…(but I Will Run against Heather)
by Rick Boettger…….
I have been advised to run against Heather in 2020 instead of against whomever this year in District 2. Only if George Neugent has another surprise change of heart will I run against him, in order to call him out at every election stop for the rest of the year. I’ll be in the elections office at 11:30 AM on June 22, checkbook in hand, filling out forms, so that if George swoops in at 11:59 with his all completed, I’ll be ready to put mine in as well.
Of course, it was a stretch to make me a legal resident of District 2. I’d have had to establish a residence in Big Coppitt, which would have been aggravating. Especially since my own dear sweet wife Cynthia would be the first one to bust me if I broke the very vague rules about residency, as she’d want me to get kicked out if I indeed did win. But you do NOT have to be a resident of a district to run for office there, and running against George would be quite a festive affair, well worth the time and money to me.
I just read today that Craig Cates is planning to run for either Heather’s or Danny’s spot in 2020. He owns three properties in Danny’s district, but is not claiming the homestead exemption on any of them. So, surprisingly, he may actually live elsewhere, with the option of moving into what now is likely to be a rental property.
But he probably would only run for District One if Danny for whatever reason did not (say, mortality, as I think Danny, like myself, wouldn’t know what to do with himself without real work to do). Heather is much easier pickin’s, and indeed might try for state office, say Holly’s seat.
Running against Heather would allow me to make sure everyone understood her role in the million dollars and counting that the taxpayers are out because of her persecution of Stand Up for Animals; her statement on the record that dumping another $100,000 in their losing lawsuit is no problem because “. . . you know, a hundred thousand dollars does sound like a lot of money to a lot of people, but we make decisions all the time about things that I think might be even less justifiable spending that kind of money.” And there is the matter of her under-reporting her assets and income to the tune of millions of dollars, resulting in four Ethics Commission violations and a fine of $5,000 just last year.
Craig is a popular guy and would be favored to win hugely if the election were only in Key West, where he would get 115% of the Conch vote (not a misprint—the Conchs own the system). He has a list of his accomplishments which you can read elsewhere. I’m going to use my second-last chance in the Blue Paper to toot my own horn here, as I don’t see the lapdog other media going much out of their way to help me.
What I have are ethics, expertise, and a pretty good track record of accomplishments related to county governance. Ethics in the County, with its no-term-limits temptations, has obviously been a shortcoming, with the 20 violations against all five sitting commissioners in 2017 just being the visible tip of the iceberg. I have had a long record of strict probity since I got my Top Secret Security Clearance, and won the American Spirit Honor Medal, in my Army basic training. With my beating on malfeasors in the Keys, I have of course kept myself Lily-white in my 21 years here.
The hardest part about the Commissioner job is going through and understanding the over 1,000 pages of material they vote on every month. This I am really good at. I speed-read my way through two English degrees, my year at Yale Law, and my PhD in Business at Berkeley, and I still have the knack. The last time I did this for the County was in November last year where I found not just one but two examples of what Heather referred to as “even less justifiable spending that kind of money.” In the fine print, they were blowing more than $100k each on an animal control contract for SUFA’s successor, and overpaying for vacant lots on Duck Key.
On the hustings, I will challenge voters to bring me a file box of papers and ask me to figure out a problem they have—say, choosing a new waste management contract. It is impossible to know ahead of time everything about County governance questions. But I’ll show what a quick study I am in 15 minutes after the meeting by ripping through the documents, telling them what I think, and listening to what is probably their especial knowledge of the documents they are challenging me with.
For my accomplishments relevant to County decision-making in the Keys since I moved here in 1996, I’ll list each briefly, and, if anyone wants further details, log into the Comments at the end, ask, and I’ll answer the same day. In rough order of importance to me and others, I can remember:
- Helping three families with children save their homes from foreclosure in the crisis, by negotiating with their mortgagors.
- Maintaining units of affordable worker housing in Old Town for 15 years as a landlord.
- Defending SUFA for years, helping the utterly innocent Linda Gottwald recover her reputation.
- That led to my getting the above-mentioned 19 Ethics violations and fines against all five commissioners to the tune of over $20,000.
- Related to those fines, I am in the middle of a years-long battle to reform the Ethics Commission, which goes zero for over a hundred on charges of official misconduct like George’s with SUFA.
- With just a few others, and against the might of FDOT and all but one of the City Commissioners, got FDOT to change the disastrous one-waying of the Boulevard back to two-way. Craig and Marc Rossi were gracious enough to grant in print that I was right, and they were wrong, about what a traffic problem it would cause.
- I successfully sued the City of Key West to keep the cemetery open to through traffic, when the Sexton closed the Frances Street gate to limit the number of people coming to visit.
- Threatened a lawsuit against the State Parks for illegally destroying the Australian pines. We’ll never know what changed their mind, but this is what I added to Helen Harrison’s decade-long successful crusade.
- Helped elect Morgan McPherson by publicly demonstrating that his opponent had closer ties to big development than Morgan had.
- Was acting treasurer to help elect Bill Verge to the city commission, unseating incumbent Tom Ousterhoudt.
- Almost got Barbara Bowers elected over someone with close ties to—gasp!—Jimmy Buffet in a race for School Board.
- Stepped up at a crucial time to help stop the development of Jabour’s old campground into the over-sized Watermark development.
- Stopped the Fish and Wildlife deputies from harassing the liveaboards around Wisteria island at the rich then-owner’s request for policing.
- Prevented TAMPOA from building on the small park on Southard and Emma.
- Helped block the return of twice/week waste pickup.
- Got the City to continue to allow the use of comfortable chairs on the Bayview Park tennis courts when the pro tried to ban them.
The above are actual specific accomplishments. I also have a long list of memberships of the type listed when you don’t know what the candidate did other than show up for meetings. I’ve been the official Treasurer of Last Stand and the acting treasurer for John Padget. I’m currently the treasurer of the local chapter of NOW. I was on the board of the Key Haven Civic Association when I lived out there in the ’90’s (actually got the entrance sign put up after seven prior years of arguing about it). I am a Legacy donor to the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys. I do a number of nonprofit form 990’s for cheap. And I have tried to publicly say good things about our Public Servants when they do outstanding work, like the City Clerk’s office.
I think maybe my coolest modest contribution, like an Unsung Hero thing, was picking up the recyclables once a week along the Boulevard during the construction. On average there were 65 in my 2.2 mile stretch, filling my many bike baskets. Of the thousands of people I passed over the 18 months I did this, exactly two said thanks. Very unsung.
Of course, my main activity has been trying to Make a Difference, writing for my beloved Blue Paper. You can find my columns archived under my name in the “Columnists” tab on the home page.
It has been a great honor writing for you. With your support, I just might be able next to serve with similar honor as your next District 3 County Commissioner.