Key West City Commission budget workshop and various spin-offs therefrom

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Here is today’s Citizen article on last night’s city commission budget workshop, at which citizens were not permitted to speak. Margaret Romero,Tom Milone and maybe 5 or 6 other citizens, counting me, attended. The city department heads and their assistants made up most of the audience. Added the pics. My interjected thoughts in italics, followed by my own take on the workshop.

Thursday, April 24, 2014 Add to Facebook Add to Twitter
Kee needs to be first
Nyad’s swim to be honored, too
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff

Gwen Filosa
gfilosa@keysnews.com

Key West needs to honor one of its own in statue form before spending a few thousand dollars to memorialize world champion swimmer Diana Nyad, City Commissioner Clayton Lopez said Wednesday.

clayton-lopez.jpgLopez

Bishop Albert Leo Kee, who died in 2003, was a fixture at the Southernmost Point buoy selling seashells and welcoming visitors with a conch shell at his lips. Plans to install a monument to Kee, a pastor at the Church of God of Prophecy, have stalled for a decade.

“The Bishop Kee statue, that’s been on the table well before I came onto this dais,” Lopez said at Old City Hall during a workshop that centered on city priorities. “I can’t support this at all until that is addressed.”

Also on Wednesday, the commission and staff talked about an upcoming citywide resident survey that City Manager Bob Vitas said will help ensure taxpayers are pleased with city services.

Bob VitasVitas

“We want to be able to measure our performance,” said Vitas, who at the meeting talked of the city’s 130 ongoing projects. “Unless you do those surveys you don’t know if the citizens are satisfied.”

The survey was tentatively set to start in June and cost about $20,000, according to a line in the city manager’s 80-page report presented Wednesday.

But the matter of a Kee memorial marked the second time in five months the commission has recognized the overdue promise.

The Kee statue issue arose at Old City Hall last fall when talk of a Nyad monument began in the wake of her record-setting, 53-hour open swim from Cuba to Key West, where she landed on Smathers Beach on Labor Day.

The city’s volunteer Art in Public Places board has drafted a Request for Proposals (RFP) and wants to create an artist competition. A price tag of $5,000 has been talked about.

“He in life meant as much,” Lopez said. “Before the Southernmost Buoy was there, Bishop Kee was there.”

City Commissioner Tony Yaniz added, “He was the Southernmost Buoy.”

Lopez said he considers Nyad’s world record a gift to Key West, but wants the Kee statue to come first. He has asked staff to pay for the project with 1 percent of the funds set aside to repair the Frederick Douglass Gym in Bahama Village.

Vitas said he and the legal department are reviewing the RFP for the Nyad project.

“The goal is to get an RFP out there so we can create a competition,” Vitas said. “And see if we can have a statue erected within a year from the time of award and be placed somewhere in the city.”

Yaniz suggested a statue of Kee handing a conch shell to Nyad.

“Historically that never happened,” City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley replied.

“We’ve got to get it out there before somebody breaks her record,” City Commissioner Teri Johnston said.

I told Tom Milone, beside whom I was sitting, that Yaniz’s suggestion for Bishop Kee handing Nyad a conch shell was as inappropriate as his behavior at Hometown! PAC’s call to candidates this past Monday evening.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

The budget workshop began with City Manager Bob Vitas

Bob Vitas

presenting a new tracking system, which he had invented, for all city projects. The tracking system will allow Vitas, his department heads, and anyone else to go online to the city’s website and open any city project and see where it stands. The tracking system will be updated monthly.

Right about then I was thinking to myself that Vitas is a heavy weight who inherited a mess and is moving toward straightening it out. That impression strengthened as what would prove to be a 4-hour workshop progressed.

What caused it to go 4 hours came after Vitas said he now was ready to have his department heads present close to 120 different city projects, if the dais wanted to hear all of that. The looks from the dais were not in the thrilled category. City Commissioner Billy Wardlow

Billy Wardlow

said at least the big projects should be presented. That seemed okay on the dais. Then, City Commissioner Teri Johnston

Teri Johnston

said the department heads all did a lot of work getting ready for the budget workshop, and she felt the dais should hear about all of the city projects. The unthrilled look from the dais returned.

That’s what happened. Each department head went through each of his/her projects. The presentations were succinct and clear. The rapport between Vitas and his department heads seemed excellent. They appeared to be a well-oiled, lean and mean, happy and dedicated efficient team. What any corporate executive in the private business sector hopes to have.

A couple of stand out like deer in headlights moments:

The streets and traffic department head said the city needs to eliminate parking spaces near crossing streets, because vehicles parked in those spaces block pedestrians and bicyclists’ view of crossing traffic and also block crossing traffic’s view of pedestrians and bicyclists. Meaning, the city will lose paid parking places, which the city doesn’t want to lose.

The building department head said, okay, no more city building stuff without city permits, that long time practice has to go; henceforth, the city will pull building permits just like everyone else has to do.

Toward the very end of the workshop, Mayor Cates

Mayor Cates

lamented the meeting had lasted far longer than he had thought it would go. He was tired. They all were tired. Just the night before they’d had a 4 1/2 hour special city commission meeting for the new noise ordinance.

Even so, last night’s budget workshop went as it needed to go.

After it ended, I told Bob Vitas that he and his department heads had done a great job. It was important for the mayor and city commissioners to see and hear all of the department heads in that way, get to know them better, see how hard they are working and how well they are doing. And, it was good for the public to see that, the public in the audience, the public watching on the city’s television station – Channel 77.

During the workshop, one city project  was a 24-hour homeless shelter, which City Commissioner Yaniz

Tony Yaniz 2

said 2 or 3 times his constituents are not going to go along with, even as one of his constituents, Mayor Cates, is pushing for the shelter. Yaniz said affordable housing should be put on the Easter Seals property, instead of a 24-hour homeless shelter. No one else said anything about a new homeless shelter. The department head whose project it is said nothing. It went by without further discussion.

I mentioned that to Bob Vitas afterward. He chuckled, said, yes, the 24-hour homeless shelter had slipped by, but it is not going away because it was approved by the City Commission and is in the city’s Strategic Plan and will be dealt with eventually. I said, hmmm, maybe it slipped by because they saw me in the audience. Bob, laughed, said maybe so.

I nearly fell out of my seat when I heard Mayor Cates angrily say at a city commission meeting maybe 6 weeks ago, that he is not pushing for a new homeless shelter, and he is tired of hearing that he is. For just a couple of days before, at the city-county homeless summit, Mayor Cates had indeed pushed for a new homeless shelter, and he had pushed for it being on the Easter Seals property; as had other city and county officials, while Yaniz had pushed for the new homeless shelter not even being in Key West.

Yaniz is right about opposing a 24-hour homeless shelter, which many homeless people will not stay in except to bathe and sleep.

And Yaniz is right about not wanting a homeless shelter of any kind on the Easter Seals property, next to the city’s championship golf course, the county’s nursing home, the city’s beautiful botanical garden, just down the street from an elementary school.

Putting a homeless shelter there will be madness. Some homeless people are truly dangerous. Most of them are addicts. Many of them are mentally ill. Many are thieves. Many have communicable diseases, MRSA tops the list.

I wish I had said that at Hometown! PAC’s Call to Candidates last Monday evening. Alas, candidates only had 2 minutes to speak, and the angels had me baited up on their hook, and how that came about really only can be grasped by watching Hometown’s video of that fishing trip.

If you have not yet seen it, click on and open www.hometownkeywest.com. Then click on and open the You-Tube icon which comes up midway down the right side of the homepage. Then slide the button below the video to close to the 60 minutes mark, where I do my dog and pony show, which I do not yet know is the angels’ bait. Then, comes Tony Yaniz and Todd German taking the bait.

I start my dog and pony show saying I don’t imagine there is any way to match what happened in 2009, when topless Aphrodite burst into that call to candidates, hollering, “Sloan for Mayor! Nude beaches for Key West!” But, as it turned out, in their own way, Monday evening Tony and Todd topped Aphrodite.

Ciaosky,

Sloansky

keysmyhome@hotmail.com

Sloan at Carol

Me grabbing Hometown’s Carol Wightman’s right upper fanny shortly before it was time to do my dog and pony show I did not yet know was the angels’ bait.

Political advertisement paid for and approved by Sloan Bashinsky, for Mayor of Key West

You can read a report at www.goodmorningfloridakeys.com on Tuesday night’s water quality symposium by clicking on this link: 2014 Last Stand and Everglades Law Center water quality symposium in Key West report

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