Friday, July 22, 2005

Affordable Housing

This is only for you devoted citizens who care about what's going on in the City, to a level of detail that ordinary mortals don't comprehend. So, if you aren't a devoted citizen, move on, there's nothing for you here.

Mark Howell nails it again in Solares Hill this week. (Get it in hard copy, or snag the PDF while it's still posted.) His write-up of the first (and last) meeting of the Workforce and Affordable Housing Sub-Committee demonstrates the essential nature of what really goes on here.

The City -- and that begs the question of who IS "The City", which we will come back to later -- the City has a "plan", and committees don't work (but they give us cover), so lets get the appointed committee to refer it back to us, the Commission, so we can get on with what we're planning. For the devoted citizens. Yeah, them.

If Weekley, Oosterhoudt and Mark Rossi are defeated in October, Harry Bethel and Jose Mendez will be the only surviving incumbents. Of those two, Bethel seems the only one with the know-how to lead the Commission. Is there any one declared for any office who is more capable (or even capable) to be a leader? In which direction is the new Commission likely to lead us? Will it be business as usual, more of the same, or could the new Commission conceivably lead the City in an entirely new direction? Will a new Commission ask the questions that need to asked? Can it demand performance, and hold people accountable when performance falls short of the standard?

I was here for the municipal elections of 1999 and 2001. I was away for 2003, but followed the election as best I could by reading the papers. This one truly seems to me to be momentous. 1999 brought us Jimmy Weekley as Mayor and Tom Oosterhoudt and Ed Scales as Commissioners. In 2003 voters elected Jose Menendez and re-elected Merili McCoy. This year, five of the seven seats on the Commission are up for grabs. Every seat that is open is being contested, some by more than one person. It could be a very lively race. It could also be a very destructive one if civility gives way to campaigns that "accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive"

And what happened? Well, housing became much more expensive. Rental housing and affordable housing grew difficult to find and more expensive to buy. City employment, meanwhile, grew to over 500. The taxable base grew, revenues grew (less what was stolen from the parking meters), expenses went up. More cruise ships landed. Traffic has grown to be a frustration for many. Big trucks and buses still come into Old Town at all hours of the day. T-Shirt shops continue to cheat tourists and display obscenity. Does the town seem cleaner to you? Has parking for residents improved? Ask your own questions. Are you satisfied? Do you have confidence that the problems can be fixed.

So then, whose fault is it? We too, the citizenry of our fair city, we must also demand performance, and hold those responsible for the lack of it accountable. Who are they? That's for us to find out.

Public Forum

Wednesday, July 27, 9AM-3:30PM. Harvey Government Center, Truman Avenue, Key West

William Hettinger: Living & Working in Paradise: Why Housing is too Expensive and What Communities can do about it.

Arranged by Donna Windle, Realtor, who was sponsored on the Workforce & Affordable Housing Committee by Commissioner Harry Bethel.

Windle and John Mikytuck, an affordable housing activist, were the only two members of the committee to vote against booting the issue back to the City Commission to "solve" -- by changing the definition of affordable to a higher set of numbers. Voila! Problem solved.

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