Key West’s Truman Waterfront: crown jewel or rubble?

Truman Waterfront

Truman Waterfront, named after US President Harry Truman


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Christine Russell 2

Christine Russell responded to hers and my Truman Waterfront, etc. email conversation reported in yesterday’s Obi-Wan Kenobe and Darth Vader, Yoda is on well-deserved vacation, say, “Action speaks louder, Earthlings” – Key West and beyond post at

Hey Sloan –
After reading your comments to my email to you yesterday, I wanted to say something about one of your comments – or your opinions. You say “I note that you don’t say anything nice about Mayor Cates in your email.” Please do not put words in someone else’s mouth and please do not try to interpret what others say – stick to the facts. What I said was that the mayor stated I had said things that “were untrue”. No one appreciates being told they lied. I have spent an enormous amount of time at least the last 10 years attending charettes, TWAB meetings, CC meetings and doing a great deal of other reading and research on how other cites manage to move forward with projects such as our waterfront park. I have no interest in getting into a pissing match with the mayor or anyone else. I think he and I want the same thing – a fabulous park for our citizens and our tourists to enjoy. He and I just have different ideas on how to get there. I am sure he is frustrated – how could you not be after having a parcel of land 13 years and nothing there. I think the city is feeling pressured to DO SOMETHING.

Your always going to have different opinions from others on issues.
I have a different opinion than you with your RV park ideas for the park – but of course you are entitled to your opinion.

I imagine there are some that do not appreciate my opinions and ideas, they may think I am trying to hold up progress. Quit the opposite! Maybe the biggest difference of opinion I might have with the mayor or others is the course we now take to get the park – the ‘crown jewel” of Key West done. Some will tell you we have a plan, a plan that is been vetted to all and approved by the commission and loved by all – let’s move ahead. But there are others who acknowledge problems – big problems, and want to resolve those BEFORE moving ahead, approving monies to tear down the PAL building, rip up land, put in utilities and roads – because we fear if these problems are not resolved – it could set us back even further. That is JUST MY opinion. Only TIME WILL TELL. Just please do not try to create little wars that do not exist. That does not help anything, and we need to work together as a community of people.
Thanks Sloan.

I replied:
Hi, Christine –

I published your email verbatim and my comment about what you wrote about Mayor Cates was accurate. I was proud of you for simply stating the truth without then back-filling it with sugar, which I often have seen you do at city commission meetings. Not at Wednesday’s meeting, though. You let them have it without trying to smooth it over after you let them have it. Mayor Cates was not there, he was at a mayors conference in Washington D.C. Perhaps I should have added to my comment in today’s post that Mayor Cates has lied to me from time to time, so you would not feel all by your lonesome about what he told Bill Becker about you not telling the truth.

Bumped into Mike Mongo about noon today. He was taking a walk, I was on my bicycle. I asked if he is going to run for mayor this year, he said definitely no; what he saw at Wednesday’s city commission meeting regarding Truman Waterfront convinced him that he wanted nothing to do with that. I said Robert Cintron told me at the commission meeting that the city should give the Truman Waterfront land back to Navy. Mike said Bookie Henriquez told him, Mike, the same thing the the other day. I said I told Robert that he should have gotten the city to buy him comprehensive medical insurance and a burial policy, as a condition for him being on the Truman Waterfront Advisory Board. He laughed in the ain’t that the truth way.

I have a rather tough time calling that man-made rubble, parts of which were, may still be, a military toxic waste dump, the “crown jewel” of Key West. The crown jewel was the reef. What killed 95 percent of it, and what will kill the rest of it, and Mote Lab’s underwater coral farms, is infinitely more important than Truman Rublefront. Did it every occur to you, Christine, that the way Truman Rubblefront has gone, nowhere, for 12 years, might be a “sign” that none of the various attempts to grab and develop a piece of it have been what needs to happen out there? On my home planet that question would be rhetorical.

Mike Mongo agreed with you, that Shawn Smith [Key West’s city attorney] might well be the next city official to quit; Mike said Shawn already has let it be known he is not happy with how things are going with the city. I said that was not surprising; I used to practice law, it ain’t fun to represent clients who don’t listen to what their lawyer says, who go out of their way to make themselves more problems and their lawyer’s life harder.

Mike also agreed, Bob Vitas [Key West’s city manager] don’t seem too terribly happy with how the city is going, either. Robert Cintron told me at Wednesday night’s commission meeting that he bet Bob was wondering what he had gotten himself into, coming down here to be city manager?

The fact is, Mayor Cates staked his administration on building a full-service tranformational homeless shelter, which was an impossible project to anyone with half a brain, and on redoing Glynn Archer School for the new city hall, which may or may not turn out to be a great idea, mostly depending on what it ends up costing, on top of what the new fire station ends up costing at the Angela Street location, compared to what the total cost of the two would have been if both were done at the Angela Street location.

While Cates was going after those two dreams, he was content to let dreamers, with no chance of making their dreams come true, go after the “crown jewel” of Key West, Truman Rubblefront, which tells me Cates didn’t think it was more than rubblefront himself. If they wish to turn it into a park, then kill the special interest groups’ pies in the sky flutes and whistles, put in an irrigation system, plant tropical trees and shrubs, put in park benches, a public bathroom, pathways, and have a grand opening. I figure they can do that for about $2-3 million. Then, sit back and see how many people wander out there and use it. Then, you will know if it is the crown jewel or a wet dream, without spending a lot more millions to find out what kind of dream it was 🙂


Christine wrote:
Well Sloan –

I have high hopes for what the park COULD be. Will it be realized? Maybe, maybe not, but I have not given up. I am a dreamer. I want everything undertaken to realize its highest potential. People can laugh at me. Call me crazy 🙂 Would not be the first time, but I can tell you I have realized all my dreams, one by one, and soon I will embark on another – maybe even crazier dream. Anyway, if it were not for the dreamers where would we be?

Another point – I always tell the truth. I have no reason to not tell the truth. And I have no personal agenda for any thing I ever speak out on.

Lastly, about the upcoming years of politics in Key West . It’s going to be a Dusey! You know that phase is from the car Duesenberg – I am a car girl…love and have/still own classics and sport cars. Anyway, there seems to be a great deal of posturing, speculation and talk going on about several races. I imagine everyone is assessing and reassessing the situation. Things change and whatever the situation is today – you can bet things will change by August. The only constant is change. Like I’ve said before it will be the most interesting of years!

Have a good weekend 🙂

I wrote:
Well Christine,

About dreams, I envy you re all your dreams coming true.

On the sleeping dreams side, I sure have caught plenty of hell from lots of directions, but without my sleeping dreams, I pretty much would be blind, deaf and dumb about what goes on in my waking life, cause nearly always nothing is what it appears to be.

The only city race for office that interests me is the mayor’s race. In the county, the race for George Neugent’s seat might end up interesting me. Maybe the race for Robin Smith-Martin’s school board seat will interest me. The state races do not interest me, nor the national races. Not yet, anyway.

As for change, my experience is the status quo fights any effort to change the status quo, as if the effort is the Devil wanting the status quo’s very soul.

When I think if change for Key West, I think of elected city officials leaving office and new people taking their place; I think of cruise ships being banned from Key West; I think of Key West having a nude beach; I think of Wisteria Island becoming a city nature park; I think of lower Duval Street being a pedestrian and arts and crafts mall from 2 p.m. on each day; I think of no conch trains or trolleys on city streets; I think of all structures having solar panels and selling electricity back to the electric company; I think of Key West having a big community garden, guess where?; I think of trees along city streets with no power lines running through them; I think of the outer mole being open to the public again; I think of lots of things that could be different, which have nothing to do with me or what I want for myself. And, there are things I do want for myself, but they are personal and not relevant to public interests.

What do you want on Truman Waterfront, Christine? Leave everyone else out of it. What do you want it to be?


Christine wrote:
I like many of your ideas Sloan. I was on the Duval St Committee for many years – and nothing happened. I love many of the pedestrian streets that so many European cities have had forever, and now many American cities are creating pedestrian streets for people instead of cars.

But what would I like in a park – if it was just up to me and no one else – if I could be queen for a day and wave a magic wand over the park and create something special. I would start with trees. LOTS of trees – big mature trees that provide shade. And lots of grass. Grass I could lay down in and would be cool under the trees. Picnic tables and grills in part of the park because I love to get together with my friends and cook and eat. I would like a big sand lot to play in – build sand castles and sand sculptures. And then I would like a big open grassy field to fly kites in. There would be no power lines – there would be solar power, in fact my park would have a very low impact on the environment and surrounding neighborhood. There would not be parking lots everywhere, but there would be bike paths and lots of bike racks to park our bicycles. Maybe a few small lots for cars, and minimal roads, but there would be bus stops for buses to bring the elderly or people who can not walk distances. I would build a big wall in some abstract form that would appear to be a sculpture by day, and at night we would project and watch movies on the wall under the stars. I always liked drive-ins – but this would be better! And a medium size amphitheater in the round, that also was low impact where we could have small concerts, theater, comedy, where school children of all ages could perform and even graduations and other ceremonies could be held. I would like some kind of a water play ground – NOT a water park, but some of these dancing water gardens that sort of perform and you can play in. I love the water. I am a sailor, so I would like to have kayaks, and little sunfish sail boats, maybe stand up paddle boards. A pier for fishing with observation holes that are windows to the sea, and picnic tables with umbrellas on this pier. Maybe we could have extra horses with the police horses at the stables – now that I live in Florida, I never get to ride anymore. At Kensington Park in London people ride horses – why couldn’t we do the same? This could be a great feature for kids – working with animals and learning respect for animals – animals can often do things for problem children, and even problem adults that regular schools and jails can only dream of. And I would like a dog park, because the dog park over on White St is too far away for people in Bahama Village and Truman Annex.
I might even like a carousel! Instead of horses – it could have fish and dolphins and turtles.
AND I would like a weekly market – where I can meet my friends in the morning – shop for vegetables, flowers, plants and buy fresh bread and honey, maybe even fresh milk and eggs, and een fresh fish – right from our oceans. Vendors would sell food and there would be live music and tables where I could sit with friends, have a coffee and breakfast sandwich. A place to spend Saturday and or Sunday mornings and just run into friends – because it would be the place to be, the heart of the community.
In my dream park there would not be cars driving through our park – there would be a road to get to Ft Zach and to NOAA and the EcoCenter, and for the Navy (after all they did give us this property!). There definitely would NOT be any conch trains or trolleys carrying cruise ship passengers through my park every few minutes – that alone would ruin any ‘green’ park.
There would also be public art – either sculptures or art that is incorporated into the nature of the park – trees whose limbs become art forms and paths that are not cement but rather some kind of art. And there would be beautiful colorful trees – Poinciana, Tulip, and Orchid trees, and some big Rotal Palm trees – I like those.
It all is really beyond my imagination. But these things would create a park that I would love to come and spend time in.
I would love a park with all these things, but when I look at what the group Projects for Public Spaces creates in parks around the world – I am afraid my ideas are not so creative. They are rather mundane. But I would be happy with a park with the things I mention. I’m sure I could come up with better ideas given time. You know what’s most interesting, is this kind of a park would be real earth friendly, surrounding neighborhoods would love it, a well as all the residents and tourists, it would not cost much to build – and could probably be built in a year or so.
I forgot – my park would need restrooms too – after all that cooking and eating……
Thanks for the suggestion of dreaming about what I would put in the park.
It really put a smile in my head.

I wrote:

That would be a really nice park, but I think maybe there isn’t enough land to accommodate all of that, and – yikes! – where oh where would the testosterone lovers park all their trailers and trucks during the annual power boat race? What annual powerboat race? I can think of lots of things I’d rather see and hear in Key West’s harbor than mega-testosterone boats screeching round and round.

power boat races 2power boat races

Tarpon, manatee, mermaids …

Ta, ta


Sloan at Coco's



About Sloan

Darn, that would take a while. Try the autobiographical pages in the header. Ditto for header menu pages at Hatched and raised there, eventually I ran away from home. Here's a short list: Born 1942; male; spoken for; accused of all sorts of imaginable and unimaginable things, perhaps some true. Live on Key West of Weird asteroid. Publish something most days at, been at that since July 2007. That's heaps of catch-up reading, probably not recommended.
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2 Responses to Key West’s Truman Waterfront: crown jewel or rubble?

  1. kwshoes says:

    I ran into Christine last night on the sidewalk outside of Aqua. She and Brian were heading downtown. Janet and I were at Aqua to help Tom Luna celebrate his 60th birthday.

    I met Christine ten or more years ago at a meeting at someone’s home set up to discuss organizing what was to become the Hometown PAC. She was already an activist and I was a relatively new arrival to Key West seeking to find out more about what went on and was then going and what might be going on in the future. I had enrolled in the Ambassador’s program in 2004 after recently returning to our fair city following a two year sojourn back in the frozen north.

    Over the years we have remained in touch, and particularly so when I was briefly a member of the Truman Waterfront Advisory Board for about six months during 2012. Christine and several others, including Richard Tallmadge, had formed the Key West Commoners in the hope of organizing some things that could be done quickly at the waterfront with very little expense, things like an outdoor market, impromptu musical events, kids games, and the like. They had also contacted Project for Public Spaces and gotten a quote from PPS to conduct a quick study that would engage the entire community in a park-building exercise that would lead to a Lighter-Quicker-Cheaper plan that could be realized while the more formal planning and building process went forward.

    Christine’s latest missive to you demonstrates her passion for this park. I share it and hope to be able to enjoy the park in the years that I have remaining at 74 years old.

    You asked Christine what she would want at the waterfront. It’s everything that I would want and more than I’d even thought about. I would add to her vision tables for chess, checkers and dominoes, a croquet lawn, bocce courts.

    The city is moving very rapidly to demolish the Navy Mess Hall, even though it is part of the 6.6 acres that Clayton Lopez has recently come to realize is being taken away from the citizens of Bahama Village. During my time at TWAB I could see that happening and tried to alert Clayton and the City Commission to that fact. My warnings received only shrugs and fell on deaf ears.

    Now the Waterfront Advisory Board and the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee are being primed to hold a joint meeting to hash out what to do with the 6.6 acres. The BCCLT plan died with the demise of that organization, but reservation Architect Bert Bender redesigned a scaled-back plan that would have achieved some of the objectives that were incorporated in the BCCLT plan, including a community center and other community spaces. Right now, though, that plan is impeded by the “temporary” soccer field which is about to get $170,000 worth of rehabilitation; the Waterfront Advisory Board unanimously recommended that the rehab not be carried out. It has often been the case that the TWAB recommendations are over-ridden by the CC. It was and is a frustration to me that the Commission uses the TWAB for cover and then goes ahead and does what it wants.

    On a different note, if anyone thinks for a minute that Ron Deems is out there pitching warnings on his own, they clearly don’t understand how things work in the military. Ron is the senior civilian official at NAS Key West. He reports to the NAS Commander and so far has had the Commander’s backing and that of other Navy officials up the chain of command. It is naive of the City Attorney to advise the City Commissioners that they can ignore Deems’ advice about what needs to happen to ensure that the Navy command staff will continue to support the City’s plans. He (Smith) may have some sort of legal justification to say what he did on Wednesday, but following his advice and twisting the tiger’s tail is done at some risk, nay at GREAT risk, to the City and the hoped-for park.

    With an election coming in the Fall, citizens may have to take action to change the makeup of the Commission by electing candidates who will right the sinking ship that is our dream park and set it on a safe course.

    All the best,
    Bob Kelly

  2. Sloan says:

    Hi, Bob – thanks for your thoughts and comments on what I know has to be, and has been, an agonizing journey for you.

    I, too, like Christine’s dream design for Truman Waterfront. And, I like adding chess, checkers and dominoes tables and benches, a croquet lawn and bocce courts. Perhaps also shuffle board, horseshoes and badmitton (spelling?).

    I imagine with just the 2 of you running this show, it could be settled and put in place rather quickly. Too bad we don’t have a 2-person city commission deciding how to do Truman Waterfront, and you 2 are it. I would not wish the rest of the crapola the city commission deals with on you 2, though, although maybe I should. Maybe you 2 would cut right though all of that, too, like a pair of barracuda cut through a school of mullet.

    I also agree that it was not terrifically smart to blow off Ron Deems. I told someone sitting beside me, after it became clear that he was going to be blown off and he did not then go quietly by any stretch of the imagination, that he represented the 800 pound gorilla and that should not be ignored.

    Whether or not the voters view themselves at an 800 pound gorilla when it comes to the fortunes or misfortunes of the city’s current elected officials, remains to be seen. If citizens who are steamed up about Truman Waterfront return to office this year any of the incumbents standing for relection, that might indicate that the voters are not an 800 pound gorilla, or they are not really steamed up about Truman Waterfront.

    I could say the same for the city voters and their sentiments about the dirtiest worst possible cruise ships calling on Key West since long before I arrived in Key West, which was late 2000. I suppose what I’m getting down to is, action speaks louder than words.


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