Monday, February 22, 2010

School District Blues

It doesn't seem like the Monroe County School District is out of the scandal riddled woods, this despite the rather visible changes and forced marches and felony convictions meted out. The Hartford Insurance Company, the one that underwrote Joe Lieberman's single handed death stroke against the health insurance public option, is supposed to cover the school district's losses from theft. However would you believe it these crooks are now refusing to pay up for the monies stolen by the as yet not convicted Monique Acevedo. Their defense isn't that she has yet to be found guilty, their defense is so ludicrous it makes one wonder why we have insurance companies at all. They say that because the district didn't notify the Hartford of the theft they are released form their obligation to pay. If the district had known the theft was taking place it wouldn't have been a theft. Theft is by definition taking without knowledge and consent of the owner. I expect they will lose in the end but I'm sure they will be delighted to cause delay and expense to the district. Oh and now there has been a claim they are planning on dropping the district. For all those who think we don't need a strong public option in our health insurance system consider this little issue.

Furthermore an audit by the state of Florida has thus year shown up a whole load of historical irregularities that never showed up previously in audits of the school district. It would seem a scandal sharpens everyone's senses. Luckily for the school board in charge of this district they have lots of scape goats to fling mud at to deflect the rather negative news headlined in yesterday's Citizen. However it's not at all clear why the Board allowed the freshly discovered "irregularities" to proceed unchallenged. Why the state audit never turned them up is a bit a of a question that might cause some embarrassment but not so far. This hot potato has instead been shovelled off to the State Attorney post haste to deal with as he sees fit. Happily we seem able to rely on Dennis Ward these days to monitor public morals which attitude seems to be shocking public officials a bit.

Indeed recently the county's top law enforcer warned county Commissioners that meeting well heeled constituents at a lavish free lunch at Ocean Reef Resort might violate Florida's Sunshine Law which forbids officials from discussing issues on which they might vote outside of the public eye. Ocean Reef is an exclusive gated community at the north end of Key Largo and you'd think they'd not have any issues that needed commissioners' attention but they have their own detachment of Monroe County Sheriff's deputies, at an annual public cost of a million bucks to protect them and their private security guards from the depredations of we the people outside the gates. So what do the commissioners do? They have lunch with the rich people of Ocean Reef, the majority of three with the county administrator. Heather Carruthers and Kim Wigington, my favorite members of the board had the good sense to stay away though why George Neugent lost his head and went I couldn't say. The State Attorney's office is now investigating them for possible violations. That lunch had better have been the best lunch ever served in the Keys because Dennis Ward is proving to be a relentless giant in a world populated by legal wimps and pygmies.

I read about the terrible budget problems plaguing communities across the country and wonder how our modest little budgets will be doing down here. In the Great Depression (the 20th century one) the city of Key West went bust and the Feds considered evacuating the Keys altogether as one way to save a bundle of money. In fact the Works Progress Administration advertised Key West as the ideal vacation destination and Saved the city (thank you Big Government!). Our future in the Keys now seems assured until the seas rise up as the ice caps melt, but it seems to me our raison d'etre needs to be made much more clear to us. We are here in these islands on sufferance, to do our jobs, to tug our forelocks and to make sure not a ripple ruffles the lives of the wealthy oligarchs and their families that choose to make their vacation homes here. Our lives will be those of captive gardeners inside the compound, but not of the compound as it were.We will get jobs, stability a modest standard of living in exchange for our service, just like 19th century peasants. I can hardly imagine what our future might be like. Better down here than out there I suppose, though I never imagined my old age as a vassal in a feudal island.

Eden Meadow

I was out on Big Pine Key wandering through the palmettos and pine trees and reminded that no matter how remote one sometimes feels in this wilderness, civilization is never too far away:It was not a very satisfactory walk for Cheyenne, stumbling through underbrush, so she consoled herself with a puddle.We made our way back to the kennel and regrouped. I turned off Key Deer Boulevard and headed towards Eden Pines subdivision with a vague idea to look for a trail headed west through the mangroves toward the nearest saltwater channel. Instead we ended up plunging once more into the pine forests on a wildlife refuge trail, one of the many on this island.Eden Pines is one of several rural subdivisions scattered about on Big Pine Key, which is the second largest island (behind Key Largo) in the Florida Keys. Eden Pines has something of a reputation for putting on and informal Christmas Light decorating extravaganza each winter and one of these years I will follow through on my promise to myself to go out after dark and check out the houses. As it was Cheyenne and i found ourselves a small Garden of Eden among the pines next to the subdivision.It was nothing more than a tiny meadow, a rectangle of grass modest enough that I almost walked by without noticing. Cheyenne immediately got her nose down so I knew we had to stop.I met a neighbor recently who told me she doesn't like to let her dog off it's leash else it will start to smell things. I tried to contain my astonishment at such a statement, limiting myself to remarking that sniffing things is what dogs are designed to do (why else would they have that sense of smell?), but that encounter reminded me why Cheyenne should count herself lucky.She sure found something worth sniffing in the long grass:
I have no idea what she found in the grass but it was fighting back as she peered down to inspect it. I got all botanical with my camera.I have, as usual, no idea what they are called these flowery things. The fuzzy white blob in the background is Cheyenne minding her own business, nose down, being a dog. No apparent harm came to her from her exploration. I have no idea why this patch of grass found the energy to grow in this spot and nowhere else.Surrounded by decent sized pine trees:
And some very interesting bracken:
I want to come back with a chair, a thermos of tea and a book.And perhaps walk deeper into the pine forests around here:As it was we were timed out for the afternoon and I steered the Labrador back towards the car by a slightly different route through the trees. Whereupon we came across another mystery in the woods:
Human made for sure, some sort of drain or cistern or some such thing:And with no possible solution to the mystery we pressed on back to the paved road. Cheyenne wasn't quite ready to get back in the kennel and as we strolled a little further we came across another minor mystery, this time an almost self explanatory shrine:Jim, the amateur detective in me reasoned, must have been a well-liked diver who died fairly recently. Possibly a native of San Francisco fond of the ocean.And with a nod to the dead diver we tip toed back to the car.The truck in the background has just driven up Key Deer Boulevard from the direction of Highway One to the south.