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On the demise of Key West’s beloved Solares Hill Sunday Magazine, a string of laments and hopes, some I already published, some new:
Paul, formerly of Key West, now living in the Homestead area, addressed to the Editor of the Citizen, copied to me:
To the Editor,
No more Solares Hill?
That means extreme damage to what little was left of “the real Key West”. Besides the Shrimp, the Shipwrecks and the record Marlin, there is (was) another side of Key West that you don’t seem to get.
You just put a terminal bullet in it, Skippy.
I still have a year on my Citizen subscription. I paid for two years, largely on the strength of Mark Howell once a week.
I.E.: Whatever he does… I don’t care what he does. Let’s just see what he does, next week.
Howell was something for moderately sentient Island people to anticipate, DEPENDABLY, each week. You just killed that for a lot of them, Editor.
The Citizen, clearly, does have other people who can write, but that does not make you Solares Hill. Perhaps, ever since Solares Hill was crammed into the back corner of the Citizen’s building, the handwriting has been on the wall.
Editor, it’s impossible for me to write further without expressing the most profound contempt for you , personally.
You don’t belong anywhere near Key West.
Have you ever been on Madison Avenue, Bubba? It might be right be right be right up your alley.
Peggy Butler, formerly of Key West, who wrote for Celebrate, a weekly newspaper – this was published by the Citizen as a letter to the editor:
Solares Hill will be missed
It was with sadness I learned of the demise of Solares Hill, and although I understand the connection between needing adequate paid advertising and continuing publication, I’m still sorry it came to that.
Mark Howell will be especially missed. His kind of journalism is rare and his writing made it seem that we readers were sitting across from him in a comfortable armchair while he was telling us his stories one on one, especially the exciting stories of the Keys connection to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I met Mark when I first started covering the Key West City Commission in 2005 for Celebrate, another publication we mourned when it, too, was gone. Over the years I continued to cover it for the Internet and always had the pleasure of sitting in the front row next to Mark. I so enjoyed our lively chats about our families and politics before the meetings commenced. Mark, you will be missed. I wish you well in this next phase of your exciting life.
I hope The Citizen will continue to bring us the marvelous art reviews of Connie Gilbert, whom I also have had the privilege of knowing for the past 12 years, both as a friend and fellow writer. It will be a tremendous loss to the art world that is Key West if we can no longer count on having the intelligent, lively and picturesque reviews by this very talented art critic.
Lastly, I hope The Citizen will continue to bring us the outstanding writing of food columnist Joanna Brady Schmida, featuring colorful, delicious recipes of local cuisine found nowhere else but the Florida Keys, as well as the unique history of many of her featured dishes. No syndicated food columnist could bring to the “table” what she does. I met Joanna around the same time I met Mark Howell, at my first meeting of the Key West Writer’s Guild, and I value her friendship and admire her writing talent.
So there you have it, my totally biased views about never reading Solares Hill and Mark Howell again, and my hopes for seeing the continued work of the two columnists above in the Sunday Citizen.
West Palm Beach
Editor’s note: Many of the familiar Solares Hill features are showcased in the Keys Life section of today’s Citizen and will appear each Sunday.
I wrote to Peggy:
I saw your letter to the editor in the Citizen today and how they are trying to whitewash what they really did, without saying they really did it.
I noticed at the end of my letter they said some of the Solares Hill material/writers would appear in this copy of the Citizen and every Sunday. Did you see any of them? I sure didn’t and I read every page of the paper.
I saw three book reviews by David and Nancy Beckwith, who are co-authors of a book series. Looks like they did the reviews to draw attention to their own books. Don’t know if they ever wrote reviews for Solares Hill. In 2008, Mark Howell,
wrote a review of my last novel, HEAVY WAIT: A Strange Tale, which he said would run the following Sunday, but it did not run. When I wrote to Mark about it, he replied that “We” decided, since I was running for the county commission, it would not be fair to the other candidates for the Citizen to run the review, but after the election, the review could be run. After the election was over, I saw Mark somewhere and asked about running the Citizen running the review. He said the review never would run. Subtext, a few days before Mark’s review was to run, I busted his boss, Tom Tuell, the Citizen’s Editor, in a post on my websites. I never saw a copy of Mark’s review, have no clue what he wrote.
Connie Gilbert, of Key West, who wrote for Solares Hill:
Granted I’m way behind in reading your blogs . . . Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and all that . . . but while I deeply appreciate your sharing the dismay we all feel about the demise of Solares Hill, you need to know that the anonymous “Editor” of Paul’s indictment had nothing to do with it. In the first place, with Tom Tuell’s departure last month, the Citizen doesn’t have a real editor. A relative newcomer and real pro named Sandra Frederick is filling in at the moment; I believe her title is News Editor. But Cooke Communications is a corporation, and Cooke Corporate killed Solares Hill. Publisher Paul Clarin (a nice guy as near as I know) might have been in on it–or not. But he didn’t have the last say. The economics are more complicated than just not enough ad revenue coming in for SH–word is they lost a major, major client (having nothing to do with SH) and SG was the sacrificial lamb. Also–I suspect they weren’t really fond of SH’s political slant–they’re the ones who forced the Citizen to endorse Romney over the objections of the majority of the editorial board–even the Republicans, I understand.
Today is Sunday, and the condolences I’ve received reflect a big yawn for the SH features carried over (three endless book reviews and a couple of columns–frankly, I love the columns). I hope they’ll run my stuff, but I’m not holding my breath.
Paul wrote to me:
Your friend Connie’s right: I should have sent my complaint to the Publisher, not the gentle, hardworking Editor. Definitely a mistake. Next day, I did write an apology to the Citizen’s Editor for the incorrect address, but not for the admittedly nasty tone.
The thing, now, is: How much money will it take to get Mark reopened at a ‘storefront’ location – like that little stone church on Simonton – where once both Mark and Allison wrote with editor Dave at the ‘old’, independent Solares Hill.
Those were the days when the paper was an unfettered public asset … the little verbo engine that could, and did deliver, every week. I wonder how much of an expense budget they had to cover annually.
It takes a lot of dependable advertising for the tiniest weekly paper to squeak by.
Remember KWTN where Dennis Cooper constantly struggled (18-20 hrs/6) to get enough paying ads to let him keep the thing afloat? He was both editor and business manager, singlehanded. It was often week to no – frills week battle for him.
Solares Hill has more content and therefore requires more supporting overhead. It must keep that quality of news content to be itself. The real weekly load is too much for any one biped to keep delivering both consistently and well. In the Nineties, at that Church, you had Dave, Allison and Mark for content, Just For CONTENT. They were what made the paper so dependably good. They delivered, nicely, across a range of subjects interesting to local readers. There were also two absolutely requisite production staff people working 5 days a week to crank the thing out on time. Without them, the content people must do part or ( like Cooper) all of production … And Content Will Thereby Suffer.
As you know, Sloan, it not only takes time to write articles, but also to research them well. SH writers have to talk to many different people in the community and elsewhere, and that takes time. If they cannot take that time, both accuracy and detail will be impacted. So more people than some dollar driven minimum are flatly necessary to deliver the real Solares Hill. It’s expensive to deliver quality across a range of topics, but that’s what people here have always liked about Solares Hill. They’ll take SH Lite, but those here who remember the real organic thing would rather have that. Permanently.
Where can Mark fund such a reliable budget? Some wealthy Fan or Fans? Perhaps a revolving grant? Remember – it has to be a source that would not touch Editorial discretion or else it’s not Solares Hill. Veteran readers have come to trust it’s editors’ judgment. Enough money can permit, not guarantee, talent to flourish. Without a realistic expense budget, though, content may reliably be expected to suffer.
If news and opinion content were to suffer too much at a publication like Solares Hill, it would exist only in name? What would be the point of lamenting its closing? In fact, Solares Hill explored in depth community stuff that the Citizen routinely glossed over, or blithely ignored.
Yes, the Citizen must have serious Ad Revenues. It has a financially valid excuse for maintaining chronic partial myopia. Yet it still has much valuable daily content. We still like the Citizen. Its editorial imperfections are quite bearable here, as long as there are regularly published, thoughtful, alternative points of view. People we actually know. Solares Hill had been the best outlet for local voices on Key West for decades. People here want to keep it. The death of the living Reef we can’t control. The demise of a vibrant newsweekly, we can.
Like you, Sloan, Solares Hill gave Key West an awareness it would not otherwise have had. So, we’re not talking about resurrecting some revolutionary, counterculture, combat tract using an emergency loan. A revived Solares Hill would have to mean: not, “Do or Die”, but, “Do it Well, again, or Forget It.”
Maybe Mark could restart an online Solares Hill with less expense. Think: The Blue Paper. Still, there’d be non-virtual expenses to meet. Some kind of small office space is a necessity for a local newspaper. People want to be able to be able to find the place in person.
Remember a short lived TV series about Key West that revolved around a small newspaper office? That picture perfect TV “set” is still located a few feet off Fleming, appended to a successful Guest House. Something that size would be just right for Mark and Co. As things now stand, ”Key West without Solares Hill” will forever paint a more anemic weekly picture of “Here” than Real Islanders – or their valued, upscale guests – want to see. So, what to do, then?
First, (someone) comes up with a working Outline and then a Budget to support it. Second? … (someone) get the money. Third, (someone) tells Mark the good news and puts his ass back to work.
Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Hi, Paul -
I still think you should send yours to the Publisher, and I’m still glad you sent it to me, to post on my websites.
It would be wonderful if some wealthy person, or wealthy persons, step up and put Mark Howell and Solares Hill back in business. There are people in Key West who could do it without any financial discomfort, although their emotional or ego discomfort might give them some fits.
Naja and Arnaud Girard are taking in considerably less advertising revenue than Dennis Cooper took in when he published Key West the Newspaper. However, he published a paper edition, and an online version, and they only publish online. For them, it may prove to be mostly a labor of love, blood, sweat and tears, but right now they are kicking ass and I was glad to see Dennis Cooper join them in the two most recent issues.
Me, I just write and comment on an publish what others send me, or what shows up in the newspapers or online or TV news, as my Editorial Board directs. I tend not to be pressed as hard to do deep factual research, I am all allowed to publish rumors and other people’s opinions. Naja and Arnaud have to be more thorough and exacting, in the pure investigative journalism sense.
I never figured my websites would be for profit. Nothing the angels get me into seems to be for profit, in the money going into my pocket sense. Perhaps there is a spiritual bank where I’m making deposits. I suppose I will know when I ain’t still on this planet any more.
Meanwhile … In the vein of writing for writing’s sake, Mark Howell and the other Solares Hill writers are welcome to send me their writings they want published, and I am pretty sure Naja and Arnaud Girard feel the same.
In the past, I published heaps of missives from Larry Murray, former member of the school board’s volunteer Audit & Finance Committee, and a 2012 school board candidate, as was I, in the same race. Time passed and I moved toward other topics. However, this the other day from Larry to the school board chairman, schools superintendent, and the other school board members certainly got my attention.
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2013 18:01:47 -0700
Subject: Televising Public Input
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; John.Dick@KeysSchools.com
As always, I listened to your interview Friday with Bill Becker on “Morning Magazine”.
I must disagree vigorously with your scheme to have public input before the School Board meetings and workshops are called to order, and not to televise those comments. Public comment is as much a part of meetings and workshops as any other aspect and it deserves to be treated accordingly. Separating public comment from the meeting or workshop effectively removes it from the Board’s deliberations and renders it moot.
Public comment must be part of the meeting or workshop and, in that regard, must be televised. Minutes of the meeting and the televised recording are the formal and informal record of the events. If public comment is not included, there will be no record of the public’s input for future reference. It will be as if the input never occurred. The public has as much right as Board members or anyone else to have its commentary made part of the permanent record.
As for “playing to the camera” in the “bright lights”, we all know that is not true. First of all, there are no “bright lights” at Board events. Televising is done with the standard, ambient room lighting. There is no special lighting.
Second, I have never seen anyone speak to the Board who was “playing to the camera”. People get up, say what they have to say and sit down. I would appreciate an example or two from you of when you observed that someone was “playing to the camera”, capitalizing on the camera to put on a performance that they otherwise would not make. My experience is that individuals come to address the Board and the fact that their remarks are being televised is purely ancillary.
The method by which Board events is televised is extremely passive and unobtrusive. The camera is small and barely visible, hardly noticeable. We are not talking about the mechanics of a commercial television production in a studio. Whether people stand or sit makes no difference to the camera.
That being the case, if some speakers are shy and do not want to be on television and thus part of the record, then they should exercise their right to address Board members in a personal manner. The public can call Board members, send them emails, stop them on the street or whatever to communicate their concerns. And, you know full well that people do that. To create an unrecorded input session prior to Board gatherings is both unnecessary and superfluous.
It is imperative that the Board comply with state law after October 1, 2013 regarding public input. My understanding is that the superintendent was fully briefed by legal counsel regarding the changes. That the superintendent supposedly failed to inform you is something that you need to address with him, not complain that counsel did not do its job. I assume that you and the superintendent speak regularly.
In the meantime, I hope that you drop your scheme for unrecorded public input and proceed with reshaping public input at your meetings and workshops in a manner that complies with both the spirit and intent of the law. We do not need second class, unrecorded, segregated public input.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
I replied to All:
Somebody please tell me this is a joke. Just joking. It sounds so typical, it probably isn’t a joke.
Speak for yourself, Larry.
What’s the point in taking the time to go to what is usually a seriously boring school board meeting to speak for 3 minutes on something, if the public does not have a chance to hear what I say? What’s the point in even having citizen comments, if the public is not able to watch and hear them?
Hell, I never expected the board to take to heart anything I told them during citizen comments. My target audience, always, was the viewing public. I figured if what I said wasn’t aired on TV, the public would never have a chance to hear it.
Have you been beating up on the school board at meetings, Larry? Has some other citizen been doing that, like Margaret Romero? Are the board members tired of the public seeing and hearing the school board and district be criticized in public?
Is the next step to muzzle board member Ed Davidson?
Rather, try to muzzle him. LOL
What, if anything, approximately, did Bill Becker say when Andy floated this?
Larry wrote just to me:
Well put. I do not recall Bill Becker saying anything in particular.
As for muzzling Ed Davidson, that is on the agenda of sorts. Andy and the Board are wrestling with how to do that, but there is no question of their intent.
My meeting attendance has been irregular lately. Fortunately, through email I am able to do my best to keep them on the straight and narrow.
Hi again, Larry -
The odds of you, me, Ed Davidson, anyone, keeping them on the straight and narrow are about zip. If I had been Bill Becker, I would have said things to Andy,
on the air, which just might have persuaded Andy to not ever be on my show again.
PACs digging in as Oct. 1 election approaches
Both sides of channel-dredging study debate rake in cash and donations
The Greater Key West Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee raised nearly $85,000 between March and Sept. 6 for its pro-study on channel dredging campaign, outspending and outearning its competition by a slim margin.
In turn, the anti-study PAC, the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism, has collected about $74,000 during the same time period.
But the Chamber’s PAC raked in far more cash than its opponents as the Oct. 1 election date started closing in this month.
Between Aug. 17 and Sept. 6, the Chamber’s PAC took in more than $33,000 in contributions on top of about $28,000 worth of donated meeting space and food for its events, while the anti-study group took in $1,223 in cash and spent $7,506 during the same time period.
Of its recent $7,506 tab, the Responsible Tourism PAC spent $47,000 on phone calls and direct mail, $658 on magnets and $870 in advertising to Cooke Communications, which owns The Citizen.
From splashy advertising in print to the anti-study flags draped on homes across Old Town, the ballot question has easily dominated this election season, which headed into the home stretch Monday as early voting opened.
Early voting for the city election began Monday and will end Saturday, Sept. 28.
The Elections Office, 530 Whitehead St., is open for voters between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The dueling PACs hadn’t emptied their accounts by Sept. 6, their respective campaign treasurer’s reports show.
Responsible Tourism had spent $36,282 of its bankroll, while the Chamber’s PAC had spent $57,065.
The Chamber PAC spent the most on Clear Channel advertising during the period, paying about $5,200 to the company.
The PAC also paid attorney Jennifer Hulse’s law firm $5,000 on Sept. 1 for “outside contract services.”
Thus ends speculation that Jennifer was lobbying for the Mother Nature rape out of the goodness of her blessed little heart.
Hulse is an officer of the Chamber’s PAC and has been a spokeswoman advocating the study this year.
On Aug. 29, the Chamber’s PAC paid $2,431 to The Citizen for advertising.
Gamma Broadcasting of Big Pine Key, was paid $2,778 on Sept. 6 for advertising.
US 1 Radio?
Voters will decide Oct. 1 whether to direct the city to ask the Army Corps of Engineers for a study on the impacts of dredging the shipping channel to better accommodate cruise ships.
The issue that has divided Key West for the past year, starting when city commissioners punted the study decision to voters, has produced some hefty fundraising and spending.
Some pro-study donors reflect the financial foothold the cruise ships have in and around Duval Street:
Sloppy Joe’s owners kicked in $5,000 on Aug. 26, the same amount the Key West Bar Pilots Association gave on the same day, according to the Chamber PAC’s report filed Friday.
Front Street Realty and Front Street Investments kicked in $2,500 each.
But the most generous donor by far to the pro-study movement remains the Walsh family’s companies, such as the Westin Resort and Pier B Development, which runs a cruise ship dock.
Pier B, which cut a $20,000 check for the Chamber’s PAC in May, on Sept. 6 cut another for $15,000.
The Westin has donated more than $24,000 worth of meeting space, food and equipment between Aug. 21 and Sept. 5.
Both Historic Tours of America [Ed Swift] and the Hemingway House Museum, 907 Whitehead St., chipped in $5,000 to the pro-study PAC the week of Aug. 5.
The Hemingway Museum’s owner and CEO Michael Morawski and his wife Marilyn gave the Chamber’s PAC $1,000 on Aug. 7.
The Chamber’s PAC also reported nearly $20,000 in donations from a host of locals at $5 each from a few fundraising lunches held downtown. The $5 diners included former mayor Morgan McPherson, the PAC’s president, Dr. Robin Lockwood and John Dolan-Heitlinger, who helped create the Key West Seaport Alliance’s pro-study PAC.
Maybe I’ve been asleep, but this is the first I heard that Morgan is the President of the Chamber’s PAC. My understanding is, Dolan-Heitlinger is the only member of the Seaport Alliance’s PAC, and he is a front for Ed Swift, for whom he works.
The Sept. 4 cookout cost about $9,232, covered by a donation from the Westin Resort, according to the PAC’s latest report. An Aug. 28 lunch buffet came courtesy of the Westin, which reported another $9,232 in-kind donation.
On the anti-study side, which believes ordering the Corps to compile data about the effects of dredging on Key West commits the city to such a project, the largest donation between Aug. 17 and Sept. 6 was a $500 check from Keith Strickland, a local retiree, while Henry Rector, a Foreign Service Officer, gave $250 and investor Raymond Quinn kicked in $200.
Earlier this summer, William Basiliko, a local retiree, donated $2,000 to the anti-study PAC. Three donors each gave $500 in July: Betty Sesbeins, the McGrail Rowley watersports company, and attorney Patrick Raher.
Besides ripping up and killing a 1.4 mile long, 150 foot wide, 30 foot deep swath of native sea bed, the effect of dredging the channel wider will be to allow even bigger cruise ships to call on Key West and put even more money in the pro-dredgers’ pockets and cause even worse silt plumes than cruise ships now calling on Key West create.
City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley gave $20 during the same time period.
Looks to me that the pro-dredgers have far fewer (and much larger) money contributors than the anti-dredgers. If that is true, I hope it translates into the final vote.
The Corps may only spend up to $3 million on a feasibility study, which is meant to report the impacts of dredging on the local economy and environment.
A 2010 Corps study determined that while there is a definite economic boost awaiting Key West with dredging the channel to make it an easier landing for the cruise ships, there would likely be significant environmental harm.
No fucking shit!
Mitigation, the term for replacing any natural habitat disturbed, such as coral, would offset any damage, the Key West Seaport and the Chamber PAC’s “Support the Study” campaign have countered.
Mitigation, the term invented by a confederacy of evil-doers consisting of politicians and wolves in sheep clothing lawyers, developers and profiteers, to smozzle the public into applauding while they rape Mother Nature and then send her man-made body part replacements to make her feel better. Here’s how Mother Nature feels about that.