The Peary Court PAC: Who Is “Housing First”?

needle in haystack

Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D…….

I am about to tackle the most onerous task of all: Preparing my family’s income tax. But before I take this unwanted leave from Key West’s Blue Paper for a few weeks, I want to address, “Who is Key West’s ‘Housing First’?”

The Needle In a Haystack. It took longer to get the answer that question than to earlier find out “Who is White St Partners?” It just should not be that difficult, I thought beginning research on the “Housing First PAC.” But, I wondered, is it really a political action committee (PAC) or is it just posing as one? Consulting Florida State’s registered PACs, I found “Housing for Tomorrow,” but no “Housing First.” Then I looked for “Housing First” in a US national PAC data base, discovering a “Housing First” that had operated in some Wisconsin cities and a few other US cities. But all such “Housing First” PACs had been ‘de-registered’ after achieving (or not) their initial objective.

After looking under every potential alternative name for “Housing First,” when I finally called Naja Girard, Co-editor of Key West The Blue Paper to ask where to look next, she suggested the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections’ website ( But even then I still could not find what I wanted, namely, a listing of PACs registered in Monroe County. So I called a Supervisor of Elections staff person, who helped me find what I wanted.[i] In addition, subsequently a Blue Paper contributor, “Colby,” sent me this information.   Here’s what Colby and I found:

pac screen grab

fiancial reports

What is Housing First? Donors shape a “Brand.” Housing First received $8,000 in “monetary contributions” between December 2015 and the end of January 2016. The Supervisor of Elections data base reports that, in December 2015, Ed Swift of “Historic Tours of America” wrote a check to Housing First for $5K and Key West City Commissioner and owner of Fausto’ Food Palaces, James Weekley, gave $500. In January 2016, Kate Miano, listed as a “hotelier,” donated $500; Donna Windle, a “realtor” (who lives in Peary Court) gave $500; Kent Ducote, a “realtor,” donated $500; Tony Green & Bryan Konrath, listed as “architect,” donated $1,000.

Although not listed as donors, others mentioned in a Key West Citizen article as affiliated with Housing First, include MaryBeth McCulloch, Maureen Bramlage, Tony Falcone, Mike Mongo, Perry Johnston, Robert Gold, Richard Tallmadge, and Damian Vantriglia.  Thanks to “Wankjam” for sending this information from a Citizen article.[i]

Is “Housing First” a PAC? Does the previous donor list ‘prove’ that “Housing First” is a registered political action committee? I called Monroe County’s Supervisor of Elections, the Honorable R. Joyce Griffin, and asked if she had “any evidence” of the Housing First’s PAC status, her answer: “Do you think I would list it as such if it were not a PAC?” “No,” I responded, but, “I need to be sure, so do you have any proof?” Responding that, “It is not common for me to give out such paper work,” Ms. Griffin kindly did so. Below is page one of three. However, one still wonders why Housing First is not also on the Florida State PAC registry.


According to the Supervisor of Elections paper work, designated “Appointment of Campaign Treasurer and Designation of Campaign Depository for Political Committees,” Housing First’s Chairman is:

ba dum tss

Jimmy Weekley (businessman, owner of Faustos Markets). Is it just me being “fussy,” or do others also feel discomfort at having a Key West Commissioner not recuse himself from all seemingly ‘balanced’ public discussions of the pros and cons of our city government’s purchasing Peary Court? Our “Jimmy” made his position about the Peary Court purchase very clear when he accepted chairmanship of Housing First, a political action committee that, along with and through its citizen action arm, “Worker Housing KW” is strategizing to get voters to allow Key West government to purchase Peary Court “for workforce housing.”

Two things that really do not work for me are: “flash in the pan” fiscal non-planning and government actors’ having dual power to influence voters and not declaring this: Jimmy Weekley, as an elected official, should work for the voters and the City of Key West, and as such ought to be neutral and fiscally rational as possible about the Peary Court purchase. But the Jimmy Weekley who chairs and donates to the “Housing First” PAC has the single-minded objective of influencing voters to allow Key West government—of which Jimmy Weekley is a Commissioner– to purchase Peary Court in order to achieve some allegedly greater amount of, as yet unspecified, ‘workforce’ housing at an exploitatively high price from real estate speculators.

Jimmy Weekley should recuse himself from any public discussions of the city’s purchasing Peary Court, unless he makes very clear to his audience that as Chairman of the “Housing First” PAC, he—a City Commissioner who was voted in to serve all voters’ interests, not just those who could profit from the Peary Court sale—has already committed himself to influencing the March 15 vote toward accepting the City’s purchasing Peary Court.  

Damian Vantriglio, Housing First’s Treasurer, is also President of National Campaign Supply, “a privately held company in Key West, FL, categorized under Promotion Services [e.g., political consulting]….established in 1985 and incorporated in Florida.[ii]  In December 2015 and January 2016 National Campaign Supply received $2,500 and $2,000, respectively, for political work on behalf of Housing First’s campaign. Again, am I alone in feeling “fussy” about Mr. Vantriglio’s holding dual and overlapping roles? As Housing First’s Treasurer, does he initiate and sign the Money Orders—$4,500 worth of them—to pay his own political consulting company for helping to promote Housing First’s political campaign?

What is Housing First’s goal? In doing research for this article I discovered that ‘Housing First’ has a distinct meaning among not-for-profit US organizations involved in housing, namely it is “an approach to ending homelessness”–not an NGO or PAC per se. As one organization that is implementing ‘the housing first’ concept states:

[This concept]…centers on providing people experiencing homelessness with housing as quickly as possible – and then providing services as needed. This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve.

One could easily deduce from Key West’s “Housing First” PAC, since they selected that particular name rather than any other, that important objectives of Key West’s Housing First PAC is to allocate some Peary Court rentals to the homeless.

Now the Housing First PAC and its movement are getting my attention. Indeed, I, like many others want homeless people to receive suitable housing in Key West if this is where they want to live. And there’s no time like the present to secure more local housing for people here without dwellings:   The Citizen (2-9-2016) reported recently that the 2016 homeless count in the Florida Keys found a 22% increase in homeless people over 2015.[iii] We’ve got our work cut out for ourselves! Certainly, Housing First’s Chair, Jimmy Weekley has been a vocal proponent for obtaining housing for the homeless. We should be able to feel confident in assuming that Commissioner Weekley supports designating some Peary Court dwellings for people without any housing at all.

However, before I can support any possible Housing First mission,  I need a few more specifics: How does Housing First envision addressing the special needs of the homeless? Would the city provide services for assisting transition to Peary Court? How about rent payments by formerly homeless for Peary Court housing?   Can they even afford to pay a low rent?  (Remember that it is Peary Court rents that are used for paying the interest and principal on the potentially $50 million dollar bank or other loan required to purchase Peary Court). Maybe rent subsidies could be obtained from state and federal government?

If the homeless are left out of Housing First’s grand scheme, then I assume those to benefit from Housing First’s political campaign will be the county and city teachers, firefighters, police, and lower paid workers in our city’s shops, restaurants, bars, on boats, and in other tourism-related businesses. Many of us lean toward “mixed class housing” at Peary Court: better paid workers paying full rent, will live with even more poorly-paid employees (paying partial rent), and with deeply impoverished folks (no-pay homeless). However, I hope that our readers realize that by providing subsidized housing for a large class of Key West workers, our city will be assisting government and private businesses in keeping their wages to workers sufficiently low so as to maximize business profits. Again, I like socialized subsidizing of workforce business needs, as long as such businesses also pay their employees’ health insurance, give paid vacations and parental leaves, and pay into their retirement plans. I am not in favor of government merely enhancing business profits by allowing them to pay workers sub-standard wages.

What’s your Plan, Housing First? How do you imagine “mixed housing” working at Peary Court? What proportion of Peary Court rental units would be available for each of the two or three possible groups of renters? Would the three categories of renters—the homeless, low- and lower-paid workers, and full-price renters– have equal proportions of rentals? Would the two main categories of renters–‘full-pay’ and ‘less-than-full-pay’–each receive half of the rental units? I am sorry to ask Housing First to do what Key West Commissioners and Key West government have not yet done: Explain how their rental plans for Peary Court would be made operational.

Who Supports a ‘Yes’ vote for Key West’s Purchasing Peary Court? Looking only at the current donors to Monroe County’s Housing First Pac, they resemble on a small scale the national profile of those partnering with government to create ‘workforce housing.’ Ed Swift and Jimmy Weekley have businesses that would profit from their workforce being housed nearby at relatively low cost—government -subsidized housing would allow Swift and Weekley to keep workers’ wages favorable to their profit expectations by providing these workers with city-subsidized rentals.

Local and County governments and their elected officials assume that they would benefit from the city government’s economic partnerships with private capital, which, as the pipe dream goes, would bring in corporate dollars and help reduce the need for tax increases. Real estate businesses assume one of them could benefit from becoming the Peary Court rental company; architects and builders might receive government contracts to rehab existing properties; the Key West government might be eligible for federal and state support for affordable housing programs.

While many may assume that the fight for workforce housing is led by “bleeding heart liberals,” in fact ‘affordable housing’ has been a boon for conservative corporate capitalists. Affordable housing developments are associated with the biggest US corporations; their executives have learned that the (Neo) liberal ideology of ‘helping low income people find affordable housing’ is bankable. Take a look at the members of Florida’s Coalition of Affordable Housing Providers (FCAHP); it’s “Members” are typical workforce housing supporters. Among the 80 “Members” of FCAHP, 20 are a combination of ‘property development’ and ‘construction’ corporations. Another 20 “Members” are corporate money lenders, stock traders, and inter-state banks. Fewer numbers are in real estate sales, property management, law firms, and ‘consultants; these together constitute only eleven of FCAHP’s “Membership.” Finally, not-for-profits and local and State government entities, eighteen in all, make up the last category of FCAHP “Members.”

My position: If one wants want workforce housing (“YES”), one does not have to accept that purchasing Peary Court (“NO”) is the responsible way to achieve it. I want local employers to pay their workers a living wage and provide health insurance. I’d like to see affordable housing, but not if the city has to mortgage itself out to big Capital. We must not kid ourselves, in the end the taxpayers—including those who live in subsidized housing– WILL pay for such a scheme.


[i] “New PAC pushes Peary Court buy” The Citizen, 01/26/2016

[ii] This information about the company is likely to be somewhat incomplete. (

[iii] The Citizen, Survey Shows Homeless Increase in Keys, 2/9/16, pp. 1and 8A

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19 thoughts on “The Peary Court PAC: Who Is “Housing First”?

  1. Martha, it’s probably a bit picky, but National Campaign Supply is in an inactive status according to the Florida Department of Corporations. See this screenshot:

    In your article from last week, you wrote that “an ‘inactive’ corporation “continues its corporate existence [but]…may not carry on any business except that necessary to wind up and liquidate its business….” Wouldn’t National Campaign Supply fall into that category?

    It seems strange that the Worker Housing PAC’s Treasurer is paying his own company, and that company really isn’t in business. Doesn’t it?

  2. Re your “in the end the taxpayers—including those who live in subsidized housing– WILL pay”:
    Just as they will if our taxes have to go up in order to pay higher wages to our grocers, mechanics, computer techs, police, fire, teachers – all our workers who service the residents of this community.

    Peary Court would not be subsidized at all, as it will only be purchased if the below-market rents
    pay all expenses including the mortgage.

    A City purchase of Peary Court will, preserve workforce housing in perpetuity, save the homes of the people there now, and cost the taxpayers nothing, because the purchase won’t go forward unless the rents can pay all expenses. That will require favorable financing rates and terms. The referenda ask only for the opportunity to try.

    What if the City buys it and it fails? Highly unlikely as it was 98.5% occupied throughout the recession. However, if need be, they could sell each unit for the $350,000 cost and maintain ownership of the land, perpetuating the workforce housing restriction. Would you buy a 2 br 1283′ unit with tile floors and wood cabinets in Old Town for $350,000?

    Right now we need the affordable rents. A 795 sq. ft. 2b at the Salt Ponds is now getting $2700/mo. The highest rent at the 1283 sq. ft.
    Peary Court units won’t be over $2400. $3600/yr savings, and only working people can live there.

    False claims about construction conditions there have been disproved by several inspections. Minor or deferred maintenance issues noted , and a full outside evaluation/inspection can be dealt with negotiating a final purchase price, which is what the City is asking voters to approve: negotiating for a purchase.

    It takes a YES on both referenda to get the chance.

    1. Er. Faithful Reader, the city didn’t negotiate the $55 million purchase price, so what’s changed to cause the city to start negotiating if the referendum passes?

      The developers started out asking $67 million, $55 million for all of Peary Court, plus $12 million for the 48 new so-called affordable housing building rights the city had GIVEN the developers for NOTHING – as told by Key West Housing Authority Director Manny Castillo at City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley’s town hall Peary Court meeting late last year. Manny said he did the talking at the meeting with the developers for the city’s negotiating team, consisting of himself, Jimmy Weekley and City Manager Jim Scholl. Manny said he told the developers the city could not earn rent on the 48 building rights, and the developers said, okay, we will keep them and the right to build 48 units on Peary Court land, and we sell the city the rest of Peary Court for $55 million. The city’s crack negotiating team said okay. This has never been reported in the Key West Citizen or the Keynoter, nor by the PAC pushing for the referendum to pass. As far as I know, I’m the only journalist to report it, which I did several times at, and in comments under blue paper Peary Court articles, and at the various PAC’s Peary Court propaganda Facebook discussion groups and at the Key West’s Concerned Citizens Facebook Peary Court discussion group:

      However, it is true the city can start negotiating, IF the referendum passes, and IF the city has financing tied down for the purchase. But the city did not negotiate yet, and what does it now have to argue for a lower purchase price?, which would reduce the amount the city needs to borrow, which would lower the rents needed to cover the mortgage and insurance and deferred repair and maintenance costs, which have yet to be quantified, as far as I know. But according to you, there is nothing wrong with Peary Court, everything is pretty much swell there. So where’s the city’s leverage to get a lower purchase price?

      Well, the city could tell the developers to drop the purchased price to $45 million, and that includes the FREE 48 building rights the city gave you for FREE. Or we ain’t buying your apartment complex, which you were going to tear down completely, meaning the apartments were of no value to you. If you don’t like that deal, then you can keep Peary Court, and see if you can find another sucker to buy it on the terms the city’s crack negotiating team didn’t negotiate.

      Oh, while you are pondering that turn of the worm, ponder also, if you don’t agree to sell the city ALL of Peary Court, including your 48 free building rights,which the city then will use as it sees fit, at Peary Court, or somewhere else in the city, for $45 million, we will put our new homeless shelter in the soon to be abandoned city bus terminal across the street from the upper end of Peary Court, and you can see how that affects your plans for Peary Court.

      If you wish, you can call that Reverse Bubba Justice. Maybe more on that sublime topic later.

  3. No Colby, not at all. This just means that Hoousing First is paying a business that has let its corporate paper work fall into disrepair. Put another way, a corporation that on some level does not exist. Put another way, a man is being paid who heads a business by the name listed on the PACS payment line, who heads an ‘inactie’ business. Thanks as always, Martha

  4. Colby and Martha NCS can easily be brought back into the ranks by paying the annual report and a penalty and a small task. now a larger task is prying jimbo’s ethics or lack thereof from that thar corner box he got caught in! 🙂

    I last posted at the end of your story Martha yesterday. in case you missed it:

    wankajm says:

    February 11, 2016 at 8:22 pm
    Colby much thanks.
    a hotelier 2 realtors and an architect for 2500 alex! some dare call it conspiracy. hehe
    and then a defunct political sign supply company to boot…bwahahahaha it doesn’t get better then that!!!! unless of course the 4 above mentioned owned the supply company. BWWWWAHAHAHAHAHA
    now move along move along nothing to see here folks…. ? ;(

      1. Yes, Maureen, I’ve now had a real estate license for nearly three years. The exact and total sum of my real estate sales, purchases and clients equals zero. I don’t have any plans to change. Exactly how are my opinions on Peary Court going to benefit me in any way as you imply? Perhaps, you should mention that you are on the Worker Housing KW PAC Board? It seems like you and other board members would have more to gain here than anyone else. Right?

  5. Martha, As usual, fantastic work, and, as they say, “someone’s gotta do it”, and we are all very fortunate to have the likes of you doing it. I’d like to ask something I asked near the end of last week’s discussion on your related piece. If this deal is shot down by the citizens, what is the next step? What happens next? Might this be seen as a green light for the conniving developer class to do whatever they want with this property, and certainly, affordable housing would be low on their priority list. In other words, they’d say “we tried, if they don’t want it … f ’em”. Perhaps that is a naive thought, but I repeat, what would happen next? great stuff Martha, ciao, Jerome

    1. Their latest, stated plan, is that they will upgrade the kitchens and baths and raise the $2400 rent on these 1283′ 2br units to market rate, $2700, as is being charged for Salt Ponds’ 795′ 2 br units. That’s $3600/yr more of one’s net earnings. How many of those living there now do you think will be able to stay?

      1. Maureen, that’s a question you should pose to the people who the city will kick out of Peary Court because they either earn too much or too little according to their Average Median Income chart:

        No one has ever clarified how many people who currently live at Peary Court will meet the income means criteria and be allowed to remain.

        By the way, you should also include a note that you are a member of the Worker Housing KW board with each of your postings so that people can put your opinions into the proper perspective.

      2. Using your logic, Faithful Reader, the city should have bought Simonton Court trailer park and every other rental housing development in Key West, which came up for sale, or later comes up for sale, to protect the existing tenants from developers.

        Going at this another way, since when was it a city’s job to buy middle class housing to save it from redevelopment? I’m not even sure it’s legal for a city to do that, compete with private real estate enterprise, but I don’t know of anyone willing to go to court over it.

      3. What has happened, Faithful Reader, is Monroe County, and in Key West, demonstrated by the Peary Court workfarce housing referendum, is the definition of affordable housing has been changed to be housing affordable for middle income and more wealthy people, and the definition of workforce has been changed to exclude probably 90 percent of the poor working stiffs who cannot afford the Topino’s development, nor Peary Court even now, or in the future, regardless of how the referendum is decided.


        One of my faithful readers at sent in the comment below a couple of days ago. His name is Rick Roberts, AKA Raccoon. Among other things, he addresses the legality of the city competing with private enterprise in the residential housing market:

        Raccoon here…

        I just got into a conversation with several people that are following along and interacting with the PAC on the Peary Court debacle…

        They say the PAC is now spewing out propaganda that they are not in the affordable housing business, and that means they just jumped the low income legality of specially designated entities like Key West Housing Authority. KWHA can’t and won’t do Peary Court because they do not have the legal right to compete at that level of income and rent. They know they would get shut down by the courts.

        By doing so, the City doing Peary Court places them in direct competition with private industry. These PAC folks are now saying they are allowed to do this as “workforce housing”. They say they say they have the right to just look at the Bahama Village Trust. I said that’s not the city buying housing and then renting and managing it aimed at tenants in the $84,000 a year income category. That’s the court allowing them to step in a manage a property because folks were stealing from it. Peary Court is different, owning and renting at that level is socialism. The City will then have become developers and landlords in direct competition with private industry.

        These folks said PAC was spewing the lie that they could rent these 157 units for $1400 a month, that folks with incomes as low as $40,000 a year qualified…

        I cried “bullshit”, they already have said they would charge $2400 a month, and that at $2400/month that’s $28,800 a year in rent alone. No $40,000 a year workforce clone can afford that. And who are these $40,000 a month folks anyway? They don’t drive buses, they are Jimmy Weekly’s clerks. Assuming Arguendo that $40K income is acceptable and enough, it is not, then that is about $2600 a month take home. That means even at $1400 a month a $40K worker has $1200 a month left. And that all is based on the fairy tale the City will qualify for a loan at that $1400 rent on a $45,000,000 loan. They can’t.

        Then I said, out of 6 banks the City approached, only one would even think about loaning $45,000,000 for Peary Court. And that was if equivalent city assets were “guaranteed” against it. Why didn’t the other banks even bite? Because the City is talking about illegally competing with private enterprise for median to high income consumer housing. There is no Federal or Florida law that shields the City from getting a cease and desist order against renting when they are sued for being in completion with private industry. The City of Gainesville actually got sued by the Florida Department of Revenue over the City of Gainesville trying to use an internal telecommunications network to compete for internet services consumers, i.e. to be an Internet Service Provider (ISP) against Comcast, ATT, and such. That case is here:

        As soon as the City opens up shop to rent to workforce housing, when in fact they are saying they know it has to rent to $84,000 a year folks, every developer will scream bloody murder. And the Federal Courts, State Courts will shut that all down in no time.

        The fact is, this whole Peary Court thing is stupid. Nobody will vote to approve this going forward. No bank will lend any money for this to the City. And if the City could get that far down the road, then rich private developers and landlords will barbeque the City for competing against them. The very same City that taxes them.

        Raccoon Out…

  6. Dr. Huggins… Your in depth research and the resultant added info by your readers has exposed our local brand of white collar welfare. Private enterprise with the goal of maximum profit would prefer public money be used to subsidize their workforce living expenses, rather than pay a fair living wage. Wal-Mart is the champ in this department and briefs its employees on how to use government programs to supplement their meager wages. This is the so called “Free Market” our Teapublitarians are always going on about. The “tax payer” pays up front or back door, but he/she pays either way. I agree with you that the big guys need to start paying people enough to live on without public assistance.

  7. Alex, Of course, elementary my dear Alex, a decent wage scale. But that ain’t gonna happen because you can always get people to pile into apartments and live in less than admirable conditions. The bar with regard to decent living simply gets lower and lower, like “scab” wages without unions. The gap between better wages and cost of living is never closed. The “market” does not work with regard to affordable rental housing. Period! That is why some reasonable form of sincere government action is necessary. It’s the only solution. Now, finding sincere government action … that is the problem. ciao, Jerome

    1. Must agree with you on the low conditions some are forced into. We don’t need fancy high end but not about to live in a fire trap or 10 people in 1,000 sq feet. The answer is use property you already have. Yes the government might be the only fix. The ground is the costly part in the keys.

  8. How about my question Housing First people: can we count on you to set aside 20 or 25% of the rentals for those in a condition of homelessness? That after all is what the ‘housing first’ concept argues for nationally. How about it Maureen ‘faithful reader’?

  9. Ah ha, so Faithful Reader is part of the pro purchase PAC I see. Thanks for that tip.
    But back to the issue, I think the minimum wage in Key West should be $ 15 / hr or perhaps there should be a strike until the hotels and Wal-Mart’s provide employee housing and the City requires it. Even that wage is only 30 k a year. And not let them use the foreign worker H2 B visas, cramming them into hovels. Get the bed tax away from the advertising people , TDC , and find a better use to improve the lot of working people, many of whom make less than $ 15 / hr . I
    think that if the Navy will not let us use the Truman Harbor that the park idea is dead in the water with no funding basis, so should be considered for housing there since the City already owns it.

    1. with no land cost, the city could put a lot of cheap (affordable) housing authority rental housing on Truman Waterfront, instead of that $58 million new park right next door to a really beautiful state park, which costs the city nothing …

  10. Even at $15 an hour at most a single person might be able to rent a private bedroom in someones house. And even that will take more than 40 hours. Is no point in living in paradise if you have no time or money to enjoy it.

    Only point in buying Peary Court is to maybe keep some rentals for the dam few that have jobs making maybe $20 an hour and are a couple. That is very few but that day will come too. Had the city looked into affordable workforce 30 years ago and took action there would be no problem now. Maybe not in KW but even stock island would work for them.

    Unlike most other places there simply is nothing cheap for over 125 miles. So now it is time to use what little land is available. This is not a new problem but simply one that is growing every day. Look at the people that you elected that allowed places to get redeveloped. If not stopped then the problem will just get worse. Maybe that bed tax should be used to help create city owned workforce housing.

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