Friday, May 20, 2005

Just call me Mr. Ambassador

I attended my last Key West City Ambassador class yesterday. It was a feedback session with the Mayor, Jimmy Weekley, and two of the six City Commissioners, the Colorful Commish, Tom Oosterhoudt and newly-appointed Commissioner, Mark Rossi, owner of several bars on Duval St.

The remaining four Commissioners were unable to attend: Harry Bethel, Jose Menendez, Carmen Turner, and Ed Scales (none are candidates for reelection).

When it came to my turn to ask a question, I asked each of them to state their vision of Key West in five years, in 2010. Will the city be more like it is today, I asked, or are we going to look more like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, a kind of gated community for the very wealthy with a small cadre of "attendants" for these rich, part-time residents.

Mayor Weekley spoke first. He began by saying that the city would not change very much, that we aren't going to be a gated enclave, then went on to describe how we would be more "upscale" (his word, though he used it reluctantly), that we would be receiving fewer cruise ship visitors, more fly-in tourists who would stay for a longer time, more part-time (read snowbird) residents, fewer drive-down tourists. In short, the city is going to change, in his vision of the future. The two Commissioners more or less agreed with the Mayor. Affordable housing is part of their mantra. All agreed that "something" has to be done to create more affordable housing. They floated a few ideas, but there's no consensus any where I can find on how to do it.

I'm very satisfied with the Ambassador Academy experience. I learned a lot about how the city operates, some of its inner workings, and feel that I'm better equipped to understand it and (important to me) write about it.

I would recommend the Ambassador program to any one interested in The Real Key West.

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