Fantasy Fest starts today, essentially …
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This was in my email box when I awoke at 2:30 a.m. today, and, because of dreams just before, I feel the angels like it:
You will see me rolling my thumbs and first fingers throughout the video. I am not aware of doing this, which started as I was coming out of what I call “the killer dark night of the soul” in mid-1998. The angels told my sixth wife, whom I met some time later, that the thumbs and fingers rolling is like rubbing worry beads.
Here is the Key West Citizen’s report on the homeless shelter part of the city commission meeting, my interjected thoughts in italics.
24-hour shelter losing ground
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
Key West can wait until after the new year to begin hashing out the best location for its overnight homeless shelter, city commissioners agreed this week.
In a unanimous decision late Wednesday, the commission approved a resolution that prevents city staff from spending a cent on further exploration of the former Easter Seals lot on College Road, a city-owned plot just a few blocks down from the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS).
But the frank discussion that surrounded Commissioner Billy Wardlow’s proposal included Commissioner Jimmy Weekley announcing his opposition to a 24-hour shelter to replace the island’s overnight bunkhouse built on county land in 2004 and Commissioner Tony Yaniz sounding off on his idea of a shelter.
“A tent, a toilet and a shower,” Yaniz said, toward the end of the commission’s nearly four-hour meeting at Old City Hall. “If our troops in Afghanistan are sleeping without air-conditioning, I’ll be damned if I’m giving it to the homeless.”
The much talked-about but never formally approved idea for a 24-hour shelter appears to have lost political ground needed to become a reality.
During Wednesday’s meeting, about 15 homeowners from the gated Key West Golf Course community showed up at the commission meeting to blast the idea of planting a homeless shelter on their side of College Road.
KOTS has to eventually move somewhere, according to the commission’s recent decision to settle a 2011 lawsuit with Sunset Marina condo owners who demanded the city move KOTS from its front entrance. Sheriff Rick Ramsay also looks forward to the day when the shelter isn’t next-door to his department, which he says stretched itself to monitor and clean up after homeless men and women.
Tom Milone told me that he heard jail trustys used to clean up KOTS were finding contraband, drugs mostly, stuffed into hiding places at KOTS and the contraband was being brought back into the jail.
On Thursday, Commissioner Clayton Lopez confirmed that he also opposes a 24-hour shelter and wants to reserve the Easter Seals lot as a candidate for the home of a new assisted living facility.
Lopez a year ago was among the 5 commissioners who approved a resolution committing to building a 24-hour shelter somewhere in Key West.
“It’s my compassion that made me support that then,” Lopez said Thursday. “But I’ve been hearing from my constituents and from other people around the city. I was never a fan of the idea but knowing we had to do something I was willing to go along with it.”
Mayor Craig Cates, who for two years has suggested a 24-hour shelter is a logical step in helping reduce the island’s homeless population, voted in unison, agreeing to reopen the homeless problem-solving with a new summit planned for sometime in January.
On Thursday, Cates said he never pitched air-conditioning and cable television for any homeless shelter, two items that Yaniz has thrown in when criticizing the mayor’s plans.
It was my understanding that the 24-hour shelter would be air-conditioned. I think the dormitories at KOTS are air-conditioned.
Yaniz said he will support only the bare minimums when it comes to the city providing temporary housing. On Wednesday he called the city’s mobile outreach program, an RV outfitted with case managers making themselves available for the roaming homeless, an “ice cream truck.”
I wonder if Yaniz has ridden on the bus for a few days, to see what it is peddling and how homeless respond to what it is peddling? I understand the bus provides a variety of services aimed at helping homeless to start getting their lives straightened out, including getting IDs, VA and Social Security benefits, counseling and medical help, career counseling, Internet services, re-contact with family and friends on the mainland.
“If the commission has better ideas then I’m all for them,” Cates said. “I’m trying to solve an issue that is continuing in Key West.”
Not possible, as I explained to Jenna Stauffer during the TV interview.
Cates says he was moving forward on the 24-hour idea that came from two years’ worth of committee meetings and a summit in which consultant Robert Marbut delivered a keynote address that Key West was merely enabling the homeless with its collective generosity and plentiful services.
“People changed their minds,” Cates said Thursday. “My goal in life is not to push this thing through no matter what. So many people now want to step up and be involved. They weren’t there a year ago.”
It sure looked and sounded to me that Mayor Cates wanted to push it through no matter what. To the point, that he excluded me and Father Stephen Braddock, who heads up Florida Keys Outreach Coalition, from his mayor’s homeless advisory committee, after inviting me, at least, to be on it. I think I was the first person Mayor Cates invited, right after he thanked me for getting him elected without a run-off in 2009.
Weekley suggested the summit as a way to ensure all the players, including Florida Keys nonprofits, are invited to the planning table. The summit would take place after the 2014 “Point-in-Time” census, in which nonprofits send volunteers out across the county to count homeless men, women and children.
The summit will be a good time for the Sheriff and the County Commission to let Key West know they no longer are interested in funding Key West’s drive to get its homeless out of sight and sound.
The 2013 count found 658 homeless in the entire county, while Marbut’s report declared there were 1,400 in Key West alone.
City Attorney Shawn Smith told the commission Wednesday night that Key West doesn’t have to worry that it lacks shelter for its homeless.
Tom Milone told me that Shawn said at the commission meeting that he had some ideas about how to proceed, if the Sheriff and Monroe County did not join with the city on a new homeless shelter, but he did not want to say what those ideas were at that time.
Testimony from the recent litigation indicated that no one is being turned away from KOTS, which has 140 bunks but has made room outside for people when necessary, Smith said.
I think Marbut’s homeless numbers were inflated, but Key West has considerably more homeless people than KOTS can accommodate. That is easy to determine. On any night when KOTS is full and people are sleeping outside there, tour Key West, Stock Island, the Stock Island jail and the hospital looking for homeless people.
On what actually is the same topic, this also in today’s Citizen.
First pic is Higgs Beach kiosks before the kids playground was built. Higgs Beach lies in Key West, is owned and managed by Monroe County, and is patrolled by sheriff deputies and KWPD.
Tarzan’s to the rescue
Tree trimming starts at Higgs Beach children’s park
BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Citizen Staff
Monroe County officials on Thursday began trimming the Australian Pines at Higgs Beach children’s park, a week after a large branch fell and brushed a small child.
The park has been closed since the incident in an abundance of caution, officials said, and won’t reopen until all of the trees are trimmed. The trimming is expected to be completed by Sunday, said arborist Paul Meador, who works for the company conducting the work, Tarzan’s Tree Service.
Tree trimmers are removing the heavier branches at the top of the trees. Meador will inspect the nine trees in the popular children’s park to determine if they can be saved. He said the trees “are in decline,” but still could live another 10 to 25 years.
“We want to save the shade as much as possible,” Meador said. “We want to keep it green.”
If the trees do have to be removed, the county would have to install awnings or something to shade the park and the playground equipment there, county officials said.
The pines have been at the beach park for more than 50 years, said Monroe County Public Works Director Dent Pierce, who grew up in the Florida Keys and remembers them being there when he was a child.
“We want to open this (the park) up as soon as possible,” Pierce said. “We want the kids back out here having fun. But safety is the most important thing.”
The tree branch that brushed the child was an estimated 12-feet long and weighed 75 pounds. The branch was completely hallow and appears to be “hollowed out from carpenter ants,” said Kevin Wilson, who oversees the county’s Project Management Department.
The county installed several new swings and other playground equipment in the park last year, as part of ongoing upgrades to the park that are scheduled to occurred over the next several years.
The kids playground, into which no adults can go who are not attended by children, was the result of County Commissioner Heather Carruthers’ Higgs Beach Committee, which later became the Friends of Higgs Beach Committee. I was on the committee before the name change. The driving force for the committee getting started, and later the kids park being built, was to make it impossible for homeless people to use the kiosks under the Australian pines. The initial architectural drawing of the “new” Higgs Beach had no Australian pines in it – there also are pines outside of the kids park. I pointed that out at a public meeting and was told that was an oversight, there was no intention to remove the pines. I said I did not think it was an oversight, and I imagined Helen Harrison, who had launched a drive to save the Australian pines in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park from being cut down and hauled off, would have something to say about taking down the pines at Higgs Beach. The pines went back into the architect’s drawings. One of the Tarzan’s crew told me yesterday, that they built the playground so that the kids and parents are trapped in it, no way to escape, if a tree limb falls. I told him why they built the park, and that it stopped lots of people who were not homeless and used the kiosks for picnics from doing that.