Things are looking like they might be changing in some political respects in the Keys. Exciting stuff on lots of different fronts.
First I was surprised to see Mayor Cates decided to pull the plug on Paul Clayton's contract. Clayton was hired by the city at $40,000 a year to develop low income housing plans. That nothing ever came of this contract didn't dissuade the former administration from renewing the contract with Clayton, a friend of former City Manager Julio Avael. Mayor Cates ended it, though there is some speculation he may maintain the account and give the money to some other "deserving" consultant. The Blue Paper meanwhile says Mayor Cates has quashed rumors that he was preparing to hire former City Manager Avael as a consultant. There is one other consulting account that is up for renewal next summer and that would also be for affordable housing. There is a lobbying firm in Tallahassee which is taking money from the city of Key West to promote some sort of affordable housing, also to no visible effect. These aren't large sums of money but it's a start.
The earth shook at the county commission meeting this week when the State Attorney Dennis Ward stood up and addressed county commissioners. He asked Commissioner Mario DiGennaro how he had heard about a particular company DiGennaro wanted to hire to do some collections work for the county. DiGennaro, according to the Citizen newspaper thought he didn't have to follow the law and put the proposal out to bid. When the state attorney asked him how he knew of the Miami company's existence DiGennaro decided to duck the issue by withdrawing his proposal altogether. The suspicion thus lingers that some improper lobbying may have taken place. I have to admit I am developing a sneaking admiration for Dennis Ward who isn't backing down on his election promise to hold elected officials accountable. DiGennaro, who made a fortune as a businessman seems to have the barest grasp of the fundamentals of propriety as an elected official or how to follow lawful protocols and procedures. It is nice to see the county's top law enforcer taking the time to make sure he toes the line. The days of lawmaking by wink and nod with Commissioner Sonny McCoy appear to be over for the time being..
The last piece of localnews that has got my head spinning was an editorial in the Citizen backing Key West City Commissioner Clayton Lopez's call for a re-vamp of the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust. The trust appears to be telling the city it doesn't have the money to refund $102,000 it was over paid by the city for a contract. Not only that, but the Land Trust is asking for more money from the city saying it has run out of cash to fund it's daily operation. The trust was set up to rehab housing in Bahama Village and rent out it's property to keep housing affordable in the community. A nice idea that doesn't seem to be working out so well especially as the paper says the leader of the trust likes to keep contracts all in her family. I had heard that Mayor Cates was a friend of the trust and his election might have been an election in their favor. However the re-election of Clayton Lopez by a wide margin doesn't look at all positive for the future of the BCCLT. His was a nasty fight with accusations flying back and forth betwen his campaign and that of the losing candidate, a former president of the trust. The newspaper also reported the board of the non profit organization got into a discussion over ways of defeating Lopez in the election- a potential violation of it's not for profit status. The trust also got into a fight with former Mayor MacPherson who opposed the trust's plan to build a senior citizen center on the former Navy land at Truman Waterfront. How Mayor Cates cuts this Gordian knot will be interesting to watch.
As Fantasy Fest approaches in Key West I am keeping my eye on the serious stuff that has been coming out of assorted city halls. In Marathon the city manager quit after he was suspended with pay pending the outcome of a sexual harassment lawsuit. In Key West the City manager has curtailed everyone's ability to cancel parking tickets. It used to be any parking control officer could void a parking violation. Then the powers in charge said only the officer isuing the ticket could void it. Now only the city manager and one named police officer can void tickets. It seems too many tickets were being cancelled losing the city revenue. At the same time the city is contemplating what to do about free parking passes issued to past and present big wigs in the city. Grasping that nettle and telling former city commissioners to give up their passes will be an exciting scene in a city where privilege has always had it's...privileges.
Happily I live outside the field of drama and watch with bated breath.