Monday, January 17, 2005

Stormy Monday

Citizen's Voice of the Day

""Key West is the last bastion of a real party town. All other towns that were a haven for partygoers are gone; their 'Founding Fathers' did them in and, now, most are slowly dying from the lack in income and intense boredom. If people don't like the layout of this town, go and find someplace else to get righteous.""

The Citizens' Voice column in the Key West Citizen is a particularly good roundup today. Read it all if you have the time.

I've not previously considered the point that the caller raises here. Is there another place in the United States where public nudity is tolerated, encouraged, even enshrined in the city's image, as is done here during Fantasy Fest? New Orleans at Mardi Gras comes to mind immediately, but I'm not familiar with that event. I'm hard pressed to find another.

The following caller, also in today's column, offers a counterpoint:

"To all you people who have moved to Key West in the past years: When Fantasy Fest first started, it was a family affair. I say: Get rid of it; it is a disgusting display of ignorance. And where did all the children go? They left Key West with their smart parents."

Mandy Bolen wrote an article that appeared in the Citizen on Saturday, about the decline in the numbers of children living in the Keys. I was surprised by one figure in particular. There are five hundred fewer children in the Monroe County School District this year than there were last year. (Meanwhile, the School District is building four new schools in the next couple of years.) We see a similar trend in the Bahama Village Music Program, one of the concerns we have about the future direction of the program. I will address this in more depth, time permitting.

Another thing one notices about Key West is the presence of Monroe County administrative staff in what seem large numbers. They occupy three large buildings on Whitehead Street, renovations to them have been or are being done, and an expansion is underway in the rear on Thomas St, between Southard and Fleming. Most of the parking in that area is reserved for officials and staff. Additionally, the County renovated an old cigar factory, the Gato Building at Simonton St. between Catherine and Louisa Sts., occupying three more floors of office space and reserved parking. And of course the Harvey Government Center where we go to register our cars and boats, apply for licenses, and do other things I haven't needed to do. It's another two floors of offices and multi-use spaces, like conference auditoriums. There's the jail complex on Stock Island. The Airport. Mosquito Control. And, oh yeah, the schools. Maybe it's all good. Maybe the County needs all of this to do its job well. Maybe its even being run as efficiently as can be. It's still referred to by some as The Bubba System, or simply as The Conchs.

I'm not informed enough about these things as I want to be. Not because it has any real impact on me most of the time, only because its my duty as a citizen to pay attention enough to know what's going on around me, and to contribute somehow to the dialogue that takes place about whether it is good governance or bad governance that we get in exchange for our tax dollars.

The City of Key West employs somewhere around three hundred people. I don't know how many are employed by the county, nor by the federal government, which of course includes the military and Homeland Defense personnel stationed here. I'll endeavor to find out more and comment on it here.

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