Saturday, September 12, 2009

School For Scandal

Score one for the Bubbas, Jim Hendrick isn't going to jail, according to the Key West Citizen, and Friday's ruling in Federal Court has some people who weren't born in the Keys, in a snit. Jim Hendrick, an accredited lawyer, was convicted of helping a former county Commissioner try to avoid getting caught for taking a bribe to support a development. The former county commissioner died before he could be nailed, the man who offered the bribe skated and Hendrick was left holding the bag for assisting the bad behavior. Prosecutors asked for a re-sentencing but the judge simply added on some more community service, probation and another few months of house arrest.
With the rapid conviction last month of Randy Acevedo on charges of helping to cover up his wife's school district theft (she has yet to face trial curiously, even though his trial was predicated on her guilt), the vocal Outsider community in Key West figured they had the Bubbas on the run. Not so fast apparently. And on the Monique Acevedo front, her father is saying she is being treated for mental afflictions of one sort and another, thus presumably setting up a defense strategy if she needs it. It looks like she will try to secure a plea agreement and I suspect her alleged kleptomania will figure in the defense's argument even if it is being put forward by her father rather than her attorney at the moment.
With Hendrick continuing his ankle braceleted freedom one has to wonder if Randy Acevedo will get jail time following his three felony convictions, not least because his wife is in treatment and he has two children at home and he did not actually do the stealing just like Hendrick didn't in his case. Outsiders are braying for blood, Conchs are frowning. I am looking at the Florida Keys Community College watching the next shoe drop.
The Hendrick acquittal ties in to the College President's travails too, weirdly enough. As part of his community service the lawyer Hendrick, with three felony convictions to his name, was sent to the Community College on Stock Island as a consultant. The President of the College, under siege from anonymous e-mails and angry administrative staff, fired him before his re-sentencing saying he was working against her. She also poured public scorn on a particular bid for a dormitory development project at the college. A bid that that Hendrick's developer friends the Spottswood family had submitted.
The Spottswood bid has a special clause in it that if the eight million dollar dormitory building to be erected on a parking lot leased from the College does not get built, the Spottswoods get the land. No really, as a friend of mine put it they have written in an incentive for themselves to fail. It sounds like a joke but it isn't at all, and President Jill Landesberg-Boyle's opposition to that bid over a more rational bid from a company Up North is widely rumored to be the reason for the dogs of war being unleashed on her at the College.
There was a paragraph last week in the paper announcing, whispering really, that the College had approved the winning bid for the dormitory project. The Spottswood's offer was apparently one the embattled college president couldn't refuse. I don't know if Boyle threw in the towel as a pre-departure fuck you or if her acceptance of the domination of the Spottswoods in the Keys is the start of a fresh effort on her part to build the College back up. If she is eating humble pie I hope she now understands the limits of the possible and moves forward undeterred in improving the academics and leaves the money printing to the Spottswoods. That's all they want or have ever given any indication they care about.
While that fiasco unfolds the School District mess continues apace. The school budget is being finalized and the new Interim Superintendent "Super Joe" Burke is settling in to his new digs. And he trails the whiff of scandal into town with him... I am told he fired the whistle blower Kathy Reitzel because he wants to bring in "his own people," which was his defense when the State Attorney Dennis Ward tried to speak up in support of his star witness in the Acevedo conviction. And the idea that Superintendent Joe Burke wants his own financial staff in Monroe county is giving some people pause.
Another whisper campaign has started suggesting Super Joe had his own scandal Up North. He worked in Dade County schools for 27 years and was superintendent in Springfield Massachusetts for seven and then came back to Florida to work for the Department of Education not least to secure his Florida pension.
I perused and all I found were banal articles about Burke's tussles with a "Control Board" member who didn't seem to much like him. I will watch with interest how his people cope with the vicissitudes of life in the Fabulous Florida Keys, where being not well liked can have a very deleterious effect on one's career prospects when those people doing the offering are in a position to make offers that simply cannot be refused.

Conch Cottages

A request to photograph my favorite Conch Cottages would lead me to photograph places I have already snapped, like this old decaying structure around the corner from Solares Hill, the highest point in Key west, variously estimated at 14 to 18 feet so I split the difference and call it 16 (5 meters).The home is modest in size, raised off the ground slightly, has a porch and a metal roof. It is of course made out of wood and is close to the street though fenced off by an ugly but inexpensive hurricane fence. It would probably cost $300,000 to buy if it were for sale. Twice that if it were in good condition. A home at high elevation, in the most flood-proof part of Old Town commands a premium. I also happen to think it's cute. This next one is restored and doubtless valuable because of that though it doesn't get my vote:It is pretty enough, painted fashionable pale yellow and surrounded by a more expensive though cuter picket fence. This home has decorative shutters, not the folding out Bahamian style shutters and it has a huge extension in the rear with an elevated portion to peer over the back fence to look at God knows what. The home occupies all the square footage of the yard that it possibly can and as far as I recall there was no OSP. Without off street parking what is the point of a restoration sez I? Here are two more examples, the one nearest has a skylight, an escape hatch for heat rather than an entry point for light. Conventional skylights don't do well in Key West where strong sunlight weakens them and hurricane strength winds use them as a weak point to get unde otherwise solid roofs.The more distant cottage is an eyebrow style which was designed to allow upstairs window to open in sun or rain and remain in shadow and out of the down pour. Instead they discovered eyebrows, the roof that projects over the upstairs windows retain heat and keep the upstairs airless. Pretty but not useful. Good for restoration sez I because they are rare and pretty and air conditioning does the job of cooling these energy intensive days.
This home on Fleming, across the street from the Library and around the corner from the last two on Elizabeth, reminds me of New Orleans style shotgun houses, which look attractive but I find not practical to live in for my taste. This home is elevated, has a porch overbooking the street and has a tin roof. No OSP but I like the looks of it. This next one I like a lot, on Grinnell Street wedged between Five Brothers Cuban Deli and the cemetery, Dead people make excellent neighbors I find. As long as they are completely buried. This cottage has mature greenery, OSP and has had a modest make over in the original style, at least as viewed from the street. And the back unit is for sale with a pool and a couple of bedrooms for three quarters of a million (the equivalent these days to half of Detroit). Weird huh? The economy goes glug glug and still people expect to get gold plated offers on key West homes. Sticking with my theme of liking the cemetery for a neighbor this home on Frances Street is taller than you might expect a cottage to be in Key West and has a hedge out front, which if you are a recluse like me, works very nicely. I like the giant spreading trees as well on this block.
This home also displays the traditional fish scale type metal tiles of Key West homes.
Now we are getting into my favorite neighborhood, outside of Old Town proper, the Meadows used to be a field before it got developed. Here we see a home made of Dade pine, which is resinous and maintenance free but has been essentially wiped out in Dade County and nowadays comes from the Panhandle in much smaller quantities.
This home shows off those essential Conch aspects: no offset, raised on small piles and featuring Bahama style shutters which I think look very cool. A friend of mine lived with them and said they are a nuisance, rattling in the least amount of wind and not great protection in storms. They still look good though. The pilings on this house are well worn by the passage of time:
I remember years ago a friend of mine lost his girlfriend's small dog in this area and we spent hours hunting through the Meadows with flashlights looking under all these houses calling for the wretched dog. We found it later safe and sound after it took off in the opposite direction and was picked upon the Navy base. I still think about that ghastly, frantic weekend when I ride through this neighborhood 18 years later. The girlfriend and the dog are both dead by now, but their memory lives on. Boy was she pissed off when she found out we had mislaid her dog for two long days...Anyway back to Dade pine- this house has greenery and a porch though no OSP:Perhaps my obsession with Off Street parking stems from my work at the police department because we get lots of calls, especially in winter when parking is at a premium. Issues over where to park one's car drive people crazy.Some people mark "their"spots illegally with trash cans, others only move their vehicles in the direst of emergencies. Snowbirds amaze me, leaving their cars on the street all summer long. Thats why there are storage areas to park your unneeded vehicles:In the suburbs where I live I park underneath my stilt house and parking issues are non existent on my narrow street. Living at Mile marker 27 I have to commute and my home is relatively modern compared to something Old Florida like this with jalousie shutters made of wood:these are more usual made of glass to allow light as well as air into the home. I like my a/c for the hottest days of summer.
This is one of my favorite Conch homes in my preferred neighborhood. The right style, OSP, mature trees and......tasteful additions added to the rear of the original cottage in the proper style. Each section of roof has it's own style of metal work to reflect the era of the additions to the original cottage.
a nice wide porch which wraps around half way and gives a view of the street makes it perfect:
But to live here means you are living in the city, carbon friendly I'm sure but what a pain with all this tight living, noise and cement of urban life.