Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The TAMPOA Website - What It Could Be

The TAMPOA Website is a disgrace for an Association with a budget the size of the TAMPOA budget. It's not that the design is that bad. It's that the information on the site is often out of date. What a service the site could be to TAMPOA members if TAMPOA staff would take the time to update it on a more frequent basis. Currently, the website only gets additions about once every quarter when TAMPOA gets around to sending out a newsletter along with the quarterly assessment bills. However, the bills for the fall quarter were sent out more than two months ago, but the newsletter has not been updated since summer. When the newsletter is updated, much of it often reads like the society page.

There could be so much more current information on the website. For example, TAMPOA just announced (on November 22 by mail) how members could run for the board and the date of the annual membership meeting (January 29, 2007). This information, even if required by law to be mailed, should also have been posted on the website. The TAMPOA bylaws are not on the website. The mega page document covering all the TAMPOA organization information provided to purchasers should be on the website. It is not. All the, often contradictory, "crisis letters" President Tukey and Secretary Ryles have sent out should be on the website so that members who may not have taken an immediate interest in the Southard Street controversy, but now are interested, can have a have a better perspective on the situation.

The website could be used for sorely needed better communication with TAMPOA members. TAMPOA could establish a members' listserv so that members could hold on line discussions about current issues. The board could monitor this and would certainly benefit from the feedback. If needed, parts of the site could be limited to TAMPOA members only.

A simple start for improving the website would be to update it at least weekly. How hard can that be?

Had the website been the vehicle it should have been, this blog would not exist. Isn't it ironic that TAMPOA members, as well as Shipyard residents, pay thousands of dollars a year for services from their Association, including a website, but have to rely on a free blog for real news about their association?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Locked And Loaded Justice

A Florida judge has been ordered to accept mentoring after bringing a loaded gun into his courtroom and announcing he was "locked and loaded."

Bay County Court Judge Michael Hauversburk, after telling the defense attorney that he was "locked and loaded," is reported to have said: "Tell your client that the deputies have certain constraints about the rules of engagement, but I do not. If he does anything that I see as a threat to me or anybody in this courtroom, then I'm going to fire first and ask questions later."

"He made the wrong decision," said William Wright, chief judge for Florida's 14th Circuit Court. "All new judges have a learning curve they have to go through, and it takes a while to get adapted to the system."

Makes Key West justice look half way normal, doesn' it?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Itemizing The Cost of Gatehood

A less than unanimous TAMPOA board continues, despite growing opposition and even talk of a recall of the board, to push for installation of a gate at the entrance to Truman Annex on Southard Street and to go full speed ahead with litigation against the City over the ownership of Southard. Board President has stated he will spend "whatever it takes" to win the dispute the City. On November 17, through a letter from Board Secretary, Paula Ryals, the Board notified the owners in Truman Annex that at its meeting in December the Board would consider imposing substantial additional assessments likely to stretch over a year or more to cover the current and anticipated legal bills in connection with the Southard Street litigation and dispute. That letter has set off a firestorm of criticism about the way the Board has handled the Southard Street matter and what some residents claim has been irresponsible spending by the Board.

The TAMPOA Board has never clearly provided TAMPOA members with hard numbers regarding the precise amounts it has spent on legal fees to The Andersen Firm so far on the Southard Street dispute; how much it now owes The Andersen Firm; how much it owes the attorney or firm that did the title research on Southard Street for the Board; and what amount the Board thinks will need to be spent (once Andersen is paid) going forward to conclude the litigation. Instead, the Board has utilized interim "crisis letters" to the TAMPOA membership (like the November 17 letter) telling the members the Board needs to raise more money without providing sufficient detail on what specifically has been spent, what specifically is owed, and what is likely to be owed in the future. Undoubtedly the Board thinks it may have a hard time explaining or justifying its expenditures, and that, coupled with the fact that the matter may be complicated, may explain some of the Board's apparent reluctance about providing precise numbers.

But TAMPOA members are entitled to precise numbers and a precise accounting of the cost of the Southard Street dispute, and the Board knows that. The Board needs to come clean with the TAMPOA membership and explain: (1) what has been spent so far on the legal fees regarding the Southard Street dispute and to whom; (2) what legal fees are owed as of November 17; (3) what has been spent and is owed on legal fees on the issue of the gate; and (4) what is the Board's estimate of how much (assuming it continues on the same course) will need to be spent to conclude the litigation with the City through a trial or "summary judgment." The Board should provide this information well in advance of its December meeting so that TAMPOA members can provide needed feedback on the proposed assessments, something the Board suggested it would welcome. The membership has the right to make up its collective mind about the way the Board spends TAMPOA money and is entitled to the benefit of this information to do so.

The Board cannot expect the TAMPOA membership to trust its fiscal judgment if it fails to provide specific details of its spending to its constituents. If the Board does not provide this information to the membership, TAMPOA members will be justified in concluding that the Board has something to hide in the way it has managed TAMPOA finances or that it believes the members are too stupid to understand complex matters. Either way, the Board will lose additional credibility, and the divisions within the TAMPOA membership will only grow deeper, making the recreation of a sense of community within the membership even more difficult.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thought Of The Day

The crap in your life is the compost of your enlightenment.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Message

On this Thanksgiving Day we have much to be grateful for. Even if you are not among family and friends, the more joy we create for others, the more we have to be thankful for. The more joy we make for others, the more joy we will find in ourselves.

Take this time, this holiday, to reflect upon what gifts of joy and kindness you might share with others. A gift of kindness shared without reservation has a way of coming back to you.

Take the time to let go of things that do not matter. As I write this I am returning from a business trip and am waiting in Miami for a connection to get back home to Key West. I missed my original tight connection due to an unkind act by the female passenger seated in the middle seat next to me. (I was in the window seat.) The woman was traveling with her husband who had occupied the aisle seat. I had learned that they were on their way to Santiago, Chile, though we had not spoken the whole flight. Although the flight crew had asked passengers to let those with tight connections pass, in spite of my request to do so (and my indication that I had a very tight connection), the woman in the middle seat continued to fiddle with her purse and then began to put on her makeup. Fearing that over the noise of the announcements by the gate agent she had not heard me, I asked once more to be allowed to get out. At that point, the woman said rudely, "Where could you need to go. I'll get up when I am damn well ready." I was startled and as I starred at her in amazement, I could feel a flash of anger, together with unkind words, about to erupt from within me.

On the way to the airport at the end of the business morning, I had promised myself that I would take many deep breaths and let go of the stress of flying on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, no matter how anxious I was to get home to Key West. The woman's husband appeared horrified by her rude comments. Already in the aisle, he began to move away from her, as his body language telegraphed, "I don't know this person."

My stare turned to a smile and then a chuckle as the humor and sadness of him having to live with a shrew like that suddenly struck me. My chuckle, coupled with the horrified looks focused on her from other nearby passengers, seemed to make her angry, but there was nothing more she could say to justify her behavior.

So, I just let it go and figured she was having a bad day. Laughter can be a wonderful tool of non-resistance. Even when, by a hair, I missed my connecting flight, I was not angry, but strangely calm and without blame. In that calm and forgiving moment, for some reason, I remembered some childhood advice my grandfather had given me that seemed a perfect fit for the situation.

"Never wrestle with a pig," he had said. "You'll just get dirty, and the pig likes it."

I think, after all these years, I now understand what he meant. Letting go of what, in the long run, really does not matter can free you to see more clearly the things that do matter and allow you to be grateful for the accidental gifts that come your way. It can also help you to realize that it is not the repentance of the wrongdoer that creates forgiveness but the forgiveness of the victim.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Our Stake in Who Is Community College President

All educators as well as the community have a large stake in adult education. So says Ralph B. Spence in an article entitled "Education's Stake in Adult Education" published in this week's edition of Teachers College Record. His argument in support of this his assertion is straightforward: "adult education is at the beginning of what promises to be a tremendous expansion. All educators should understand adult education and promote its development."

The argument has another dimension: the community has a tremendous stake in education because it is the adult community that makes decisions affecting education. Adults need to understand the trends and choices in education in general and adult education in particular. The community's stake in the choices made education is no more obvious than in the search for a new president for the Keys Community College. We need to pay attention to that search, which will affect not only the future of adult education in Key West but, in the long run, the future of Key West.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Why Key West Will Never Love Truman Annex

The dilemma for TAMPOA in its relationship with the City and its residents is, in some respects, much like the dilemma for America in Iraq. We can't seem to understand why they all don't love us, given all we've done for them. TAMPOA members have done much for the City. At least they think they have. They give generously to the symphony. They support the arts. They gave a ton of money to help the music program in Bahama Village. They serve in the City Ambassador Program. They volunteer for the Marine Sanctuary. They participate generously in the Key West Garden Club. They help organize mangrove and beach clean ups as well as other improvement projects that the City government can't seem to get around to doing on its own. They volunteer countless hours in tutoring and other educational programs in the schools. They own, manage, or work in businesses in Key West. However, none of that seems to matter in the collective mind of most other City residents and certainly City politicians.

It isn't that those efforts at neighborliness by TAMPOA members are not individually appreciated. They certainly are. The problem is that TAMPOA and the City metaphorically speak different cultural languages and don't hear or respond to each other in the same way. This has little to do with logic but much to do with culture. Both groups act logically from each groups perspective. But both are not on the same thinking page because they are not addressing the same interests. Each group perceives the other as not really caring about the other's concerns. Yet both groups have many concerns in common that ought to, but do not, unite them. The reason for this disconnect is rooted in the way each group sees and defines the problems confronting them as well as in the way each group sees itself and views and defines the other.

TAMPOA sees itself as a gated community, sees that as "good," and holds itself out that way to the world. It locks itself up after 6:00 o'clock at night (as, its president was overheard to say at the beginning of a board meeting, to "keep out the riffraff"), and sees that as "good." TAMPOA is geographically isolated, that is, it is surrounded on one side by water, on the other side by Shipyard (another gated community) and on its other two sides by seven-foot fencing. Routes through TAMPOA's property lead to the waterfront, which is City, State, and U. S. Government property.

The City views TAMPOA as separate and isolated, and sees that as "not good" for the City. More importantly, the City views TAMPOA as not wanting to be a part of the City (and in some respects TAMPOA sells itself that way to prospective buyers in the Truman Annex). The City sees TAMPOA as not having to share (and certainly as not wanting to share) the pains and problems the City is facing.

The City views TAMPOA members as having no long term stake in the City or in the outcome of its problem solving. In the City's view, TAMPOA members are here on vacation and can always leave -- their real stake is in another community. In short, the City does not view TAMPOA as a part (and thinks TAMPOA does not want to be a part) of the City community. The City does not see TAMPOA as loyal to overall community values, but, instead, sees TAMPOA as not caring about what happens long term in Key West and caring only what happens to TAMPOA itself. Many City residents see TAMPOA members as rich, paternalistic, patronizing, and as believing they are somehow better than ordinary City residents.

Unrealistic? Perhaps, but feelings often are not based on logic. Many City residents fear TAMPOA and think that all it wants is to make Key West like it. From those resident's perspective, that would destroy Key West. This view resonates with City politicians. All of this is deeply frustrating to many TAMPOA members, whose feelings are hurt and who feel that without the taxes they pay and their participation in Key West life, the City would go to hell in a hand basket.

From the City's perspective then, because TAMPOA is not a real stakeholder, its views do not have to be taken seriously. TAMPOA gets this and has sought, by exercising its legal and financial muscle, to insure that its views are seriously considered. The problem with the TAMPOA strategy is that it has not addressed the fundamental stakeholder issue -- getting the City to believe that TAMPOA is a real stakeholder in the long term life of the City. While it seems obvious to TAMPOA that it is a stakeholder, which also should seem obvious to the City, logic has little to do with it. However, two other factors are also at work here.

One is the factor of blame. Each side always has to have someone or something on which to pin its failings. TAMPOA can blame the City for this and the City can blame TAMPOA for that. Using blame, the leadership of each side can explain its failure to achieve objectives to their constituents, without having to take direct responsibility for the debacle. Unless identified and dealt with as a problem, blame infects and gets in the way of true problem solving. In fact, blame is what ignites most lawsuits. The parties often fight harder over who is at fault rather than how the problem behind the blame is to be solved. As a result of blame, the parties also invent "spite options," power plays to show their muscle to the other party. The proposed gate and the attempt at obtaining identification from people stopped at the entrance to Truman Annex, as well as the march through Truman Annex and the confrontation at the Truman Annex "guard house," orchestrated by Commissioner Lopez and others, are examples of such options. This is what has happened in the relationship between the City and TAMPOA.

The other factor at work is respect. TAMPOA members feel the City does not respect who they are, their contributions to City life, or their property. The feeling on the part of City residents is mutual and turned up to ten. City residents feel that TAMPOA does not respect them or what they perceive to be community values. They feel that TAMPOA members are outsiders who haven't listened to and heard community feelings, have not paid their community dues, and who waltz in with opinions about how best to do things. Many City residents feel TAMPOA members don't care about anyone or anything except themselves and their property. In turn, many actions of the City are seen by TAMPOA members as statements of disrespect. Similarly, many of the actions TAMPOA believes it has taken in good faith are seen by City residents as patronizing or as signs of disrespect. Each side needs to understand that its actions or statements, when viewed from the perspective of the other side, may be seen or heard as a message of disrespect, however unintended. This, in turn, has obvious implications for trust and relationship building.

The difficulty both TAMPOA and the City face in their relationship is that neither recognizes nor understands the full dimensions of the real problem. Until there is that understanding, the relationship will remain rocky at best.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

TAMPOA Board Secrecy To Meet With Attorneys

The commenter to our post about TAMPOA Board secrecy who said that any board should have a right to meet privately and in closed session with its attorneys is absolutely correct. That's what we said in our post. What we objected to, however, was the unnecessary secrecy for the parts of the meetings that were not devoted to meeting with the lawyers or a discussion of the litigation. In the agenda of the meeting on which we commented, there were clearly parts of the meeting not devoted to meeting with the lawyers. There was no practical (or, in our view, legitimate) reason for making those parts of the meeting secret.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Debate About The TAMPOA Board

To the three-time commenter who suggests we haven't attended TAMPOA Board meetings, we say: Wrong! But even the commenter has to admit, it's a little hard to attend them or be effective when the meetings are closed to TAMPOA members, and even at the open meetings it is clear that the Board members have had secret discussions among themselves about almost everything controversial might come up. Our objection to Board secrecy was the point of our post, which apparently the comment poster didn't understand. We'll try to be more clear next time.

It's too bad the Sunshine Law doesn't apply to the TAMPOA Board. They are willing to invoke it against the City Commissioners, but don't adhere to even its spirit when dealing with their own constituents.

We're glad, however, that we lit such a fire under the commenter that he or she felt compelled to post the same message three times. We want you to know, Commenter, that we heard you, and see that you seem to care about something. Our purpose is to get people to care and those who care to speak up. We accomplished our purpose with this commenter.

But, we don't agree with the commenter when he or she says we are "part of the problem." We're not sure on what problem the commenter is focusing. The commenter also wants us to be "part of the solution," without stating what the comment poster's version of "the solution" is. Obviously, we'd want to know what the commenter's version of "the solution" is without willy-nilly signing on to it.

Another difficulty with the position taken by the commenter is that the while we applaud and appreciate the fact that the TAMPOA Board members are volunteers, we (and many others) simply disagree with some of their thinking and actions. Despite their efforts, some of the Board members don't seem to recognize or understand the full dimension of the problems with TAMPOA's relationship with the rest of the Key West Community. They have used poor judgment (e.g., the full page ad in The Citizen, which Board President, Tom Tukey, now admits was not a smart move). They have acted on bad advice (e.g., the gate). They have run up exorbitant legal bills. They have made a mess and seem unable to clean it up. They appear to be out of touch with their constituents. And they seem generally to be out of control by TAMPOA members.

Our "solution" to the problem of the out of control TAMPOA Board members is to stimulate debate about this deplorable circumstance. Apparently we are having some effect in getting people to pay attention to what the Board is doing. While that may upset some folks, like the comment poster (who we assume is either on the board or closely aligned with one or more of its members), such debate is good for the Truman Annex community. So we don't intend to "shut up," as the comment poster wants, and we hope our readers will not either.

We'll be right here to report on the Board and other interesting news and opinion affecting TAMPOA members. After all, TAMPOA doesn't seem to be doing it. Have you taken a look at the TAMPOA website lately?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

TAMPOA Board Secrecy

The TAMPOA Board is meeting in a totally secret session tomorrow and banning even Association members from all of its meeting, according to a notice approved by TAMPOA Board President Tom Tukey, and an email sent to TAMPOA General Membership by Operations Director, Sterling Christian. " In that this meeting is an executive session, it will be closed to the General membership," said Christian.

The excuse for this deplorable practice is that Bill Andersen, the TAMPOA Attorney, will be present and the Board intends to discuss litigation. We have no quarrel with preserving the attorney client privilege for communications with Andersen. However, the discussion with Andersen isn't until midway down the agenda and only includes one agenda item. That is not a valid excuse to close the entire meeting to the membership, when we and the TAMPOA Board know darn well that, according to the agenda, not every item will be a discussion with Andersen and not every part of the meeting will be about litigation.

To show how absurd TAMPOA's fear of the outside and its members has become, the TAMPOA board has barred TAMPOA members from being present for the following agenda items: 1. Calling the Meeting to Order; 2. Determining a quorum; 3. Proof of notice of the meeting; 3. Approval of the Minutes [of the last meeting, which was open]; 4. Reports of the Officers; 6. Reports of the Committees; 7. Unfinished business; 8. New business; and 9. Member input.

It appears that some of the review of litigation discussion may come in the reports of officers, but the agenda isn't clear about that. It would have been simple to make that clear. One of the reports is the treasurer Report. Many items there have nothing to do with litigation. Besides, we already know what TAMPOA has spent on litigation, so that can't be confidential. If it is, then the board should vote to close the meeting at that point.

And speaking of a vote, nowhere in the agenda does it provide for a vote to go into closed session. Do all of the TAMPOA Board members support the idea of a totally closed meeting? Seems like they're not given any choice in the matter or don't want to stand up and be counted.

By far the silliest part of the closed meeting agenda is that the agenda provides for "Member input" although the meeting is closed to members. How do you suppose the board will accomplish that? Guess they'll just use themselves as surrogates. Is it any wonder their decisions are batty?

Can't you just imagine the kind of "member input" they have with themselves:,

"Hey P., let your hair down and give us your member input about what we just said.

" Sounds good to me. What do you think, H?"

" Who me? Um, peachy. I just look at numbers. English could be brushed up a bit. Tally ho!"

"Oh, a gate, yes, for Mr. T to keep out the riffraff. Will this do it? We don't want to look like we're anti troops, but the Navy in here after dark? It's not what it used to be. Anyone can be on those ships."

"What do you think Bill?"

"Well, it's not my place to. . ."

"Oh, Bill, cut the crap. You know we gotta stick together here. This is really our only time to talk."

"But this wasn't on the agenda. We need to stick to that, but I understand your point."

"And what about you, Sterl? You're not a member, technically, but you're like family, if we had any." You know the members, what's the chatter?"

"Well, it's not my position to . . ."

"Not you too? Doesn't anyone understand what we're trying to do here?"

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The New City Attorney Salary

We were happy to see that at least commissioner, Bill Verge, took Conchette's advice and agreed with our recent post that the proposed salary of the new City Attorney was too high and should have been set at $150,000. It's too bad the Mayor and Commissioners Rossi, Kolhage and Lopez didn't agree. The high salary will come back to bite the City when it has to hire a new City Manager and when other department heads begin to demand raises or leave. The high salary will also result in very high, perhaps unrealistic, expectations for the new Attorney's performance.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tukey Still Doesn't Get It

In his reply to criticism of TAMPOA's Southard Street gate policy, Tom Tukey, President of the TAMPOA Board, is saying now that the Navy isn't really concerned about the Southard Street gate but about the checking of identification and the stopping of Navy personnel. He just doesn't have or choose to believe the facts. In fact, the Navy is concerned about both the gate and the checking of fidentification by the TAMPOA security bumkins.

We wonder what it is that Mr. Tukey fails to understand about the clear words, "we are opposed to a gate?" That is what the Navy said. A five year old could get that. Yet Tukey just doesn't want to accept reality. Is this an extension of cat mentality or just plain stubbornness?

While he may choose to continue to wear blinders about the Navy's crystal clear position, he is leading the Annex residents into a world of hurt, not to mention bankrupting TAMPOA, which now can't afford to pay its legal bills. Not only is his policy about the gate wrong, it is downright stupid. We had hoped Tukey, who came to the TAMPOA board preaching compromise and common sense (and has fostered none of that), would forget the gate and now recognize that the gate and the way access to the waterfront is managed between the City, Bahama Village and Truman Annex are two separate issues. We expected too much. What irresponsible thing will Tukey and the TAMPOA board do next; sue the Navy too?

The New Eco-discovery Center

If you have not been there, you should visit the Nancy Foster Environmental Center at the Truman Waterfront. Although the Center is not scheduled for its grand opening until January 9, 2007, it is now open to the public Tuesday through Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free. Get there now before the crowds.

The building housing the Center is adjacent to the NOAA offices on the waterfront and is part of a "green" complex, an environmental friendly set of buildings, likely to win some architectural awards. Native grasses and plants are a part of the roof. This earth roof cuts the cost of cooling the building. Rainwater is collected and recycled for use in grey water and for irrigation.

The Center has wonderful interactive exhibits that will appeal to both children and adults. It also has a gift shop that sells environmental books and other items for both children and adults. This is a good place for your Christmas shopping if you are looking for books for children about the reef or ocean. The Foster Center will be a golden resource for teachers to use as an interactive teaching tool to help Key West students and others from all over the Keys learn about the unique ecology of the Florida Keys.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Annex Residents Write TAMPOA About Gate

Some Annex residents have written today to the TAMPOA Board about the gate on Southard Street and the Navy opposition. Here is the letter sent to the board and with which many have told the board they agree:

"A group of us who continue to be concerned about the Board's positions re Southard Street e-mail back and forth. None of us believe that a gate at Southard is a necessary element of a satisfactory settlement of the on-going (and overly expensive) dispute. Since 1989, we have been without a gate at Southard and Thomas, without significant detriment. We consider that Southard is quite a different kind of street than Caroline, Eaton and Fleming. The developer (Singh) also thought so and acted accordingly when gating the community. Those residents who purchased property on Southard also knew there was a difference. We also believe that the Navy will never tolerate a gate that obstructs access to their important facilities. They have an easement and so should the City. Southard leads to a state park and beach, the Navy facilities, and hopefully to a waterfront park. Even though we do own a small piece of it, with public roads on either end, we must live with the idea that the commmunity requires access to the waterfront. However, we strongly support all efforts to provide ingress and egress thru other Bahama Village streets. The more streets, the better. Which ever streets are finally designated do not, and will not, have gates. Neither should Southard. We can all live with it, as we have for 18 years. However, we cannot live with Southard being the only route to the waterfront. So, concentrate on this issue, please, and forget the gate. And keep in mind that the arguments above do not even touch upon the disasterous public relations to which a gate at that location gives rise."

[Name withheld to protect privacy.]

No Gate On Southard Street

The Navy has now said it too opposes a gate on Southard Street. The Navy's opposition should virtually assure that TAMPOA will never be able to block off the street as it wishes. What amazes us is that no one at TAMPOA bothered to get the Navy's view first, before spending a quarter million dollars of the Annex residents' money on lawyers' fees, since whatever the Navy wants it is going to get. The City Negotiator, Commissioner Bill Verge, isn't realistic if he thinks the Navy somehow will be barred from enforcing its access through Southard just because it has waited until now to speak up. Why would any seasoned negotiator think that silence from the Navy meant assent? Anyone who has spent any time in government would know better.

This whole gate idea was the stupid brainchild of TAMPOA Attorney, Bill Andersen, and TAMPOA President,Tom Tukey, who have maintained in one form or another, that TAMPOA needed to actively assert its dominion over Southard Street to thwart the City's legal arguments. To give the Navy its due, it had no reason to believe anyone would continue to cling to such a brainless concept, given the realities of national security in a post 911 world. But Andersen and Tukey were not focused on the big picture; only their pedantic mission of one-upping the City.

The Navy has no reason to come to the bargaining table, other than as an observer, because no one has anything the Navy wants that it can't just take. That's what Tukey and Verge don't (yet again) get. When the Navy needed access to Southard Street in the past, the Navy just took it, and there is no reason, if push comes to shove, under the right circumstances, it could not do so again. If TAMPOA thinks, in this post 911 era of the Patriot Act, it can interfere with the Navy's access by erecting a gate or stopping Navy (or NOAA) personnel to inquire of their destination, TAMPOA is putting its personnel at risk of prosecution for federal felonies. In the time it takes to spell out TAMPOA, were the Navy to make the request, a federal judge can and will preempt TAMPOA and its minions from all interference with the access to Southard Street (at all hours) by the Navy and NOAA personnel and vehicles.

The only reason the City, in its latest proposal, seems to accede to a purported desire by TAMPOA for a gate is that the gate has become a metaphor for all that's wrong with the traffic pattern accessing the waterfront, and the City has the mistaken idea that if TAMPOA gets its gate, the rest of the solution will fall neatly into place. Wrong! The Navy's message throws cold water on that idea. Both the City and TAMPOA would be well advised to get over their fixation on TAMPOA's gate and focus on how are TAMPOA and the City going to deal with the traffic on Southard and other streets needed to access the waterfront.

Yes, we did say "other streets." Southard Street is not the only street that will be involved in access to the waterfront. Anyone who sat and watched the power boats crunch their way around the guard shack and through Southard this past weekend knows that at least two other streets besides Southard will be needed to provide adequate access to the waterfront. It is downright silly to ignore that. A settlement between TAMPOA and the City will not make that problem go away. We wonder what it is that Commissioner Lopez and his Bahama Village constituency do not understand about that? So what streets are you prepared to say should be used for the additional access, Commissioner Lopez? The time for fence-sitting is over. Now would be a good time to speak up, before someone else, through bubba bargaining, decides for your constituents or convinces the Navy through Congressional leverage that it can route all its access through Bahama Village.

The Navy's statements about TAMPOA's proposed gate are fortuitous. They serve to remind the disputing parties that a gate will not solve the waterfront traffic and access problems and will only raise other concerns. TAMPOA's silly gate is not the issue. Forget about it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The New City Attorney

Did you ever wonder why it just so happened that the new city attorney is the same one who "volunteered" to research for free the ownership of Southard Street for the City and a Bahama Village group? Do you suppose his application for the City Attorney position was a coincidence or did he know he was a likely candidate for the position at the time he "volunteered?"

His proposed "negotiated" pay package will reward his volunteer spirit, though we assume he will continue to work on the Southard Street matter for the City and Bahama Village group for free, as he has "volunteered" to do.

However, do you suppose that once his $175,000 plus per year contract is sealed by the commissioners, suddenly he will have a conflict of interest if he continues to work for the Bahama Village organization, and will also have to accept pay from the City to work on the Southard Street matter, just to be even handed? If the Commissioners were smart, they'd hold him to his promise he made regarding his "volunteer" work on the Southard Street matter. Of course, they could just cut his "negotiated" salary package by about $50,000. That would still give him about $20,000 more than his predecessor was making.

By the way, did you ever wonder who takes credit for negotiating this salary package? Apparently none other than Commissioner Verge, who is already backing away from his handiwork. The job was advertised at between $150,000 to $175,000 (by whose authority no one will say), and that tough City negotiator, Bill Verge, is taking the contract at $175,000 to the Commission. Some negotiation. No wonder the City gets taken when it negotiates with TAMPOA, and has to use the Commission to unravel the ineptitude of the City's negotiators. Can't you just see that in the works here?

So, hold your breath (but not for too long) and let's see if Commissioner Bethel is any better a negotiator than Verge -- not a difficult task. The tougher negotiation will be convincing the rest of the bubbas on the Commission to go along and not waste the city's money. Some of them, like Rossi and Kolhege, have the dreamland view that by paying the new City Attorney his asking price, they will save money by not having to farm out complex litigation to private law firms. These commissioners need to come back from space before the vote. The reality is that the City Attorney's office, given all its other duties, will never be able to effectively compete with private firms in complex litigation, and it is unrealistic to expect it to do so. The City will always have to farm out complex litigation to private firms (as other cities of similar size do) if it wants quality work. So the argument that the City will save farm-out money by paying the new appointee more money just won't wash.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Return to Paradise

Returning from a well deserved respite from the Key West madness, I splashed down at Key west Airport on Thursday. Somehow, I was hoping more had changed in the few days I'd been gone - like maybe the City Commissioners would have re-invented themselves into bastions of stability and common sense (wishful thinking); or the Truman Annex Southard Street madness would have been cured (too much to wish for); or Tom Tukey and Paula Ryals would have gained some insight about PR (again, too much to wish for). So, here we are, swimming in the same old craziness and loving it.