Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Key West Politics

Key West Politics
I would like to take a minute and explain some of my negative, reality check, attitude these days. It's the politics of Key West.

On this small island we are governed by a City Commission and Mayor who in turn hire a City Manager to do the day-to-day business of running the City. Commissioners are voted on by district. Six districts in all. The Mayor is voted on city wide. This was put in place by federal mandate in the early 1990s. Prior to that we had all Commissioners elected city wide.

This current system means that a Commissioner can possibly be elected by as few as 300 TOTAL votes. We aren't known as a city that turns out the vote. As of this morning there are 15,176 registered voters in Key West. Actual voters showing up at the polls is usually only 20-25%. So maybe 3500 people "control" the city's direction.

This year is an exceptionally critical election. Four commission seats and the Mayor are up for grabs. The outcome will determine the direction of the City for years to come. We are trying to get to know the candidates even outside our district. So far I am not particularly impressed with the candidates. We need to have a vision of what the island is to become. Change will happen but it can be positive or negative on the ordinary citizen. There are limits as to how many visitors the island can support at a time or over a year. Resources are running out. For those that aren't aware of it, our water, electricity, cable, and phones are land lined down from Florida City. Garbage is trucked back to the mainland.

We have been attending small meet-the-candidate meeting for the past week or so. Mostly in people's homes so they are small gatherings.

Some of the issues that have to be dealt with concern: housing, income, taxes, parking, traffic, cruise ships and tourism in general, quality of life, and the environment.

The island has become overcrowded and expensive. A big part of the problem is it is being loved to death. The reef is dying from over visiting, near shore waters are polluted, beaches filthy, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and streets in bad repair.

If you don't already, I would suggest that you read kwshoes blog (therealkeywest.blogspot.com/ ). He lives in the middle of one of the issues coming up. That being the traffic flow to and from the new Truman Annex development at the outer mole.

Anyway I will quit ranting for now. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Comments welcome.

This was written by Hal at the Bar Room section of It's Only Key West a while back. I stopped to talk to Hal at City Hall after I read this and he amplified on some of what he says in the posting.

I agree with him. What we both want is to be able to stay here in a place that we love, and to continue being able to go out for a few beers, some music, and eat out a couple of times a week. It takes a certain amount of money to do that. Not a huge amount, but enough to be able to afford rents that are 150% and more than other places we could live. When we moved back here from New Hampshire 15 months ago, we traded an $800 month apartment for a $1400 one. We swapped a $1700 oil bill in 2003, for a $978 electric bill for the last year here. We gave up access to Wal-Mart (no big loss) and a half dozen supermarkets within a couple of miles for less competition and higher prices for most of what we buy here. Pay more for gas for the car, but rarely use it, preferring bicycles and walking. Pay twice the amount for auto insurance despite barely using the car.

The point is, you, me, we all, make choices about where to spend what money we have, and choices about how much we're willing to work to have enough money to afford the tropical life style. Hal went back to work, snagged an interesting job with the City. In our case, we've been able to maintain ourselves on my Social Security and Janet's earnings at the Chicken Store, dipping into our savings occasionally for a special purchase. We haven't had to tap our 401K at all so far, preferring to put off starting to draw that down until the last possible moment, which is about five years off.

The point Hal makes about voting is right on the mark. As I've said before, and as Hal emphasizes above, we have a rare, maybe once-in-a-lifetime, opportunity this year to elect a dramatically different County Commission in October.

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