Monday, November 9, 2009

Words And Actions

We are told our economy is starting to rise, phoenix-like from the ashes of the Great Recession of 2008, and soon things will be back to normal. Which must be hugely encouraging to the 17% of Americans listed in the ranks of the unemployed, partially employed and needing more work, known in brief as U6. U3, the official unemployment rate is above 10% and that seems bad enough, but to be told all will be well soon, seems soothing rather than realistic. And slowly, slowly the prospect of health care for all makes it's way through the well insured ranks of Congress. Choosing not to have insurance will be an option finally, so Americans will be permitted to choose bankruptcy over insurance when they get ill. I wonder how many will choose to opt out of the medical coverage that will be offered when our languid Senators have finished ruminating on the issue.
The thing is, if you look at what people say in the Florida Keys and what they do, you see no connection at all. Take the School Board for instance, where the majority have long championed the notion of reduced administrative costs and higher pay for teachers. Guess what? When they get an opportunity to put their money where their mouths are, they balk! My wife, a teacher, has been hoping to see the Board hold the line on costs and hold the line on raises, but it is with some dismay that we observe nothing of the sort.
The new superintendent has announced he wants to hire a friend for $125,000 a year and that friend will help him run the district. That sort of blatant nepotism got a big thumbs up in Sunday's editorial in the Citizen newspaper which boggled my mind additionally. Then Superintendent Burke plans to hire not one, but three replacements for the ousted whistle blower Kathy Reitzel. Instead of paying her around $80,000, her three planned replacements will cost the district closer to a quarter of a million. And remember she it was who brought the recent financial scandal to light. She got fired along with the credit card manager while Deputy Superintendent Mike Henriquez got demoted and side lined and vast new founts of cash will be spent to replace people who were in the district before the new superintendent and his friends blew into town.
Meanwhile the irrepressibly optimistic Leon Fowler, head of the teacher's union is pressing for a 2% raise for teachers. The board majority of Dick, Pribamsky and Mathewson have reneged on their earlier principled stand in favor of reducing administrative costs and supporting teachers and are now flailing around spending money on administration like drunken sailors and telling teachers to walk the plank. Weird but true.
I've told my wife I don't think pay raises are a sensible notion at this juncture and when I mentioned it to Leon Fowler he shrugged, after all he does represent the teachers and has an obligation to do his best. I wasn't offended when the Teamsters failed to get raises for those of us employed by the city (though some of my colleagues were, unaccountably, as I don't see them at union meetings). However it does seem odd that a new superintendent, hired to sort out the district temporarily needs to find work for his buddies from Up North at our expense while our principled school board bends over promptly while turning their backs on their own oft-stated principles. Should we be surprised? They don't seem to think so.

Dry Lot, Wet Lot

Suppose you wanted to live in Big Pine Key and suppose you had a job in Key West. The homes off Ship's Way would be 50 minutes from your job and you might end up in a street like this. On a windy afternoon your neighbor's trash can might have rolled into the street, but this is a quiet area, and no harm done: Pine trees are Big Pines stock-in-trade and they offer cover between lots:This street rejoices in the unlikely name of Journeys End Road and it doesn't have access to salt water canals. That means the homes on Journeys End are"dry lots" in the local lingo. And there are streets off this street too, and the houses her are also said to be dry lots as they have no canal access and thus no boats parked behind them in the water:This is the Big Pine version of the stereotypical picket fence, just don't mind the banana leaves:Here's another version with date palms for a touch of the exotic:If you drive Journey's End in a car, rather than taking a bicycle ride as I did in this case, the journey does end rather abruptly here, unless it is a Smart Car with folding mirrors. This picture is looking west back at Journeys End:Big Pine Key, like the neighboring islands in the Lower Keys is home to the stilt style of building to keep homes above the dangers of hurricane induced flooding:And here too we see some gorgeous rampant greenery. I've published pictures of these types before and someone supplied a name which I promptly forgot. Which isn't to say I don't like these palm, on the contrary, I just can't remember their name:This next house was for sale by Christie's, and they are asking $245,000 for a two bedroom, two bath on the usual stilts. At the height of the recent boom they may very well have sold this for half a million.A dolphin mailbox up the street...
...not to be outdone by this fish box around the corner on one of the side streets.
This was an area of neat lawns and no leaves out of place:But these are still dry lots with no canal access. So by contrast we cross Ship's Way to the equally eccentrically named Flying Cloud Avenue ( what else do clouds do, but fly, I ask myself):These may be wet lots but they run out of room just as sure as eggs is eggs, just like the dry lots:
Wet lots are built on canals dug out of the rock years ago before such behavior was rendered illegal and these houses have docks behind them:The closeness of water seems to encourage an awful desire for huge homes:And many of these magnificent living spaces are sitting there empty, waiting for their owner's return from Up North:
Something a little more modest like this 1950's style ground floor home appeared occupied and it's probably one of the original homes on this street:And here an addition to the neighborhood appears to have been stopped dead, metal re-bar sticking hopelessly out of the ground. Perhaps it was over optimism that killed the new home, perhaps horrible economic disaster. Who knows, but it looked sad in its state of neglect:Even "new concept homes" of modular houses on stilts (not new at all as far as I know!) seems too much for the current economy. A modular home on stilts is a nice way to go especially if you have a boat at your dock on the canal in back:And here is the end of the journey for this street, something rather more spacious than a modular home on stilts, and this place has the added benefit of an open water view:And that was the terminus of my bike ride for the after noon.