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Key West the Newspaper – www.thebluepaper.com – weighs in today on the Goombay civil war during last Tuesday night’s city commission meeting. Here’s the blue paper’s teaser containing links to the entire article. Rather intense article, the blue paper’s. Below their teaser is the comment I submitted, which subsequently was cleared from moderation.
Last Tuesday, in an apparent disparate treatment of its constituency, the City Commission decided to allot Super Boat International race organizers approximately $ 25,000/year in free services in addition to nominal rent for the use of Truman Waterfront Park [the organization also typically receives $ 120,000 in Tourist Development Council [TDC] tax funding) but refused to restore the Goombay Festival to a coalition of Bahama Village non-profit organizations because three years ago some festival organizers from the Village had been short by $ 2,500 on a payment for police protection. [...full article]
SLOAN BASHINSKY YOUR COMMENT IS AWAITING MODERATION.
JULY 11, 2014 AT 8:30 AM
I attended that city commission meeting and witnesses the entire heart-wrenching Goombay ordeal. Perhaps my recollection is foggy, but I think I was the only citizen who spoke during the Goombay agenda item citizen comments, who was not in the two competing camps. Because of one of the churches’ members saying she had waited all one afternoon to hear African-Caribbean music at the bandstand at the end of Petronia Street, but all they played was Spanish music, and because I have seen for years that many Goombay food vendors are not serving African-roots food, and I see the same vendors at other Key West events, and they come down from the mainland, I told the mayor and city commissioners that Goombay historically was an African-Caribbean celebration, and I said they, the mayor and commissioners, should mandate that Goombay stick strictly to African roots themes. During the ensuing discussions (lamentations) by the mayor and city commissioners, my request was not mentioned, nor was it mentioned in the Citizen, when it finally reported the Goombay war the following Monday, after I had reported the war twice at http://www.goodmorningkeywest.com. Nor does the blue paper today report what I requested the mayor andd city commissioners to do: mandate Goombay is strictly an African Caribbean roots festival. I would say that even if I was not a mayor candidate. I was curious why Margaret Romero didn’t speak to the Goombay agenda item. Too hot to handle? I was distressed by the number of ministers and congregants and Mason Lodge leader and members who used their citizen comments to promote themselves, their churches and lodges, and charities served thereby. But so little mention of Goombay’s history and African-roots theme and same being polluted by other themes. It came across to me as a war over religion and money, instead of a war over Goombay being polluted by non-African roots themes. I was distressed by a white Bahamian-roots several generation Key West Conch making commotion about his heritage, in defense of his camp getting the bid again, as had happened the previous two years. I was distressed because Goombay is not a white-theme celebration, and it appeared that fellow didn’t understand that. I told another fellow in that camp sitting behind me, Rodney Gullatte, who is black, that it is imperative they henceforth stick to the African-roots theme at Goombay. He said the reason for the Spanish music was because his wife is from Puerto Rico. I said that was not a good excuse, I asked him if he’d been to any of the Caribbean or Bahamian islands I’d said during citizen comments I had visited and learned the natives to those islands were nearly all African descent? Jamaica, Tortola. Dominica. St. Lucia. St. Vincent. Bequia. Grenada. Nassau. Grand Bahama. Gullate said he had not been on those islands. I said 99 percent of the natives on those islands are African descent. Gullate said he wanted to talk further with me and gave me his business card. I said I’d like to do that. During the ensuring intermission, he went over to Margaret Romero and got into a deep conversation with her. I sent Gullate copies of my two posts, in which I reported on the Goombay war, and did not hear back from him. I published that Key West should subsidize Goombay because of how important it is to the city. I published that Bahama Village is the heart and soul of Key West, even though many Key West residents do not understand that. I published that Goombay should get the same subsidy consideration the power boat races get, and Ed Swift’s Historic Tours of America’s conch trains get for hauling cruise ship passengers in from the outer mole pier – the city pays Swift $500,000 a year to do that. Goombay is not a white celebration. Whites should not control it. They have no standing. Nor should churches or Mason Lodges control Goombay. It should be non-denominational. It should be an African-roots Caribbean/Bahamian festival. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.
Moving laterally, to what might have been a short conversation with Tom Milone
at Harpoon Harry’s early yesterday afternoon.
It began with Tom wryly saying he did what he thought were all the right things to prepare him to run for the city commission (three times). He attended city commission meetings, city planning board meetings, bight board meetings, other government meetings. He did his homework, studied agenda items. He knocked on doors when he campaigned. He met his would-be constituents. He learned that has nothing to do with getting elected. He learned what gets someone elected in Key West is having money, charisma and manpower.
What turned it into a rather long conversation was my saying the Key West Golf Course community on Stock Island, the next island up US 1 from Key West, will host a mayor’s candidate forum in the Clubhouse.
July 29, which is Tuesday, starting at 6:30 p.m. and ending no later than 8:30 p.m. The public is invited. The three mayor candidates, incumbent Mayor Craig Cates, Margaret Romero and myself,
each will have 5 minutes to introduce ourselves. A moderator will field, shape and screen questions to the candidates from the citizen audience. The candidates will have three minutes to answer each question. It should be a really thorough forum, given only 3 candidates, the length of the forum, and the time allowed to answer each question.
golf course community, above, separated below by College Road from sheriff complex, the litigating condo development and marina, and Mt. Trahsmore (abandoned city landfill),; roughly, top of top photo is south, bottom is north
Tom opined, I agreed, the golf course forum will focus heavily on homeless people, because many of them hang out around the golf course, the city’s overnight homeless shelter (KOTS) is on the Sheriff’s land, a lawsuit by the condo development and marina across from the sheriff complex requires the city to move KOTS elsewhere, the Sheriff wants KOTS moved elsewhere, and Mayor Cates and some city commissioners have indicated preference for putting a new homeless shelter at the city’s Easter Seals property, which backs up the west end of golf course near College Road.
On the southerly side of the Easter Seal’s property is the city’s public tropical forest and botanical garden and a county nursing home. On the northerly side is a county mosquito control facility and a public animal shelter, and up the way is an elementary school, the local community college, a medical rehab center and the local hospital.
On the northerly end of the golf course is the condominium development whose association is hosting the candidate forum. The association has promised legal action if the city tries to put a new homeless shelter on the Easter Seals property. The association is represented by the same lawyer who brought the lawsuit for the other condo association and marina. His parents developed the golf course condos and own the golf course. I know him, Barton (Bart) Smith. I have no doubt he will bring the lawsuit, if the city tries to put a new homeless shelter on the Easter Seals property.
Tom said, Margaret Romero doesn’t want the city to spend any money on homeless people. She wants them all finger-printed, if they are criminal fugitives, their fingerprints will land them in jail. The sheriff will foot that bill, and I think it might be unconstitutional to require people to submit to fingerprinting simply because they are homeless. I told Tom, maybe I am preempting Margaret. How will take a while to explain.
I told Tom, the City Commission is the reason there are so many homeless people around the golf course. The City Commission does all it can to get homeless people out of Key West at night. That’s why KOTS was put on the sheriff’s land. That’s why KW police take homeless people to the sheriff’s jail for “homeless crimes”, and to the hospital when they are too drunk and have other medical problems the jail cannot handle.
I said, it will be insane to put a new homeless shelter next to the city’s championship golf course. The only sane and safe place in Key West to have a homeless shelter is on the sheriff’s land, because homeless people, like all people, tend to behave better when law enforcement is nearby. Putting a new homeless shelter deeper into the sheriff’s land might pass legal muster, say, on the ground under the elevated on pillars county detention center. Or on a floating dock built off the west end of the sheriff’s land. But what incentive does the sheriff have to go that route?
I said, Key West’s police are using the sheriff’s jail, and the hospital, to house the city’s homeless people, who are picked up for homeless offenses nobody else is picked up and jailed for. Drinking in public. Standing or sitting on private property. Talking back to a police officer. Not obeying a police officer’s commands to move along, even though the homeless person is on public property, say a sidewalk. KW police go out of their way to criminalize homeless people, to get them into the sheriff’s jail, or into the hospital, for which the jail and hospital are not reimbursed.
I said, Key West police put drunk homeless people into ambulances to be taken to the hospital, and the ambulance cost is paid for by the city, or not at all. The sheriff sometimes has to send homeless people brought in by the KW police, to the hospital. Either by ambulance, or by deputy. More cost. Homeless people, due to their other problems – addiction, medical conditions, mental illness – tend to cost more for the sheriff to look after than other inmates. Key West’s homeless policy is costing the sheriff and the hospital a whole lot of money, all to get KW’s homeless people off the streets, out of the parks, off the beaches, out of the shopping malls – at night. The sheriff and hospital are sick and tired of it, and who can blame them? I bet Keys taxpayers outside of Key West are sick and tired of it, too.
I said – here’s the other falling shoe – I had tried to talk the city and the county and the sheriff out of building KOTS. I told them it would be a lot of problems, but the city wanted to stop homeless people from sleeping outside at night, and the city could not do that, if it did not have a shelter where homeless people could sleep at night. That was the ruling in the Pottinger case, which the ACLU brought in federal court against Miami. As a result of that case, Miami lost all say so over its homeless situation; all decisions on Miami homeless issue still made by that U.S. District Court, which also has jurisdiction over Key West. A similar case brought against Key West could result in Key West losing all say so over its homeless situation.
Tom asked what I would do, if I was calling the shots? I said, I would not have a homeless shelter. Benign neglect?, Tom asked. “Let them sleep wherever they bed down at night? Yes, I said. Consider most homeless people sleeping outside at night do it out of the way; they are not visible anyway. So what’s the point of an overnight homeless shelter, which costs lots of taxpayer money? During the day, with or without a shelter, homeless people are in public places. They hang out at parks, on beaches, on Mallory Pier, on and near Duval Street, at shopping centers, and other places. Maybe half of them go to KOTS at night. The rest tuck away somewhere at night.
I said, KOTS was built to house what used to be called street people. Not for people living in vehicles. There always were people living in vehicles, but their numbers increased after the bottom fell out of the local and national economy in 2007. That brought on more people sleeping in vehicles, on couches in friends’ homes, in shelters, outside. Those homeless people, the new homeless, are where the city’s time and money should be spent, trying to get them back inside and working, before they turn into long-term homeless people. But all the City Commission does is try to get street people out of sight at night, while they are in plain view during the day.
Real affordable rental housing would help the new homeless people problem. Affordable rental housing such as the Housing Authority provides, but they have a long waiting list. That’s why I keep saying Truman Waterfront should be turned into as much Housing Authority rental housing at the Navy will allow, 330,000 square feet according to City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, who was city mayor when the Navy gave those 33 acres to the city.
KOTS is a flop house.
I told Tom, no lockers are provided, clients can’t leave their belongings there during the day, and have to tote their belongings wherever they go after leaving KOTS early in the morning. That makes it hard for them to get paying work. Probably 90 percent of KOTS clients are addicts, booze mostly. Homeless addicts have little, or no, chance of getting back inside and working and paying their own way. Addicts can get into KOTS drunk. They stash a bottle in the mangroves on the way into KOTS. They sneak out of KOTS and reload, and go back into KOTS. The bottle is waiting for them when they leave the next morning. Addicts smuggle booze into KOTS in soft drink and juice bottles.
I said, KOTS provides overnight shelter and a shower for addicts who are not likely to turn around even if they have day or night jobs. A small percentage of KOTs users are not addicts, but for personal reasons will not use FKOC or Samuel’s House. Many street people simply will not use KOTS. Some street people can’t cope in close quarters with other people. Some don’t like the curfew. Some don’t like being robbed in their sleep. Some don’t like catching diseases from other KOTS clients. Some don’t like sleeping next to drunks.
I said, Florida Keys Outreach Coalition (FKOC) offers residential turn around programs for homeless men and women, if they are sober and can produce and maintain clean urine. That, and the regimen at FKOC, stops a lot of homeless people from entering FKOC’s program. There also is Samuel’s House for homeless women and women with children. Samuel’s house also requires clients to be sober and to be able to produce and maintain clean urine. FKOC and Samuel’s House do random urine tests. Clients caught with dirty urine are expelled pronto. (Tom knows I have lived on the street in Key West and have stayed at KOTS and have been in FKOC’s program.)
I told Tom what I told City Commissioner Teri Johnston during a lunch she sprung for to hear what I had to say. The same thing I later told the City Commission. The same thing I told the county and city officials, including the sheriff and KW police chief, at the homeless summit last winter in the Harvey Government Center in Key West. The city needs its own drunk tank where it can put knee-walking drunk homeless people and then let them out the next morning. Stop using the sheriff and the hospital to get Key West’s homeless drunks out of sight.
I said, I told Teri Johnston, and said at the homeless summit, and at a city commission meeting, when drunk homeless people are picked up by city police, they are allowed to lock their bicycles where they are picked up. Then they, with their other belongings, are taken to the city drunk tank. Tom said, there are lockers at the drunk tank for the homeless’ addicts other belongings. I said, yes. The police cannot throw away arrested homeless people’s belongings. There are armed guards at the drunk tank, to keep the peace – say retired law enforcement officers picking up extra money. The homeless addicts are released the next morning, on foot, with their belongings.
I said, it’s a pain in the butt for homeless addicts to walk back to their bicycles. They need a drink, head to nearest booze outlet. They are drunk before the sun sets. Pick them up and put them back in the city drunk tank. Keep putting them in the city drunk tank. Maybe they get tired of it and seek help, go to dry out, then enter FKOC or Samuel’s House. Maybe they get tired of it and leave the area. Maybe the word gets out on the homeless grapevine, that homeless addicts in Key West ain’t having a lot of fun being addicts. Maybe homeless addicts elsewhere don’t come to Key West. 90 percent, or more, of long term homeless people are addicts.
I said, Teri Johnston told me that she liked the drunk tank idea. And at the homeless summit, County Commissioner David Rice, a psychologist who ran the Guidance Clinics for some time, said he liked the idea of using the Marchman Act to put drunk homeless people into a city drunk tank for the time allowed under that act, 8 hours, as I recall, instead of putting them in jail or in the hospital. David said he agreed with what I had said during my comments: that there is no solution to homelessness anyone will like; all that can be done is try to manage the problem.
I said, at the homeless summit, David Rice said it does not work to mix addicts with people not using; the two groups need to be separated, if you are trying to rehabilitate the people who are not using. But maybe rehab is not the intent, David opined. I told Tom that David named it. The city wants a shelter to get homeless people out of sight, whether or not they are addicts. I said David’s and my comments were the only important things said at the homeless summit, and the Citizen never reported what we said.
Tom said, the Marchman Act is not a criminal procedure. Homeless addicts put into a drunk tank under that act do not enter the criminal justice system. No judge and courts would get involved. No State Attorney and city attorney would get involved. No defense lawyers would get involved. I agreed. Tom was was a court clerk for many years in New York State.Tom said, yes, Marchman Act them in a city drunk tank.
I said, the Guidance Clinics have a steady stream of addicts trying to clean up and turn their lives around. FKOC and Samuel’s House do not provide detox and rehab services. Using addicts first have to dry out and stabilize before they can go into FKOC and Samuel’s house. The Guidance Clinics and de Pooh Clinic in Key West enable addicts to get ready for FKOC and Samuel’s House. The opportunity for Key West’s homeless people turning their lives around is there, but few will use it.
I said, some homeless people use the opportunity. They detox. They go into FKOC or Samuel’s House. Some get all the way through those programs without relapsing. Some who complete those programs then relapse. a few stay sober, stay working, and are able to pay Key West rents.
Tom asked where a drunk tank would be in the city? I said, the city has several buildings which could be used for a drunk tank. Tom said, wherever the drunk tank is, that neighborhood will howl. I agreed, said, the City Commission picks the location and sucks up the political blow back, including not getting reelected next election. The City Commission does not appoint a committee to determine where to put the drunk tank. The City Commission bites that bullet.
Tom said, the city is moving its transportation department out to Stock Island (under Mt. Trashmore, across from the golf course). The drunk tank could be at the current department of transportation location on Palm Avenue. I said that is a great location, next to Navy housing, where the residents have lots of guns and can protect themselves, and across the street from the new Peary Court development; swell upscale neighbors; that guard tower they were going to have at Peary Court could have a couple of snipers to keep the rich folks in the new Peary Court safe. Tom laughed.
I said, everything homeless people need to turn around already is available to them in Key West. The city needs not furnish anything in that regard. The city can have no homeless shelter and let homeless people alone, unless they are knee-walking drunk or committing real crimes. The sheriff’s jail is no place for drunk homeless people. The sheriff’s jail is for people who commit crimes and need to be in jail and enter the criminal justice system. The city needs its own drunk tank for its homeless addicts. Tom said he liked that idea.
The British Open starts next Thursday over the pond, in Scotland,
where the game that is an X-ray of the soul originated. For me, the British Open is the true golf championship. Played the old way, each shot was played as the ball lied. If the ball was under a tree root, you had to try to hit it. If the ball was under a sheep turd, you had to try to hit it. If the ball was in a bush, you had to try to hit it. If the ball was stymied by an opponent’s ball, you had to hit over or around the opponent’s ball. If the ball was covered with mud, you had to hit it with the mud on it. Or, you could drop your ball a short distance away, or clean it, and take a 2-shot penalty.
A terrific book was written about that once upon a time, Golf In the Kingdom. A bit ordinary, a bit mysterious, a bit mystical, a lot wonderful.
When I was maybe 12, a young golf pro named Joe Lopez moved to Birmingham with his wife, so Joe could be the assistant-pro at the exclusive Birmingham County Club, to which my family belonged. All us aspiring young Ben Hogans and Sam Sneeds fell in love with Joe. He could hit a 1-iron off the fairway, something we thought only Ben Hogan could do.
That was years before Lee Trevino pronounced, “Not even God can hit a 1-iron!”
Joe Lopez and his wife moved to Birmingham from Key West. They were Conchs. Joe grew up playing golf on the same Stock Island golf course where the mayor’s candidate forum will be held. Joe’s father was the club golf pro. Small world.
After this once pretty fair golfer’s back went out to pasture a couple of years ago, I gave my clubs to Sandy Downs’ son, Marshall, who was getting roped in by the grand old game. Among the matched set of irons was a mis-matched ladies 1-iron County Commissioner George Nugent had given me.
The only golf club I still have is a 1-iron my first cousin Charles “Bubba” Major gave me in 2010, out of his own personal stock. Bubba was 6′ -3″. It is not a ladies 1-iron.
In the old days, a 1-iron was called the driving iron. Arnold Palmer once won a British Open tee-ing off with a 1-iron instead of a wood.
Political advertisement paid for and approved by Sloan Bashinsky, for Mayor of Key West, aka “southernmost the nut house”
After publishing the above, I pedaled my bicycle to Harpoon Harry’s to have breakfast and bumped into Tom Milone there, again. I see Tom a lot there. He said down toward the bottom of this morning’s KONK Life email BLAST is a notice of the golf club mayor forum, and that Mayor Cates would not be there due to a prior commitment. I said I had not scrolled taht far down the BLAST this morning and had not seen the announcement, and it was the first I’d heard that Mayor Cates would not participate, and I wondered why the people putting on the forum had not let me know that? I told Tom, maybe just Margaret and me being there will be interesting, since the golf course community probably already has decided not to vote for Mayor Cates, because he wants to put a new homeless shelter right next to their golf course. Maybe the forum will determine whether that golf course community vote for Margaret, or for someone who actually knows something about homeless people and the law regarding same and what is possible and what is a waste of time and money.
Later today, I wrote to the person who had invited me to the forum, and asked if Margaret Romero had been notified that Mayor Cates will not be there, and if Margaret is still going to participate in the forum? Weird-squared, learning third hand that Mayor Cates will not be there. But then, this is Key West, where weird reigns supreme. I don’t imagine Mayor Cates would have looked forward to participating in that forum, knowing he would be in hostile territory. I can’t help but wonder if he really did have a prior commitment? And, if he did, was it something he could not reschedule? And, I wonder what is the prior commitment? I will try to find out from the person who invited me to the forum, and then confirmed the date.
Is this deja vue? During an interview on Pirate Radio a few weeks ago, I was asked if I would participate in a 3-candidate mayor debate on Pirate Radio? I was told Margaret Romero had said she would be happy to do it. I said I would be happy to do it, will bells on. They said they would contact Mayor Cates about setting up a time for the debate. That’s the last I heard from Pirate Radio. That kind of format, the golf course association’s kind of format, very different from other candidate forum formats. Lots more questions. No other races to dilute the mayor part of the event. Not nearly so safe for an incumbent mayor between barracudas like Margaret Romero and me. Not nearly safe at all. I will drop by Pirate Radio and try to find out what happened to their mayor candidates debate?