida. On other occasions it was clear that those doing the littering were from the mainland. Many times pictures were taken of the residual damage left behind. Sometimes words were exchanged with these violators. Unfortunately, threatening words and angry gestures frequently followed.

    This has been an ongoing problem and most of our government officials are aware of it. My writing about the destruction of our Homeland (Florida Keys) is nothing new. Continuing to allow such abuse and mishandling of our environment without any corrective action is not an option, if we wish to survive.

    The littering, pollution and rape of our Homeland is a clear and present danger.
    Many vehicles being driven onto our Islands are operate by “day trippers”. Since the construction of the new bridge connecting Key Largo to the Mainland, “day trippers” bored with Miami and with nothing better to do, drive down to the Keys to kill time and site see. They are not big spenders nor high end tourists. They contribute very little, if nothing, to our economy. But they sure are capable of tossing lighted cigarette butts, fast food wrappers and empty cans and bottles from their vehicles as they ride around our communities and islands. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.

    I believe a “Toll” would cause these people to “Pause”. Lightening the heavy load of vehicles regularly driven to the Keys, for no particular purpose.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting on the article.

    Blessings & Respect…