I view my photographs and the words that accompany them a diary of my life to some extent and to a lesser extent as a record of the Lower Keys at this period.I don't go everywhere obviously and I am no longer a reporter so I am exempt from feeling an obligation to be on the spot, but I can't stop myself from reading the newspaper.
If there were any doubt that development taken to the limit is the goal House Bill 587 should put that to rest. This legislation apparently not supported by the Keys (Republican) representative offers to ease hurricane restrictions on development to...do what exactly? Save the state money they say.
It goes like this: development has reached maximum capacity in the Keys and the way that's calculated is how fast can the authorities evacuate the islands, supposing say a hurricane is imminent, and the magic number till now has been 24 hours. That's why you hear the order for a "mandatory evacuation" before the arrival of a hurricane and they start with tourists and residents of mobile homes. After 24 hours (the magic number!) they order other residents to evacuate. You can choose not to leave but in choosing to stay over a mandatory evacuation order you have to know there will be no help during the storm. That's what mandatory evacuation means, and emergency services don't respond when winds reach gale force because the hospital closes down and there is no medical support for first responders injured during a hurricane. Creating a storm proof emergency room should be high on the list of priorities as the authorities now want to extend the evacuation time to 30 hours.
Extending evacuation times by six hours doesn't sound like a big deal but it changes everything. What it means is the population of the Keys will be allowed to increase as soon as the "carrying capacity" of the highway increases by 25 %. The rationale is that owners of empty lots that cannot build on them will demand compensation from the government for their land that suddenly has no value and to avoid making the payouts the state legislature is creating a new reality ion the Keys with I have no doubt, lots of unforeseen consequences.
There is a pervasive air of unreality in these discussions about development and evacuations and storms and sea level rise and insurance rates and flood plains and all of it. I don't understand the logic of increasing the population density, slowing the evacuation times while at the same time raising alarms about the increasing likelihood of storm related damage to existing structures. And you know the people who choose to ignore these obvious warning signs will be at the front of the line blaming anyone but themselves for their poor planning and decision making when disaster strikes.
I read in the paper about residents without mortgages who carry no flood insurance. My mind boggles. The bald truth is f you can't afford the insurance you can't afford to live here. You can gamble your future right now but when you lose you will have to take your losses like a grown up. One resident told the Citizen he plans to invest the equivalent of the insurance premiums to self insure effectively. Doing that and thinking it's smart makes the assumption there will be no chance of a serious storm in the immediate future. The whole point of insurance os to pool the risk, not to rely on no damage for along time ahead.
I have no stake in all this as we decided not own real estate in the Keys and to rent after we got rid of our Ramrod Key home. We lucked out with a fantastic landlord and a very quiet neighborhood on Cudjoe Key in a house that rents for an extremely modest $1600 a month. You will pay at least twice that if you can find anything in Key West. But all this real estate is seriously at risk and the decision to own in the Keys has to be accompanied by a sensible evaluation of your aversion to risk and loss.
If the changes are made and the state legislative majority is firmly Republican with a Republican (though very sensible) Republican governor all studying a proposal made by a member of the majority caucus so... Our only hope is if Governor DeSantis looks at this idea and says it's nuts. He's an odd fish is the governor as he toes the party line on national politics but he's a Floridian at home, moving to spend money on preservation and the environment and talking to people with out pushing the party line within his state. He reminds of Democratic Governor Graham of fond memory, a mild mannered Dixiecrat wiped out by the Reagan revolution in the South. I fear the pressure to allow development in the Keys will push back the evacuation times and the difficulties created by this decision will be pushed out of sight into some future timeline. As usual.
By the time this madness gets into the pipeline I will be retired. It would be nice if there was somewhere to come back to for my end of life, especially as the new old folks home on Duck Avenue is getting taken over by the county which should give it some longevity but the crowding looks set to reach Hong Kong proportions before I will have finished driving around. Being evacuated as a not-so-spry old man doesn't sound too appealing. Especially like this.