Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Man Who Gets It

Thanks to Solares Hill for on July 14 publishing Billy Causey's letter correcting misinformation about coral bleaching, its history and its causes. Causey is the Acting superintendent Southeast Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Region of the National Marine Sanctuary Program. This man knows what he is talking about. He gets it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More Mischief Afoot

On July 3, 2006 the TAMPOA Board was to have another "secret" meeting, supposedly to talk with Attorney Bill Andersen. The announcement of that meeting made it clear that TAMPOA members (who pay for his services) were not welcome. The announcement contained a full agenda, including "New Business" and "Management." On a separate piece of paper, which members may have missed in the TAMPOA mailing, the Board announced that at the July 3rd meeting (under the items "New Business" and "Management") the Board will limit the access of TAMPOA members to TAMPOA records. Frequency of access will be limited to ONE request for access per month. Inspection of records will be limited to ONE 8 hour business day per month. In addition the Board intends to charge 50 cents per page for copying any records.

So say you're a TAMPOA member, want to run for the board, and want to go in to the TAMPOA office and review records (maybe the minutes of the past board meetings) to get yourself up to speed on what the board is doing (since you can't learn that from the infrequent and garbled newsletters or the infrequently updated website). And say you only have a month to do this. Well, you're out of luck. You get one request, and if you can't do inspect all the minutes you want to in one 8 hour week day (too bad if you have to work) you're out of luck. Isn't this a great way for incumbents to limit election challenges?

Imagine the difficulty you'd have if you thought there were financial irregularities and a group of you wanted to have an accountant inspect the books. So sorry, the accountant's one day is up. He didn't get through all the records? Too bad, come back next month, but be sure the accountant took careful notes, so he knows where he left off. Maybe the records will be there. Maybe they will have been "lost" or shredded (in "routine document disposal," of course). Accountant can't find where he left off or records are not there? Record inspection now too expensive? Too bad, guess you should have acted before July 3, 2006.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Tukey Responds

Within two and one half hours after receiving the Open Letter from his Annex constituent, TAMPOA Board President, Tom Tukey, emailed a response rejecting her idea for a Citizens' Commission as "not an option." Tampon has obtained a copy of Tukey's response, which contains the same old accusations and finger pointing the Open Letter had criticized.

Part of Tukey's response appears to be irrelevant to the Citizens' Commission idea the Open Letter proposed. Tukey continues his claim that the City is an "unreliable negotiating partner" and argues that Southard Street could not be given away "without a 100% affirmative vote of the [TAMPOA] members." To do otherwise, he suggests "would be gross fiduciary negligence on our part and subject the association to damages in court." Really?

Conkette would like to see the TAMPOA Bylaw that says that "no property of TAMPOA can be disposed of without a 100% vote of the members." Is Tukey really saying that one member can block the disposal of a piece of TAMPOA property if a majority votes to dispose of it? That would not make sense, so we don't believe Tukey could have meant that, even though he plainly said it.

Tukey seems to suggest that allowing a Citizens' Commission to come up with possible rational solutions for the Southard Street dispute would require the Board to commit "gross fiduciary negligence." The proposal for a commission didn't suggest that the Citizens' Commission would impose a solution; only that it come up with some ideas that might be better options than TAMPOA and the City have been able to develop so far. Tukey's suggestion that acceding to the idea of a Citizens' Commission would be 'gross fiduciary negligence" on the part of TAMPOA is a red herring.

The TAMPOA Board has never worried out loud about "gross fiduciary negligence" throughout the Southard Street dispute. Does the Board even know what "gross fiduciary negligence" is? What would one call the $8000 spent on the full page political ad in The Citizen without the vote of the TAMPOA membership? Does that qualify as "gross fiduciary negligence?" What about raising the membership's quarterly assessments by $200 per member to pay for such an ad? Would that qualify? What about the endless string of secret meetings the TAMPOA Board has been having where such matters were really discussed and decided without the benefit of the participation and knowledge of the membership? Does that qualify as "gross fiduciary negligence?" And what about the wild and woolly legal bills the Board has incurred and is asking the members to pay? Does that qualify as "gross fiduciary negligence? Please, don't get us going on that one.

How "thoughtful" was Tukey's response to the Open Letter? You be the judge? Here is the full text:

"In March we had eight hours of mediation after which an agreement WAS REACHED. The commission backed out. The mediators included: myself, Sterling C., Paula R., and Bill A. (for TAMPOA); Bob T., Roland F., Johnny J., Mike B. and several others (for the City); Ron D. and Tony R. (for the Navy); Bob K., Clayton L. and Shawn S. (for Bahama Village) and Jefferson Overby.

I repeat, we came to an agreement and Mike Burke (attorney for the City) wrote it up after which the Commission reneged.

In addition to dealing with an unreliable negotiating partner, our other problem is that under our documents we (the board) can not give away property without a 100% affirmative vote of the members. We simply can't do it. Turning over the possible giving away of property to some group who have no ownership would be gross fiduciary negligence on our part and subject the association to damages in court. With due respect, your suggested solution is not an option.

Further we already HAVE a deal (go down to the office and get a copy of the contract from Sterling) that the City is breaching. Again, with due respect, we are trying very hard, much, much harder than you read about in the papers. I hope you will call me if you want more details."

Let Tampon know what you think. Is the Citizens' Commission idea worth a try? Or, is it "not an option," as Tukey says?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Enough Already!

We awoke this morning to find The Citizen had published a refreshingly thoughtful letter from another Annex resident who wants Key West citizens to know that the TAMPOA Board doesn't represent her point of view regarding the Southard Street mess. Like many residents of Truman Annex she is fed up with the gamesmanship of TAMPOA and the City Commissioners. She has proposed a new and constructive suggestion to get beyond the finger pointing of the TAMPOA Board and the City Commissioners. In case you missed the letter in The Citizen here it is:

"Open letter to city [and] TAMPOA board

I am a resident of Truman Annex and have followed the increasing contention over Southard Street. The TAMPOA board does not represent my position on this issue, nor does my commissioner, Mr. [Bill] Verge. I am sure there's blame on both sides for the current impasse, and while I have no problem with the city and the board continuing their posturing and petty bickering, I suggest they do it in private. I'm sick of hearing about it and it serves no useful purpose.

The city and board would agree, one would hope, that litigation would be a long, drawn-out process in which the only winners would be the attorneys representing the respective sides. So, I have a suggestion. Since the city prides itself on a "participatory" form of governance, how about, for a change, letting the citizens address this problem, which affects us all. Form a citizens' committee to deal with the Waterfront ingress/egress issue. Since time isn't of the essence or we wouldn't be talking lawsuits, the committee could meet at its leisure and give serious, rational thought to the problem. Committee membership would include representation from the Annex, the Village and the city at large. City officials, commissioners and TAMPOA board members would be excluded from participation (you've had your chance) and attorneys representing either side would be asked to please stay home. Ultimately, the committee would present its recommendations to the city and board, and, of course, it's possible the posturing and bickering would start anew. However, it's also possible that given the passage of time and some rational thought, a solution might be presented that's palatable to everyone."
Conkette has learned that the open letter was sent to the TAMPOA Board members and to each of the City Commissioners prior to its publication in The Citizen.

What do you think of the idea of a Citizens' Commission to come up with a solution to the Waterfront ingress / egress issue. Do you have an idea that might solve the problem? Let us here at Tampon know what you think, and we'll pass your thoughts on to the TAMPOA Board and the City Commissioners.

If you'd rather write to them directly, here are their email addresses:

The TAMPOA Board Members:

Tom Tukey (President)
Jim Hall (Vice President)
Paula Ryals (Secretary)
Harold Berry (Treasurer)
Frank Serio (Director)
Phil Wilson (Director)
Rebecca Baumann (Director)

The Mayor and the City Commissioners:

Mayor Morgan McPherson

Bill Verge (District I)
Mark Rossi (District II)
Dan Kolhage (District III)
Harry Bethel (District IV)
Jose Menendez (District V)
Clayton Lopez (District VI)

Is There Hope For Hurricane Insurance Rates?

If you own property in the Florida Keys or are thinking about purchasing property here, you need to know about FIRM (Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe). Wind insurance rates here are skyrocketing, but one group is fighting that. This group of Monroe County folks have taken on the insurance companies and are challenging their rate increases for the Keys.

Rates here may go as high as 292% above last year if insurance companies have their way. They say it is because of rates reinsurance companies are charging them, but that may not be the whole truth. The Florida Insurance Commissioner has asked for an actuarial rate from Citizens Insurance (which is supposed to have the highest rates). The deadline for Citizens to have submitted its actuarial rate was June 30. No one knows what rates will finally be approved. Meanwhile, it's either pay up to the insurance companies, or else go without wind insurance while all of this gets sorted out.

Many people in the Keys have mortgages that require wind insurance. If they fail to pay these exorbitant rates, their mortgage company will pay them and foreclose on their property if not promptly reimbursed. If you think this is a rotten choice, you're right.

What can you do? Join FIRM and support the fight to have fair wind insurance rates for the Florida Keys. Contact your congress person and senator and tell them to support HR 4366, introduced by Florida Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of the 5th District (R - FL). This legislation would provide for Federal catastrophic reinsurance to help underwrite insurance companies when a natural disaster strikes. (Some think the increasingly high cost of reinsurance is partially behind the increases consumers are seeing in their premiums.) More sponsors are needed in the House for this bill to have a chance at passage. Ask your congressional representative to sign on as a sponsor of this bill.

If you think you aren't directly affected, you're wrong. If you visit the Keys or are planning to visit, the cost of your visit will be directly affected by the insurance rates we pay. The cost of those increased rates will be passed on to you. So call your congress person and ask him or her to help us out here in the Keys. And consider joining or at least supporting FIRM in their efforts.