Pearl Harbor lookout naval battles continue in Key West

Pearl Harbor lookout

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First, some housekeeping.

Despite my dogged efforts, I am unable to use a new email contacts list to send daily bombing runs to people by email. MSN/Hotmail’s “upgraded” Outlook Express doesn’t allow importation of the new contacts list, and I had no better luck with a Yahoo email account. So, I seem where I wanted to be all along, which is leaving it for people to spread the word about my websites, if they feel other people might wish to check out those sites. The most recent daily ravings come up right away at each site: goodmorningfloridakeys.com, goodmorningkeywest.com, goodmorningbirmingham.com

If there is more than one post on any given day, each post says that at the top and provides a link to the other post(s). Today there are three different posts, and you should be able to reach them buy clicking on these links at any time:

Calamity Jane visits No Name Key

Pearl Harbor lookout naval battles continue in Key West

Yes, the early humans were genetically altered by ancient astronauts, but don’t get sidetracked by that lore

I told the angels all along, it was my job to publish what they ran through my soul and body day and night, making me miserable in the process; and it was their job to spread it around, if they wanted it spread around. I’ve done everything I can to spread it around, and it didn’t end up amounting to much. That tells me, either it wasn’t worth being spread around, or the angels continued their longstanding practice of holding to a trickle how much of what they gave me to write ended up being seen by other people.

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Meanwhile, my thoughts on what follows are in italics

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Truman Waterfront

An Editorial in The Key West Citizen today,

Closing harbor slams door on park funding

When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the city of Key West’s grand plans for a Truman Waterfront Park will come to a screeching halt.

As of tomorrow, Feb. 25, the U.S. Navy permanently closes the Truman Harbor to all civilian boats.

The city and its residents will become owners of a waterfront park without access to the water — a waterfront park where you can only look at the water.

The Navy’s action halts the city’s use of the existing boat ramp and revokes the 2002 quit claim deed granting the use of the Truman Harbor Area Development Zone, which includes about 825 feet of the East Quay seawall.

One, that would be the Navy, cannot just up and renounce a quit claim deed, unless one has something written and binding with the grantee of the quit claim deed, that would be the City of Key West, saying one, the Navy, can up and renounce the quit claim deed.

This zone was destined to be the area where a city marina would be built; the museum ship Ingham has been docked along the seawall for years.

Citing the need to protect its national defense mission, Naval Air Station Key West Commander Capt. Pat Lefere signed the Navy closure order.

Lefere said the order had been under consideration for a couple of years, that it went “all the way up the chain of command” and was issued in accordance to the code of federal regulations and the Department of Defense operational and training requirements.

Well, now, that means it came down from Headquarters. Well, now,  that, along with the Peary Court brouhaha, might mean Key West has lost any favor with the Navy, which I certainly enjoyed for decades, including when Jim Scholl was commandant of the Navy base, which sprawls Key West up through Rockland Key, and when Jim was City Manager of Key West, after he retired from the Navy. Perhaps Jim’s successor commandant and Headquarters weren’t entirely thrilled that the base commander retired on probably full pension and benefits, to go to work for the base’s host city and biggest “business partner”. Maybe that raised eyebrows all the way up to Headquarters.

Lefere said a marina is not compatible with increasing ship operations and the near-continuous dive training in the harbor. He indicated that circumstances simply have changed in the 10 years since the Navy transferred the property to the city. Case closed.

To be sure, the Navy stated in the 2002 deed that certain heightened security issues and “emergency conditions” could warrant the periodic closure of the harbor and adjacent shore. However, it does clearly specify an area where a city marina could be developed, and a Navy representative was seated on city boards that reviewed the marina plans throughout the years.

That was back when the Navy and the City of Key West were cozy, maybe not operating entirely at arms length.

This absolute closure of the harbor — coming after over a decade of planning for a marina to serve as the park’s economic engine — is devastating news to city taxpayers.

Without any on-site revenue generated by a marina, or ramp use fees, the millions of dollars to construct and maintain such a large park facility will fall on the shoulders of city taxpayers.

This is not what the cash-strapped city or its residents bargained for.

No, they came up with their own personal agendas for the waterfront land, none of which would pay for the upkeep, all of which entailed the city giving portions of the land to those citizens pet projects, including the waterfront marina, none of which pet projects worked out, other than to tie the different portions of the land up for ten years.

If this closure was contemplated for a couple of years, why did the Navy wait so long to inform the city of its plans to take back the harbor zone?

I seriously doubt City Hall didn’t know the Navy was having second thoughts. How could the Navy not be having second thoughts, after observing the way the city was going about not putting the free Navy land to good use?

This does not speak well to the prospects of developing the balance of this land; city officials should wonder what other Navy plans could be quietly in the works.

We repeatedly have used this space to criticize the city’s lack of progress in developing this park. Unfortunately, it now appears the city’s inaction can be expressed by the old idiom, “If you snooze, you lose.”

Snooze is euphemism for if you keep screwing around.

To his credit, Mayor Cates was quick to reach for the lipstick to — well, you know what. However, we do not believe there is an easy way to put a happy face on this financial mess.

Craig Cates

To his credit? This happened on Mayor Cates’ watch! To his credit, indeed.

The city may be able to cobble together some grant funding to build portions of the park, like the amphitheater. However, issuing municipal bonds is now probably not an option as they are usually secured by specified revenue source.

The prospects of significant ongoing maintenance expenses now loom large.

We need only look at the deterioration of Rest and Smathers beaches and other city parks in need of various degrees of major maintenance as basic indicators of the magnitude of tax dollars needed to maintain a 30-plus-acre park.

We suggest that the city begin anew the arduous process of determining revenue sources that might be exempt from future Navy restrictions.

Ah, well, maybe the Navy would be happy for Key West to locate its new City Hall at Truman Waterfront, a government facility with plenty of parking. A brand new City Hall might last longer and cost less to build and maintain, than an old elementary school will cost to be renovated and maintained.

Ah, well, maybe the Navy would be happy for Key West to designate the rest of the Truman Waterfront land to a community garden, irrigated by treated wastewater from the City’s state of the art wastewater plant on Fleming Key, which man-made island the city also shares with the Navy.

The last thing taxpayers need is the prospect of shouldering 100 percent of the ongoing expenses of a huge waterfront park that has no access to water.

You don’t need access to salt water for a new City Hall and a community garden. The last thing the city needs is 10+ more years of jerking off over what to do with the land the Navy gave to the city.

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lipstick on a pig

Back to square 1 for Mallory building

Commissioner rues lost opportunity for revenue

BY GWEN FILOSA

Citizen Staff

The daily sunset celebration isn’t the only thing you can count on indefinitely at Mallory Square.

Key West’s deep harbor waterfront, historic in nature and crowded by economic design, will sport that vacant, battered former pizza joint building until further notice. The City Commission decided that inadvertently days ago by shooting down a developer’s request to demolish the ailing structure and replace it with a two-story eatery.

For now, there is no Plan B for the site, which some city leaders said isn’t cause for alarm.

“It’s not losing us because it’s not costing us,” said Mayor Craig Cates, who helped lead the vote to deny. “It’s been sitting there vacant; that one building has gone into disrepair. That falls back on the funky look of Key West. Not everything is perfect and modern — it’s historic and people enjoy coming.”

Spoken like a true Conch descended from a long line of true Conchs.

City staff and the Planning Board had recommended approving the proposal by Joe Walsh, the local restaurant magnate responsible for Caroline’s, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Mangoes and the forthcoming Waterfront Brewery at the city bight.

The deal would mean at least $300,000 a year in rent alone, City Manager Bob Vitas said in a memo to the commission.

But Walsh left Old City Hall on Tuesday night without striking a deal to re-create a corner of Mallory Square.

I bet Vitas now has a better sense of the conch world order he signed up to work for.

The two-story restaurant he envisioned was simply too large, commissioners said before voting 5-2 vote to deny the major development request.

This pleased local attorney Robert Cintron, who appeared before the dais to argue that his clients, the Westin Key West Resort — who lost a legal battle to stop Walsh’s plan — would suffer if the proposed 156-seat, 2,344 square-foot restaurant happened.

I bet the conch farm, if mi amigo Bob Cintron had not been getting paid by the Westin to deep six Walsh’s new restaurant next to the Westin and its restaurant, Bob Cintron would have been very happy to see Walsh be given the okay to move forward with his new restaurant. Well, perhaps not. Bob Cintron is good buddies with Fred Salinero, who was quoted in the previous article in The Citizen, as telling the City Commission his restaurant on Mallory Pier would go out of business, if Walsh was permitted to build and open his restaurant next to the Westin.

The sunset views could be stunted, Cates said. The mayor remarked that what concerned him most was a mock-up illustration Cintron brought that showed a two-story restaurant dominating the square.

Hell, Craig. The Westin is even higher. The new restaurant is on the side of the pier not facing the sunset. On the side of the pier facing the sunset is this sort of beautification award landscape.

Mallory cruise ship

 

“We did what was best for the citizens,” said Cates on Friday when asked about the future of the vacant building that until a few years ago was Dough Balls, a pizza and beer type of place with about 30 seats.

Right, Craig. What was best for the citizen who own the Westin, and for multi-generation Key West Conch Fred Salinero. Quack, quack, Duck Tours refrain. And to think, Craig, when I ran against you in 2009, I thought you were a straight-shooter. I had my head way up where the sun didn’t shine.

Walsh or someone else could repair and reopen the building, Cates offered, adding that Walsh could return to the drawing board and come back with a new package of plans.

Walsh said he would “most likely” stick with the project, for which he won the bid in 2010.

During a break in the commission meeting after the vote Tuesday, Cintron approached Walsh and they shook hands, smiling, in a “business is business” kind of way.

“It’s not personal,” Cintron told the prolific restaurant developer, who said he understood and would probably see him again soon on the matter.

No, Bob, it’s money.

But Commissioners Mark Rossi, the panel’s veteran, and Tony Yaniz, the newest member, dissented from the majority vote.

“That building is useless to the city of Key West,” said Rossi, who fumed on the dais as city staff explained there was no lease connected to the property anyway.

“I don’t have a problem with Mr. Walsh,” said Rossi. “I have a problem there is no lease for this particular building.”

In an interview Friday, Rossi hadn’t simmered down much over what he saw as a blown opportunity by city staff.

“It’s a valuable piece of real estate,” said Rossi. “It’s costing us $7,000 or $8,000 a month in lost revenue. It can be cleaned up and pressure-washed. It should have been bid out as an ongoing business concern and ran as a business.”

Rossi doesn’t like the idea of city property sitting idle, but like the rest of Key West he will have to wait to see what’s in store for the Mallory Square spot.

“I don’t think anything can be done now,” said Rossi. “Now the city’s stuck with a useless piece of property until we sort it out. This is not the way it should be done.”

The property didn’t do well as a pizza burger joint. It needed serious upscaling. Walsh is a seasoned Key West restaurant owner/operator. He knows the turf. The City Commission approved him for the redevelopment 2+ years ago. Now 4 commissioners and the mayor don’t like what they pretty much knew all along Walsh was going to do with the property? If I were Mark Rossi, I’d be a heap more fumed up about the giant door that 5 of his comrades in City Hall, including Mayor Cates, opened to a Duck Tours sequel lawsuit, which ended up costing the city taxpayers $8 million, plus heaps of in-house legal counsel and staff time, and ourside trial counsel’s fees.

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cruise ship leaves Outer Mole

Cruise stop in Key West was peaceful, relaxing

I visited Key West many times by different ways of travel. Recently, my sister and I sailed on the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas in May of 2012.

As we sailed into Key West Harbor very early in the morning, we noticed how peaceful it was. It was so nice to walk off the ship and onto the pier. We had a choice to walk around the pier or take a taxi into town. Also, there were postings of “specials” and “events of the day” from the local merchants.

We noticed people sitting on the pier having a bite to eat, while enjoying the view and warm sun. There were shops to the left, so we started our visit there. The merchants were friendly and helpful. We purchased something in every store. Later we took a taxi into town, where we managed to walk around and not get lost. Having many choices of restaurants gave us more time to enjoy our visit rather than waiting in lines to be seated.

Our visit in Key West was very relaxing. Being able to walk around casually and knowing you are safe makes you want to return.

Diane Prendergast

Cumberland, R.I.

Gosh, Diane, you must not have been standing on the rear deck when your cruise ship came into and left Key West. You must not have seen how relaxing the bottom of the channel was. You must not have talked to locals who have to endure the hordes you represent, spilling onto Mallory Pier and Lower Duval Street, and riding traffic-jamming conch trains and trolleys through Old Town and elsewhere in Key West, traumatizing citizens with loud speakers. You must be doing research on the next version of The Ugly American. To help you in that nobel (spelled that way intentionally) endeavor, here’s a pretty article about the wonderful industry you support, which article I published a few days ago. Maybe that’s how The Key West Citizen learned of it?

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Genteel Charleston in tussle over cruise ships

BY KIM SEVERSON New York Times News Service

In this Southern coastal city that runs on history and hospitality, a raucous civic debate belies its genteel veneer.

Like several communities that hug the nation’s coastline, Charleston is struggling to balance the economic benefits of cruise ships against their cultural and environmental impact.

Last week’s debacle aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines’ ship Triumph, in which an engine fire stranded 4,200 people in the Gulf of Mexico for five days, has done little to deter those civic leaders who believe building a new $35 million cruise terminal will be a great boon for this port city.

But for people like Jay Williams, a homeowner in the historic district who writes a blog for Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, a preservationist group, the nightmare on the Triumph is one more piece of evidence in the case against a fast-growing form of travel.

“Cruise ships are sardine cans packed with passengers and crew, susceptible to horrific accidents that instantly can put thousands at risk for their lives,” he wrote after the episode.

Cruising has never been more popular or affordable, with its mix of easy travel, exotic locales and onboard amenities that include cooking schools and simulated surfing. In 2012, cruise ships carried 20 million passengers, the majority of them from the U.S. With 14 new cruise ships entering the water in 2014, the number of passengers is expected to increase by as much as 8 percent.

But on the shores of the nation’s most charming cities and towns, the relationship is complicated.

In Key West, voters will decide this fall whether to spend $3 million toward (a study on) widening a channel that leads to the city’s ports, where 350 cruise ships arrive each year. A deeper channel would allow a new, larger class of cruise ships to dock. Business owners and residents worry the dredging would hurt fragile coral reefs and further overwhelm the town.

In Alaska on Tuesday, state lawmakers rolled back tough wastewater standards mandated by voters in 2006. The bill, backed by Gov. Sean Parnell, will allow the 36 cruise ships that travel Alaska’s waters each year to discharge wastewater with less treatment than it currently receives.

Michelle Ridgway, a marine ecologist who serves on the state science panel for cruise ships, watched as Alaska cruise ship traffic grew to about 1 million people a year and changed her hometown of Ketchikan.

“The pulp mill closed and the place turned into Disneyland,” she said.

Charleston’s cruise ship debate seems small by comparison, but it is deeply felt.

The Fantasy — at 23 years old, the oldest ship in the Carnival Cruise Lines fleet — has been based in Charleston since 2010. It slides into port once or twice a week. Some 2,000 passengers, most of whom have driven in from nearby states, walk through an aging terminal, climb aboard and sail off to the Bahamas or the Caribbean for a few days or a week. Other cruise ships sometimes stop to visit the city, too.

The South Carolina Ports Authority wants to build a new ship terminal that port officials say will handle only one ship at a time, but the frequency of ships could increase.

Those dedicated to preserving a section of town whose buildings date back to the 1700s worry that a new terminal will bring a damaging concentration of tourist traffic and larger cruise vessels.

“I can’t believe they are doing this to Charleston,” said Carolyn Dietrich, who lives just a few blocks from the terminal. “I can hear the announcements from my house,” she said. “And that black smoke. It just tumbles out of that smokestack. You should see the dust in my car.”

Port officials point out that cruise ships are a tiny slice of the city’s shipping traffic. More than 1,700 vessels use the port every year, and only 85 of those are cruise ships. And cruise traffic, they say, is worth $37 million a year to the region.

But this city takes its preservation seriously. The specter of more cruise ships has spawned three state and federal lawsuits and placed the city’s historic district on the World Monuments Fund’s list of most endangered cultural sites.

The intensity of opposition has the usually composed mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., baffled and angry.

“This thing is hard to understand because it’s not logical,” he said. “This is not a theme park. One of the authentic parts of Charleston is that we are an international port.”

He points out that the city will get a new waterfront park, and that it has an agreement with the port that caps the number of ships a year at 104.

People wary of cruise ship traffic want the limit to be legally binding. They also want the ships to plug into electrical power on shore, a newer technology only some ships have. (Shore power exists at some Alaska and California ports and is in the process of being adapted at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal in Red Hook.)

But mostly, they want the port to consider two other spots along the waterfront, which the mayor and port officials say are unworkable logistically.

Not that cruise ship passengers worry too much about the impact their vacations have on local communities. Battles over local or federal legislation, like the Clean Cruise Ship Act, which died in Congress in 2010, are not as interesting as which name-brand chef is going to open a restaurant on board.

“Our audience doesn’t really respond to the municipal-level battles or the environmental stuff,” said Dan Askin, senior editor at cruisecritic.com, a consumer website dedicated to cruise ships.

The cruise ship industry has less comprehensive oversight than the airline industry, which is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Ships fly under foreign flags and their parent companies are incorporated overseas, leaving regulation to a patchwork of federal, state and, rarely, local laws.

That puts more responsibility on local communities that host cruise ships, said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director at Friends of the Earth, an environmentalist group.

“They need to not just listen to the cruise ship industry or assume regulations are in place,” she said. “They need to talk to other cities that have gone through this.”

A cautionary tale might be found in Mobile, Ala., where Carnival Cruise Lines hauled the lifeless Triumph last week. Mobile would gladly take any cruise ship traffic at all.

The port and the city romanced Carnival Cruise Lines for years. In 2004, after the city borrowed $20 million to build a terminal, Carnival finally agreed to the relationship and based a ship there.

In 2007, the Carnival Corp. named Mobile its port of the year. Things were going so well that in 2009, Mobile spent $2.6 million on a new gangway.

Two years later, Carnival left.

The location just wasn’t popular enough, it said, and rising fuel costs made Mobile a less efficient port than New Orleans.

“It’s a mobile fleet, so they can move to a place that is giving them the best deal,” said Askin. “That’s good for the companies, but bad things start to happen to cities when ships bail out.”

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Pearl Harbor lookout

If you Pearl Harbor lookouts in Key West don’t like cruise ships now, imagine the future forcasted in this editorial cartoon in The Key West Citizen a few years back. A future your mayor, Craig Cates, wants you to enjoy. You know that from the way he has gone along with a channel widening study.

cruise ship invasion

Sloan Bashinsky

keysmyhome@hotmail.com

About Sloan

Darn, that would take a while. Try the autobiographical pages in the header. Ditto for header menu pages at www.goodmorningbirmingham.com. Hatched and raised there, eventually I ran away from home. Here's a short list: Born 1942; male; single; accused of all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable things, perhaps some true. Live on Key West of Weird asteroid. Publish something most days on this website, been at that since July 2007. That's heaps of catch-up reading, probably not recommended.
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