Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Money Like Water

There is so much weird stuff going on locally it's hard to know where to begin, or what to think about it all. Money it seems is no object for a few select people and institutions, and where it is an object, the sources of supply are most unlikely. Take the rather nice little hospital in Marathon, described thusly on a rather expensive billboard advertisement in Summerland Key:Fisherman's Hospital has made the rather startling suggestion that it should raise money by creating a tax district in Marathon and charge residents $70 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The idea is to raise money to buy modern equipment to make the facility more attractive for a proposed sale to an interested corporation. At a time when the federal government is being critiqued for being "socialist" for wanting universal health care, such a proposal from a private facility is rather breathtaking! I like Fisherman's and hope it continues to exist but if that can only be accomplished with a district tax I fear for it's future.

The Florida keys Community College on Stock island has a new (interim) leader. The new president announced in the Citizen that his top priority are the students, a rather rash course of action if the fate of his immediate predecessor is taken into consideration. Jill Landesberg Boyle was unceremoniously dumped after she made a raft of changes at the school that put "students first." She is now on leave, drawing her full salary until June when her term in office will come to a contractual close. For the remainder of this year the college burns up two presidential salaries at public expense, to no visible purpose.

The Monroe County School District meanwhile is doing it's own inimitable waste-of-money dance in public. The School Board majority of Pribamsky, Dick and Mathewson who have loudly proclaimed their aversion to administrative spending are planning on increasing the staffing of upper level staff in the financial department by a factor of three. John Dick, a man of little visible intelligence is telling the newspaper that a staffing report allegedly dumbing down requirements for administrative jobs is the work of the ousted former superintendent Randy Acevedo, he of the three felony convictions. According to Dick the consulting firm responsible for the reduced job requirements"probably" did so at the implied request of the former superintendent who is no longer available to refute the charge. This baseless accusation conveniently exonerates the board from any oversight responsibility. Board Chair Andy Griffith's plan to reduce administrative costs is to fire all Vice Principals. That'll show 'em.

The city of Key west meanwhile is working on it's own quality-of-life-improvement plans, which one can only view with a jaundiced eye. The city manager wants to widen the harbor channel to get bigger than ever cruise ships to dock in the next decade. 1,000 foot long ships are apparently passe. The city commission is looking to add more trolley tours to city streets to keep competition alive and well with Historic Tours of America. By supporting CityView Tours' application the city hopes I suppose to avoid an anti-trust lawsuit. I'm sure we all await the arrival of even more trolleys on city streets with bated breath. There was however a lovely moment at a recent city Commission meeting I wish I had seen in person. The paper says a discussion about monies owed from Historic Tours shows the city has lost all control of it's accounts. When one commissioner wanted to know how much HTA pays the city, all the Manager's well paid assistants were unable to provide the numbers. No one has a clue how much HTA pays the city for it's exclusive franchise, and thus no one knows if their accounts are up to date. This helps explain our lack of raises this year! It is comforting in our upside down world to know that we the city workers are helping subsidize the very wealthy Ed Swift and Chris Belland's corporation. Not enough that we the people fund banks and insurance companies!

Winter Commute

"Did you see the sunset?" my wife asked with excitement in her voice, after she drove in to have dinner in Key West Saturday evening. (She went to the Colombian Restaurant on Petronia Street: excellent food, disorganized service was the verdict.) I have been noticing the spectacular shades of red and orange and purple for some weeks, ever since we switched to winter time at the end of October. Before the change the ride home after work in the morning looked like this:Now with the return of winter time it looks like this at 6:15 am:The wind is continuing to blow out of the north bringing clear blue skies, bright sunshine and cool dry temperatures. This is a spectacular state of affairs to wake up to at lunch time, but it does tend to wash out a little of the violent, moisture laden mornings of summer. Still, the rich orange glow across the flat waters and the mangrove islands has it's own beauty:I was standing on the bridge near Mile Marker 18 between North Harris Channel and Park key and in the distance, to the east, I could see the traffic light at Sugarloaf School, the one they installed a few years ago to help school buses get on the Highway. It's the green disc seen below:Commuting is supposed to be a penance in the modern world but in the Keys it's not so bad at all. Traffic tends to get a bit heavy between seven and nine going in to Key West and between five and seven in the evening coming out, but for a wild card like me, commuting is just a pleasant motorcycle ride. Working at night puts me against the traffic flow, and the scenery is always spectacular. I love my commute.Even when the traffic is heavy there is rarely any stop and go on the commute, it's mostly a matter of sitting in a line of cars traveling a little less than the speed limit. For me, the ride is mostly an open road.
By the time I got to Summerland Key, a couple of miles from my house the dawn was well underway. I liked the contrast between gas station sign and the orange of the rapidly brightening sky:The one lane road leading to my house was in the shadow of the houses and the trees but to the south I could see the big puffy clouds of moisture gathered over the warm waters of the gulf Stream, on the horizon:
And finally, forty minutes after leaving Key West Police station I could see the shaded window of my bedroom. The ride home in 73 degrees (20C) should have been enough to wake me, but in a few minutes I know I will be fast asleep, like a vampire, before the sun hits my eyes.
The ride home is a great way to slough off the dramas of a night at work.