Nashville J replied to yesterday’s
“scrambling to figure out how to fund and build a $350,000 handicap-accessible parking lot at Horace O’Bryant Middle School in Key West.”
LOL – forgot the parking lot ! ROFLMAO. Wasn’t it last year or the year before when a new firehouse was built in the Keys that the doors were not big enough to pull the trucks in?? Or did I dream that? Regardless, no one will be fired or held responsible for not catching the parking lot issue when the plans were drawn up.
Regardless, they are sweating the $350,000 because they will just raise taxes or fees so that the Citizens get to pay more for it. You just wait until they get thru with the price over runs on the Glynn Archer property – they will throw up their hands and say, “WE didn’t know that or no one told us that or that was not our fault”, but we have to pay so give us another 2, 3, 4, 5 million to complete the project. Just wait, it will happen.
Hi, J –
Don’t remember anything about fire station doors not being big enough; will ask around.
I imagine the School District will find the $350,000 internally; raising taxes requires voter approval on a referendum.
It will be another two years, I imagine, before the City of Key West knows what their new City Hall will cost them. Mayor Craig Cates is using completion of the new City Hall as his reason for running for reelection this year for a third term, and again next year, if he wins this year, even though he told me when he ran for his second term that he would not run for a third term.
I hope the new City Hall cost estimates are pretty close, a little overrun wouldn’t be awful. Hope don’t necessarily translate to actual, and it won’t surprise me if the overrun is substantial. Don’t know where they would get the money for a substantial overrun, they had to dig into reserves to pay for the Duck Tours settlement. Maybe they would use the Tree Commission to raise the money. Maybe they would raise parking meter fees. Maybe they would put parking meters in residential neighborhoods. Maybe, as you say, they would taxes. And, as you say, there would be plenty of pointing the finger away from themselves by any city officials who voted to put the new City Hall in Glynn Archer School.
I told them to put it on Truman Waterfront. They owned the land. There was plenty of land for it, and for a lot of green space/park, too. The drawback would be remoteness from most of the rest of the island. Glynn Archer is a better location, in the geography respect. They could have rebuilt it where it was, at the corner of Angela and Simonton Streets. Now they are going to put public parking, public restrooms and some green space there, as I recall the latest plan. And the new Fire Station goes in there. I think that’s all pretty much set in stone now.
If a new mayor is elected this year, perhaps he/she will focus on doing something worthwhile with Truman Waterfront; building two homeless shelters, one bare bones for the addicts, another more comfy for people trying to get back on their feet; converting Duval Street into a pedestrian mall in the afternoons and evenings; leaving the channel alone and even discouraging cruise ships from calling on Key West at all; and ridding the city streets of conch trains, conch trolleys, amphibious ducks, which make street traffic awful and seriously aggravate city neighborhoods.
The street cleaning could be accomplished simply by not renewing licenses presently granted to tour companies, when their licenses come up for renewal. I believe reducing street congestion and improving quality of life (a popular cry of some elected officials) would be sufficient legal and moral reason not to renew those licenses. The tour companies and cruise ship lines would howl, and perhaps some businesses out on North Roosevelt, but everyone else might be delighted.
Something needs to be done for Bahama Village. That’s going to be tough for a variety of reasons. A good start would be to give Bahama Village say on how city law enforcement is deployed there.
Maybe more will come to me later. Maybe I will see a V of wild geese flying somewhere, and sprout wings and flap away with them.
After sending that to J, these thoughts came to me:
The Tree Commission needs to be reined in. Looks to me the city ordinances it is enforcing against private property owners were passed to regulate developers and city land, easements and rights of way.
The City needs to trim/or let Keys Energy Services and/or private homeowners trim trees back from power lines.
The City needs to let its property owners paint their roofs white, to reflect sunlight and lower electricity usage for air conditioners.
The City needs to encourage community gardens in its green spaces, and use treated water from its sewage treatment plant to irrigate those gardens and its green spaces.
The City needs to turn lower Duval Street into a pedestrian/arts and crafts and musicians and street performers’ mall every afternoon and evening.
Last night, I called Sandy Downs (photo) about Nashville J had sent about TVA, which I included in yesterday post:
Just thought I would pass along a little info on power lines and trees here in the Nashville area and how TVA handles it. As I remember – the power company in Key West refuses to cut them.
The TVA though says this is all part of necessary line maintenance that needs to be done to keeps the power running and their customers safe.
“The tree doesn’t have to touch a line for it to be a problem, it can grow in proximity to a line and be a problem,” says John Dooley with the TVA.
Under state law the TVA has the authority to cut and trim any kind of plants or trees that grow in the easement area around their power lines.
That led to Sandy telling me quite a bit that mostly was news to me, which I will summarize:
After getting nowhere with her efforts in Key West to do something about the City’s Tree Commission, Sandy spoke with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture’s Office, the Governor of Florida’s Office, US Senator Nelson’s Office, the Florida Senate Joint Administrative Procedure’s Committee, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Public Service Commission.
Some months passed of going back and forth and round and round.
Early last November, Sandy told a fellow at the Public Service Commission to go to Google Map and use it to drive through the parts of Key West where tourists go, especially Old Town, and see where power lines were in trees.
Early last December, Sandy told Rebecca Jetton at DEO, whose south Florida office has jurisdiction of the Florida Keys, how the City of Key West and its Tree Commission were using ordinances DEO had approved for regulating development, to gouge private property owners; and how the City of Key West had changed an ordinance DEO had approved, so the Tree Commission could gouge private property owners.
Rebecca told Sandy that was the second time the City of Key West had done something like that. Rebecca asked Sandy if she had talked with Key West’s City Attorney Shawn Smith about all of that? Sandy said she had talked with Shawn and he had said what the City and Tree Commission were doing was illegal and there was nothing he could do about it. Rebecca said that didn’t sound like the Shawn Smith she knew, and she was going to call him right then and there.
Sandy said, not long afterward she saw Asplundh and Keys Energy Services tree crews running around Old Town Key West chopping tree limbs in power lines back to the trunk. Butchering trees. The kind of limb cutting the Tree Commission would have buried Sandy’s tree company for doing.
Not long afterward Sandy was before the Tree Commission on an application to remove a problem tree on land of a homeowner, which application was denied. I was there for that, then I left.
After I left, Sandy heard Kenny King, who does a lot of tree work in Key West, speak to the Tree Commission. King had a lot of permit requests for total removal of trees on private property, which had been cut back to the trunk – butchered by Asplundh or Keys Energy Services tree crews. King told the Tree Commission that never in all his years in the tree business had he seen trees be butchered like that. Sandy said Kenny has been been in the tree business at least 20 years in Key West. He is a Conch, and he is the one the Tree Commission refers business to.
Sandy said, with her sitting in the audience, the Tree Commission told King they could not give him permits that night, but they would try to work out hardship permits to be issued at the next month’s Tree Commission meeting.
Sandy said Paul Williams, the City of Key West’s Urban Forester, told her that he left that job yesterday and is going to work for Everglades City. Paul told Sandy that the City is broke, its tree maintenance equipment is old and worn out and cannot be replaced, and the City is looking at contracting out all of its own tree work.
Sandy said Paul told her that the City wants to remove all of its many trees that were planted in wrong placeas and are dying. The City cannot take care of them and doesn’t want the liability of trees falling on people and homes. Sandy said that is why the City wants homeowners to keep their trees, no matter the cost or inconvenience to homeowners.
Sandy said Paul told her that there is an opening on the Tree Commission and she should apply for it, or have her arborist apply for it, or her son, who heads up her company’s tree crews. Then, on learning from Sandy that neither she nor her arborist or son were born in Key West, Paul said that would not work because the City wanted people born in Key West to be on the Tree Commission.
Sandy said the Chairman of the Tree Commission, Neils Weise, who, along with Assistant City Attorney Ronald Ramsingh, had given her the most grief, had resigned from the Tree Commission. Ramsingh is the Tree Commission’s lawyer. I personally saw and heard him steer the Tree Commission to do things at a Tree Commission meeting, where Sandy’s company was charged with violations, which I thought were grounds for disbarment.
Mainly, Ramsingh would not let Sandy call Tree Commissioners or City employees to testify in her defense, and he misrepresented to the Tree Commission that the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals had ruled in an earlier Tree Commission case that people hauled before the Tree Commission could not call Tree Commissioners or City employees as defense witnesses.
Furthermore, Sandy asked and was told twice at the beginning of her tree company’s part of that Tree Commission meeting, I was there and put her up to it, that the meeting was being recorded; but when she went to City Hall the next day, she got the run around about getting a copy of the recording, and finally it came out that there was no recording of that meeting.
I told Sandy there was no way City Attorney Shawn Smith could do nothing about what Ramsingh was doing. Shawn hires and fires Assistant City Attorneys, and answers not to the City Manager but to the City Commission.
Sandy and I both have a court reporter’s transcript of a Tree Commission meeting we did not attend, in June 2009, at which Ramsingh and the Tree Commissioners talked about getting caught by a Key West lawyer at a prior Tree Commission meeting, when they were trying to screw the lawyer’s client, Paul Tripp, and how they would have to pass new ordinances to enable them to keep screwing the public. They didn’t say screw. They said continue to do what they had been doing. The new ordinances never were passed.
I told Sandy a year ago to file a grievance against Ramsingh with the Flordia Bar Association. Maybe I messed up by not telling her to file a grievance against Shawn Smith, too.
It is known in Key West what the Tree Commission and Ramsingh do. The Tree Commission are called the Tree Nazis down there. They were clobbered in an editorial in The Key West Citizen. Sandy told me that she sat down face to face with Mayor Cates and told him what the Tree Commission was doing, and he told her to sue the city. In emails, I told the city commissioners and the mayor what the Tree Commission and Ramsingh were doing. Tree Commissioners are appointed by the mayor with the advice of the city commissioners. Tree Commissioners serve at the leisure of the mayor and the city commissioners.
The Tree Commission gouges private property owners in several ways the law does not allow. Property owners are charged fees for trimming limbs back, and they are charged for removing trees that are diseased, causing problems or they do not want. These fees are couched as “donations”, instead of as fees. In lieu of paying donations, private property owners can do mitigation and buy equivalent trees, or many smaller trees which add up to the equivalent, to be given to the City and planted on its land, at the property owners’ expense.
Private property owners know that objecting and appealing to the City Magistrate is futile, because the City Magistrate will side with the Tree Commission and charge the property with court costs and the City’s attorney fee. So private property owners either do what the Tree Commission tells them to do, or property owners hire lawyers to represent them at Tree Commission meetings, like Paul Tripp did.
To this day, Sandy’s tree company cannot get a tree removal permit for a private property owner in Key West, without her client being gouged. To this day, her company is treated differently from how other tree company’s are treated. To this day, Sandy’s private property owners in Key West do not get the same treatment from the Tree Commission, which other private property owners in Key West get.
Sandy said she has lost all interest in fighting the City and its Tree Commission. She did not recover for the private property owners the loot the City’s Tree Commission gouged out them, but maybe she made the City’s RICO enterprise less lucrative; and maybe she headed off more people, like her 15-year-old son Preston, being electrocuted by trees in or near power lines.