Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thanks For Your Support

In this holiday season and as the end of the year approaches, we want to thank our readers who have supported this blog. Not all of you have made comments. Some, instead have thanked us in person. For those of you who have made comments in support of our goals to provide an open and constructive dialogue on issues facing Truman Annex and Key West, we thank you. Our thanks again to Cayo Dave for his comments and posts about how helpful we have been to the community for information about Truman Annex and TAMPOA. We'll continue to present the news about Truman Annex as well as our own comments on important issues for the Annex and Key West.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thanks To Cayo Dave For His Praise

We want to thank Cayo Dave and the Key West Chronicle Blog for his post on December 7 praising our coverage of the Southard Street Gate issues in TAMPOA's battle with the City. We'll try to keep the news flowing as we are able to learn new things.

Truman Annex is about to go through some serious changes in the coming TAMPOA Board elections. Many of us hope that those elections will repudiate some of the policies the Board seems stuck on and bring an effort to focus on the shared values that unite residents of Key West rather than the at times unseemly and divisive contentions of the past year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

How To Make Music

What a sound! All you guitar players, take note. Bob Kilgore shows what can be done with a guitar. Check out this and Bob Kilgore's other music videos on You Tube.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Insurance Crisis Is Still With Us

"Where am I supposed to come up with $5,000 again? We need to do something.'' So says Zenobia Lopez of Biscayne Gardens, who is one of many Florida residents who won;t be able to afford next year's insurance premiums, and has signed a petition to the Legislature that meets in Special Sessioon on January 16, 2007 to consider what to do.

The mood of the residents is not a happy one. Many blame the legislature for the crisis. 'It's our legislators that are doing this to us,'' said Julio Pinto of Kendall, according to the Miami Hearld. Pino, who pays $9,000 a year is one of 35,000 homeowners who have signed a petition to the Legislature, and the number is growing.

Residents insured by Citizens are concerned because a new state law requires Citizens to boost its reserves rapidly so it has enough money on hand to cover claims from a massive storm. The result is that there will be big increases over the next three years. The first one is a 55.8 percent increase planned for March, 2007.

A group in Collier County fighting the rate increases has hired the same actuary that worked with FIRM in Monroe County who successfully challenged a Citizens rate increase for the Keys.

In Brevard County a group of homeowners is drafting its own list of remedies that includes eliminating the provision in the new state insurance law that requires the huge premium increases in Citizens' rates; preventing insurers from canceling long-term policyholders; allowing rate increases on a more gradual basis; and pushing for the creation of a regional or national catastrophe fund.

That group is also pushing for more regulatory control of insurance companies. Right now, consumers can oppose electric and phone company rate increases through Florida's Public Counsel office, but homeowners can't do that with insurance companies.

Feeling the heat, Governor-elect, Charlie Crist, and some key legislators have said that the Citizens rate increase planned for March may be too big a bite and that the insurance bill that required the rate increases needs to be re-worked.

No one is happy, but one thing is certain. The legislature and the new governor better get it right before March rolls around.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Judge Nose

Is this how a Judge might be thinking about the Southard Street dispute?

So, It's Win Or Die, Is It?

Responding to anonymous who said, "I guess your position is just capitulation. . ." :
You guess wrong, and you read more into our report than there is. We were simply providing the facts on the amount of the fees so far.

It's true we are unhappy with the whole process regarding Southard Street and the way it has been mishandled (something the TAMPOA Board agrees with). The problem is that even if TAMPOA wins, we all lose, including you, anonymous!

Nobody in the Annex gets anything out of winning, except a boost to their big fat egos and an I- told-you-so. The only winners are the lawyers, bless their souls, who will have taken everyone's money and bought some more expensive toys.

You ask, "What happened to the Rule of Law?" The Rule of Law, when it comes to the City Commission, is meaningless, as, no doubt, you will agree. It's not that this Commission is against the Rule of Law, its that they and other Commissions before them never heard of it. They operate under the Rule of Bubba. This is something TAMPOA doesn't get.

We are not suggesting "capitulation" as you call it, nor do we think you are realistic when you suggest there will be parking meters on the streets of the Annex. That's too tacky, even for the Rule of Bubba. There's not enough money in parking meters.

Our problem with what has happened with the Southard Street dispute is that there now seems to be no way out, short of spending millions of dollars to have some judge disappoint everyone. Even if the judge would rule for TAMPOA, and that's not 100% certain according to Bill Andersen, what makes anyone think at that point the City Commission will roll over and play nice? Look at the Commission's virtually frivolous appeal of the Duck Tours case. Will Duck Tours ever collect? Not anytime soon in our lifetime.

Somewhere there needs to be a grip on reality and a realization that litigation (which one can do until the chickens come home) is not the be all and end all that it seems to promise. The solutions here are political, not legal, and that's what makes them so tough.

TAMPOA would do well to think about how it can build coalitions with other community groups around shared values to make sure that the City is faithful to the plan it has adopted for the Waterfront instead of selling out to developers and losing the waterfront property as it lost Truman Annex. If that happens it won't matter whether there is a gate on Southard or even who owns the street; nor will it matter who wins the Southard Street litigation.

We don't pretend to have the answers providing a way out of this mess, All we know is that what is being tried now is not working, and it is time to change course and change the leadership (such as it is) on both sides.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Latest TAMPOA Attorney's Bill

Readers from Truman Annex might be interested in knowing the latest bill TAMPOA got from Attorney Bill Andersen. The bill is for November and is $79,000.00 and change. This makes the balance now owed to Andersen $125,000.00 that TAMPOA cannot pay due to insufficient funds. Of course, there will be more charges for December. Then when depositions begin in January, there will be still more charges. And more in February. And more in March. And more and more.

And, we predict, the TAMPOA Board will try to levy another assessment in May 2007 to keep paying Andersen.

Sadly, there is no end in sight to this madness. Even if TAMPOA wins in court, we all lose. Lest we forget, the City commissioners are fighting TAMPOA with our tax dollars, not their own personal dollars. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the City will obey a court judgment any more than it has honored a contract with TAMPOA. Of course, just as with the Duck Tours case, the City will appeal, meaning more attorneys fees. And we can never recoup the money we are spending. Is it worth it? Is this Tukey's and TAMPOA's Iraq?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kayaks And Canoes Need Not Be Registered

This may be old news to some of you, but there has been so much else going on that we didn't get around to posting this until a slow Monday news day. Even if old new, we think it's good news that the state Boating Advisory Council rejected the notion that the owners of kayaks, canoes and small boats should have to register their crafts. We think the 9 to 5 vote against recommending registration to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is a good step in the effort to encourage the use of environmentally friendly watercraft.

Recently, there has been a commendable effort, with assistance from the Florida National Marine Sanctuary and Coast Guard, to use kayaks to help clean up the garbage along Keys shoreline. Now hopefully, the Navy will pitch in and do their part to clean up the shoreline near their property.

Answering Some Questions

Every week or so we will endeavor to answer some of the questions raised by commenters to the extent that we have not already addressed them in a post. We hope to make this an regular feature of this blog. This will allow us to answer questions from commenters whose comments were otherwise not publishable. (See our prior post, "About Publishing Comments.") So let's get to it.

An Anonymous commenter states about our post, "Some Good Signs From The TAMPOA Board":
"interesting take of the board meeting. Some of it accurate, some not accurate. Add to that sprinkled commentary with a bias. . ."
and asks:
". . . why weren't you at the meeting? there was little in the way of disagreement presented except for the need for increased communication to the membership to which the board agreed. there was little if any of the dissent you have been proclaiming. why didn't you present to the board any of the complaints that you print in your blog?"
". . . why, if you feel so strongly about the issues and the board's "mishandling" of them, don't you run for the board to correct them?"

". . . are you a tampoa member? . . . it does come down to credibility."
The answer to the question suggesting that we were not at the recent Board meeting is we don't think the commenter was really there or he would have seen us.

And we certainly have a different view of whether there was little, if any dissent by TAMPOA members. On the contrary, unlike our assertedly present friend, we have noticed a real shift in the concerns of TAMPOA members over the Board's admittedly bad handling of the Southard Street controversy. We sat and watched a TAMPOA member take the Board to task at the meeting. And there were other comments that could hardly be viewed as supportive of the Board.

Moreover, TAMPOA members who were once supportive, have begun to rethink their positions in light of the triple-digit rise in their assessments. The Board members have received a good many emails; more than they normally receive. What's more, the Board has begun to change as a result of the dissent that our allegedly present friend has missed. There appears to be a sense on the Board that they need to do a better job of communicating with the TAMPOA membership, something we have said here. Now the Board may have begun that process. This realization didn't just magically appear. It was driven by TAMPOA member criticism, including that published as posts on this blog.

And, to answer another question by the same anonymous commenter, yes, we really do live in Truman Annex. Longer, we might add, than our allegedly anonymous commenter has lived there. TAMPOA membership is automatic (and compulsory) for residents of the Annex. Our commenter should know that (if he really lives in the Annex).

The same commenter asks why we did not present to the TAMPOA Board "any of the complaints" raised in this blog. The answer is that we have communicated privately with a number of Board members, including the Board President, about our concerns. They know what we think. We know, also, that they regularly read this blog. Unfortunately, sometimes talking with a few of the Board members is like talking with the Key West City Commission. You don't always know whether they're home.

The commenter also asks, why, if we "feel so strongly about the issues and the Board's handling of them," we don't run for the Board. That is a tough question. It's not that we haven't thought about it. The truth is we haven't decided. There are a number of unanswered questions in our mind. One of the biggest is whether having another person on the Board to add to the now lone dissenter there will change anything, given the current "political make-up" of the current Board. Put more plainly, will there be enough votes on the Board to make a real difference? Maybe. Maybe not. We don't know.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

About Publishing Comments

Regrettably, we have recently had to delete some abusive or otherwise improper anonymous comments from this blog. Some blogs do not allow anonymous comments, some (of the most successful in terms of their traffic) not only prohibit anonymous comments but also require registration as part of their efforts to contol abusive or spam-like comments. The dilemma for bloggers, like news editors, is to strike a balance between having no restrictions on what comments will be published and not allowing comments at all.

Unfortunately, it is always a few anonymous abusers who spoil it for all the reasonable commenters as well as our readers. Some of those abusers have used a spamming technique of posting the same comment, verbatim, over and over again with every post. Not only does this tactic violate the etiquette of blogging; it is down right annoying to our readers. Some of those abusers, at times, may even have something reasonable to say, but they pair it with so much personalized abusive name-calling and other ranting behavior that the publishable part of their message gets lost.

So we, like so many other bloggers, have had to do something to deal with those anonymous few who have abused the posting process. Our message to these abusers is: (1) you (and we) know who you are; (2) go start your own blog if you can't or won't abide by common blogging etiquette; and (3) your abusive behavior will not get you attention on this blog.

Regrettably, rather than prohibit all anonymous comments (as we have been advised to do by other bloggers) we have begun, as you may have noticed, using a bit of technology, used by many news editors, so that we can review comments before they are published. Comments are like letters to the editor. Like every newspaper editor, we try to publish comments that are interesting, are well written, are sensible, are focused on the issue of our post, are free of name-calling, are not abusive or libelous, and are not mere personalized rants. If your comments meet these criteria, there is high probablity that they will be published, even if we disagree with them.

We are not interested in stifling dissent or opinions that disagree with ours; in fact, it is just the opposite. Our interest is in making this blog more readable and more interesting, while at the same time encouraging responsible debate.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Verge Will Hold A Town Meeting

If you haven't heard, Key West District I City Commissioner, Bill Verge, will be holding a town meeting on Wednesday, December 13th at 7:00 PM in the Key West Ferry Terminal building at the end of Grinnell Street at the Historic Seaport. For our readers who are interested in where the City Commission (and verge in particular) is going with the Southard Street dispute, this may be your chance to ask him some tough questions. Do you think he may be running for mayor? Do you think he wants to be mayor?

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Letter From Tom Tukey

We received a "members letter" from Tom Tukey, President of the TAMPOA Board, late yesterday. We assume this is part of the TAMPOA Board's effort to better communicate with TAMPOA members. Here is the letter without comment. We'll save our comments for later. We'd like to hear yours.

The Truman Annex Master Property Owners’ Association, Inc.
201 Front Street, Suite 103 Key West, Florida 33040
305.296.0556 305.293.0251 facsimile

December 7, 2006

Fellow TAMPOA Owners,

There was much discussion at Monday’s (Dec. 4) Board of Directors meeting about “goals.” As we have published in the local media and as we have stated several times in our newsletter, the goals of your Board include the protection of property values and rights, the upholding of a contract, reasonable access by the public to the projected waterfront park and security for our residents. Both the traffic contract entered into by the Board of directors in 2000 AND the plan that was agreed upon at mediation in March of this year, met all of these goals. On the other hand, the City has never established cohesive goals. What we have learned is disturbing.

One commissioner has stated that he does not believe that contracts entered into by one Commission are binding on a following Commission. This is an incompetent belief. Consider what would happen if the opposite parties to all City contracts held the same belief. That is, anyone could simply abandon the contractual obligations that they had with the City. This flawed concept guarantees legal and operational havoc.

Another commissioner has stated that the City should get all they can in an eminent domain action. They should be able to own all streets in Truman Annex and allow public vehicular traffic on all streets at all times of the day or night. This would violate the quiet enjoyment of many residences. It would be a complete reversal of the peaceful environment that allows for extensive pedestrian, bicycle and roller blade activity and the maintenance of our property values.

A third commissioner has proposed that traffic meters be installed on all of our streets to increase City revenue and ease Old Town parking pressure for tourists. Again, please consider the total visual transformation to our streets and the erosion of our security should this happen. For those who think property values are not at stake, please, think again.

To continue, objections have been raised, by interests who do not own homes here, to our current prohibition of large diesel-powered busses. This is so that the transport of passengers from the very largest cruise ships via Southard Street can be expanded. The noise and noxious transit of such vehicles benefits only those who promote their own money-making opportunities.

Another developer has openly encouraged the Commission to expand the City tax base by allowing the development on the waterfront of all types of establishments including restaurants, bars, affordable housing and retail stores. Such development would displace the agreed upon green space that was originally proposed for all City residents. It would also negatively affect the views and tranquility of Noah’s Lane, Mills Place and parts of Harbor Place.

It is a mistake to assume that the funds that have been spent to keep the City from breaching its obligations to TAMPOA relate only to traffic on Southard St. There is much more on the minds of some officials and there is nothing more attractive to a developer than free waterfront land in Key West

But returning to traffic for a moment, some have suggested that the current traffic is not a problem or that residents on Southard Street should have known better. There are several responses to that. First, owners have known for six years that there was a contract with the City that would significantly reduce traffic and they have patiently lived with it. Second, many buyers relied on the integrity of this contract when they purchased. They made plans involving the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Third, other residents would simply disagree. They strongly feel that traffic is already a significant problem. They say that the increasing number of school busses, re-supply vehicles, dump trucks, NOAA patrons and park tourists ARE a problem NOW. And lastly, under the continued breach and future development ideas of some, the current traffic problems will only increase.

To further discuss the gates on Southard Street, the original contract in 2000 agreed upon by the Navy, TAMPOA, the State of Florida, and, the City Commission by unanimous vote, had gates. The mediation in March, after TAMPOA sued the City for specific performance, had gates. Unlimited access during all hours that the public would need access to the various entities from Admiral’s Cut to Fort Zach would be allowed. Gates would only be closed at night. As you know, the City refused to act on the mediated settlement just as they refused to act on the 2000 contract. Access control is vital. According to published studies reviewed by the Board the value of a gated community relates to the ability to control traffic on its streets. This ability to control traffic is vital to property values both in terms of defining the bounds of property and, especially, in controlling traffic after dark. Gates enhance nighttime security for our residents, prevent late night access from the waterfront and act as a suppressant to the development of restaurants, bars and other retail establishments.

To protect against these real prospects of increased traffic, security erosion, commercial waterfront development, parking meters and public vehicular traffic on all our streets, the Board made several decisions on Monday.

1. The Board decided to continue their two-track approach to achieve their goals. This includes continuing dialogue and negotiation with the City through Commissioner Verge as well as proceeding with efforts to have the court system uphold our legitimate contract.

2. The Board decided to adequately fund the association budget to allow for costs associated with litigation. This means that the quarterly assessment will increase to $1150.00 and the special assessments will be $400.00 each in January, April and July. If these total amounts are not needed the Board will adjust them down.

3. The Board will ask the Bahama Village Consortium, despite other differences of opinion, to band together and agree that the best use of the waterfront land is primarily as a park for all the City’s residents. This was the original vision. If that vision of open green space is lost, it will be lost forever.

If this traffic and development issue is left unresolved it has the potential of being profoundly negative and long-lasting to our members. The Board has tried with the City on multiple occasions over many years to resolve it, only to be met repeatedly with inaction and misrepresentation. It is their pattern of behavior. At this point, “trust” on our part would be irresponsible. This is why we will continue to endeavor to informally resolve this issue but we will also continue with our pursuit of a legal remedy.

Tom Tukey
Thomas B. Tukey
For the Board of Directors

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Some Good Signs From The TAMPOA Board

There are signs that the TAMPOA Board has begun to understand how seriously angry some Annex residents are with the Board's handling of the Southard Street dispute. A few of the signs that Board members are beginning to get it emerged from the December 4 Board meeting.

The Board will be putting together a Power Point presentation at the annual meeting detailing the expenditures on the litigation. There are concerns among some board members that providing spending details to the membership about the cost of the litigation will hurt TAMPOA's litigation were the details to be learned by the City. While we don't agree that telling the TAMPOA membership in some detail what has been spent on legal fees will hurt TAMPOA's litigation position, we do commend the Board for acknowledging at the meeting that its communication with TAMPOA members has been less than ideal, and for understanding that the Board will have to provide a sufficient amount of detail about spending on the litigation if the Board expects to members to support their efforts.

The Board has reversed itself and now will do a survey of the members. While the Board was not crystal clear, our understanding is that the Boar intends for the survey to be done in connection with sending the Notices for the January Annual Meeting.

The Board also endorsed a proposal brought up by Tom Tukey to attempt to open a dialogue with the Bahama Village Consortium regarding common interests that TAMPOA and the Consortium may share regarding the City's development of the Waterfront. We applaud this idea. We have said on many occasions that we think there is more that unites Truman Annex and Bahama Village residents regarding the future use and development of the waterfront than divides them. We have consistently maintained that you do not have to agree with someone in order to understand them and that understanding, in the long run, is often more important than agreement, because understanding is the first step towards respect.

A small sign that the Board is beginning to understand what a burden some TAMPOA members feel the Southard Street litigation has become when the Board, with virtually no debate indicated that the 2007 Southard Court pool assessment (usually paid in a lump sum as part of the Regular First Quarter Assessment) could be paid in installments.

Prior to the Board meeting, the Board had received a hefty number of emails reflecting member discontent. It was obvious that the Board members had talked among themselves before the meeting and was trying to be more conciliatory, something we commend.

The Board has also decided to ask for a legal opinion from an attorney (not Bill Andersen) who has advised the Board in the past about the law regarding homeowner associations. The Board wants a legal opinion whether it is required to obtain a vote of the membership when it wants to use the special assessment route, as it has been doing, to spend more than $100,000. Some TAMPOA members have maintained that the Board's expenditures of more than $100,000 on the Southard street litigation without a vote of the membership is unlawful. The Florida statute governing the situation is sufficiently ambiguous that then Board has decided to tread cautiously and seek a formal legal opinion. This might protect the Board members from liability, in the event that the Florida statutes do require a vote of the membership as some TAMPOA members have claimed.

Some things about the litigation itself came up at the Board meeting. One board member reported that Andersen was now indicating that the litigation over the ownership of the street, while ultimately on solid footing may not be on such bedrock in the short term, and victory may only come after an appeal. The implication is that the litigation may cost more than anticipated -- more than the $250,000 set out in the 2007 budget.

That coupled with the fact that TAMPOA, even if it wins the lawsuit ,may not be able to recoup its legal fees in the current litigation is leading the Board to explore other strategies that would involve litigating the dispute in Federal District Court. The Board, to its credit, is moving cautiously on this recommendation. The Board has made no decision. Any decision will require a careful analysis of many competing issues, advantages and disadvantages and can spell success or disaster in the dispute with the City. The Board is correct to move with caution and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Also noted at the Board meeting was the fact that Board members have been reading the Key West blogs. Even if they don't like or agree with what they are reading, it is a good thing, nonetheless, that they are reading. A classic purpose that the blogging community serves, like the pamphleteers of Ben Franklin's day, is to push the envelope of people's awareness and thinking. The blogs provide a rich and diverse resource of information. So we hope the Board members, and Annex residents as well, will keep reading the Key West Blogs.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Can Someone Tell Me What The Big Deal Is?

That is what one of our new commenters asks. The commenter says that TAMPOA has agreed to full public access between 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and notes that Key West parks are closed at night anyway. Why, the commenter asks, is granting public access all day long not sufficient? It is a question for the City Commissioners.

One would think that public access to Southard Street all day long would be enough if logic was the only factor at work. Unfortunately, logic is not all that is at work in the dispute between the City and TAMPOA. A good deal of the City's position is not logical, but is the result of pandering to politics or is politically driven. Another factor at work is blame. Focusing on it instead of the issues can interfere with a resolution of the dispute.

The unfortunate answer to why all day public access is not sufficient is because the City Commissioners that have to be convinced won't agree that it is. We do not know what really is behind their position because they have not clearly said so In addition, each commissioner may have different concerns. While voting down the mediated settlement, each commissioner may have had a different rationale. Unfortunately, the result was the same -- no agreement.

Until both sides begin to focus on what is behind their various positions and how to satisfy each others' interests, progress toward a resolution of the dispute may be difficult. The reality is that neither side can go it alone, but need each other to end the dispute, and safeguard the development of the waterfront by the City.

It is in the interest of both sides to resolve the dispute which is holding up the City's progress in developing the Waterfront and threatening to let the Waterfront property fall into the hands of developers, something none of the disputing parties seem to want. It may be that this common shared value -- making sure the waterfront property doesn't fall into the hands of commercial developers -- ends up being the catalyst for the beginning of a conversation that allows each side to get beyond the hot button illogical symbols that have divided them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

TAMPOA At The Crossroads

The TAMPOA Board meets this Monday, December 4 at 4:00 p.m. Sure to come up at the meeting will be TAMPOA member concern about the Board's additional assessments to members voted on at the October 23, 2006 Board meeting and the consideration of the 2007 budget by the Board. There is member concern over the budget, given the dramatic rise in assessments due to the legal fees that are being paid to the Andersen Firm for the Southard Street and gate litigation with the City. TAMPOA members see no end in sight to the litigation, see the Andersen Firm's billings as a runaway train, and fear additional assessments will be made by the Board as the legal expenses continue to climb.

No one disagrees that TAMPOA must pay its current legal bills, however much we don't like the fact that they were incurred in the first place. However, that does not mean we need to incur future exorbitant legal bills, nor does it mean we cannot question the current legal bills where they reveal (or there is a suspicion of) such improper billing practices as duplication of effort, "over lawyering" (e.g., having two or more lawyers attending a hearing or deposition or working on a single task when one lawyer will do), unnecessary work, inefficient work, billing for unnecessary conferencing among firm partners, and the failure to exercise "billing judgment" (billing the client for items not commonly billed for in the legal community of which the firm is a part). Ideally, if the attorney bills by the hour, each bill should reflect a reasonably precise description of the work performed, the date each task was performed, the time devoted to the task, the name or initials of the attorney (or paralegal) in the firm who performed the task, the hourly rate for the billed task (or the rate assigned to the lawyer or paralegal who performed the task), and the amount billed for the particular task. The bills should be backed up by contemporaneously kept time records. In major litigation, like the Southard street dispute, bills that simply read, "For Professional Services Rendered" (or words to that effect) and then a total, without a specific detailed task description as described, should be questioned to make sure they are accurate and are free of the defects mentioned above. We assume, but do not know, that the TAMPOA Board, as part of its "fiduciary duty" to the members has been closely monitoring the legal bills it has been receiving in order to guard against the billing practices referred to above. Some TAMPOA members have asked to see copies of the legal bills and, since they are lawyers, will be attuned to looking for evidence of the defects in billing practices mentioned above.

However, what many TAMPOA members are really hot about are (1) we have never been told, even in the November 29 Board letter published here, the precise total of the outstanding legal bills; (2) what is the estimate of the amount of future bills; (3) how the Board, which claims to be fiscally responsible, intends to reign in the runaway Andersen billings; and (4) that the Board has not polled the members about whether they want to set a limit on the litigation costs or even abandon the litigation or parts of it (like the gate).

We know some Board members have the view that the gate was part of the original 2000 agreement with the City and must be enforced as part of that contract; that the City in the failed mediation did not oppose the gate; and that if they don't have a gate, the property values of some higher end homes (on Noah and Admirals Lane) will drop and one or more of those owners will sue the Board for an alleged breach of fiduciary duty to protect those values from injury. We won't go into that now -- it will be the subject of a future post -- but it is enough to note these are the views of some Board members that are driving the litigation.

TAMPOA is now at a crossroads. With the approval of the new assessment, it is unlikely the Board will be able to muster another assessment in the near future without a full scale revolt and a refusal to pay by TAMPOA members. There are already talk of a recall and calls for the resignation of the entire Board. The Board will have to decide what it is going to do to begin to repair relationships with its own residents as well as the wider Key West community.

The Board members who, like the City Commissioners, are political animals, have to live in the Annex and, at some point -- we don't know what point -- are sensitive to how they are perceived by their neighbors and (believe it or not) the rest of the community. These Board members don't want to be viewed as pariahs -- at least they don't want to see themselves that way. Right now they have no idea -- really, it's true -- how they are thought of in the Key West Community. Many on the Board still believe, for example, that the full page ad in The Citizen was good public relations.

We think it's time for the Board (and the City Commissioners) to understand just what the public thinks about the way the Southard Street and gate dispute has been handled and what should now be done. This is a dispute that threatens the future of the Waterfront development. Board members, as well as City Commissioners, have said they are eager for feedback. If they get enough responsible feedback, not just missiles full of name-calling -- that won't help, they may well see that their litigation strategies are not working. Recently, public outrage that was generated over a Colorado homeowners association's ban of a member's holiday wreath that displayed the peace sign lead to a public apology and the resignation of the entire board. (By the way,TAMPOA has a similar policy on holiday decorations as that Colorado association but, wisely, does not enforce it.)

So let the TAMPOA Board and the City Commissioners hear from you. Here are the TAMPOA Board members' email addresses. You can also find them on the TAMPOA website to which we have provided a link.

Tom Tukey, President

Jim Hall, Vice President

Paula Ryals, Secretary

Harold Berry, Treasurer

Frank Serio

Phil Wilson

Rebecca Baumann

Here are the Mayor and City Commissioners' email addresses.

Morgan McPherson, Mayor

Bill Verge, District I

Mark Rossi, District II

Dan Kolhage, District III

Harry Bethel, District IV

Jose Menendez, District V

Clayton Lopez, District VI

Finally, if you would prefer, you can post your views as a comment to this blog post. We will forward your comments to the TAMPOA Board and to the City Commission. We will group the forwarded comments into three batches: one from those who live outside of Truman Annex; a second batch for those who live in Truman Annex; and a third batch for registered voters. If you are a registered voter in Key West (regardless of where you live), and you tell us that and the District (I through VI) in which you are registered, we will forward your comments to your City Commissioner as well as the TAMPOA Board.

If you do post a comment, in order to have your comment forwarded to the TAMPOA Board or the City Commission, you must (1) give your name and (2) you must indicate whether you live in Truman Annex or in the rest of the City of Key West. Anonymous comments will be discarded since they likely will have no impact on the TAMPOA Board or the City Commissioners.

We think your comments will be useful to both the TAMPOA Board and the City Commission in deciding on how to deal with the Southard Street and gate dispute, as well as a helpful reality check on some unwarranted assumptions both sides may hold.

We will forward your comments from now until January 2, 2007. Make your voice heard. Let the TAMPOA Board and the City Commissioners hear from you.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Annex Resident Responds To The TAMPOA Board

A prominent and respected Truman Annex resident and former TAMPOA Board member has responded to the TAMPOA Board's November 29, 2006 letter to TAMPOA members. He accuses the Board of not telling the whole story to the membership and of setting up smokescreens. We obtained a copy of the email letter. Here it is.

Sent: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 10:43 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Letter from the Board of Directors

While you were throwing up more smoke screens, you neglected to inform the membership that we cannot pay our new 46k legal bill, due to insufficient funds. You NEED to tell the whole story and not just bits and pieces. Now, due to your actions, you have pitted neighbor against neighbor. I dare say you have cooked all of our geese. Better yet ASK the people what they would have done. #1 answer ....nothing..let the city make the move....nothing has changed...Southard street is still open...there are no gates...and no more traffic than there ever was. What a mess you all have created. I am ashamed of this board and it's actions. I have started to campaign for change. Bill Cartledge

Friday, December 01, 2006

TAMPOA Board Explains Its Position

A new letter from the TAMPOA Board sent to TAMPOA members on November 29, 2006 seeks to explain why it is suing the City, fighting for a gate on Southard Street, and won't change course despite significant member opposition to its actions. The letter was designed to reach TAMPOA members in advance of the Board meeting on December 3rd when the Board is expected to levy additional assessments on TAMPOA members to pay its lawyers (The Andersen Firm) and continue the litigation over Southard Street against the City. Here is the full (unedited) text of the letter. You be the judge.

The Truman Annex Master Property Owners’ Association, Inc.
201 Front Street, Suite 103 Key West, Florida 33040
305/296-0556 305/293-0251 facsimile

November 29, 2006

Dear Member:

It is important that your board communicate as much as possible to you and provide as much information as we can. Recently, there has been some disinformation about “gates” which should be corrected.

First of all, vehicular gates on Southard St. were called for in the 2000 contract which was negotiated between TAMPOA and the City. The City breached this contract. When we went to mediation in March these gates were again approved as part of that mediation. The City has again reneged. There were many compromises made but gates are in both documents because many residents want late night security. There is no reason that non-resident vehicles need to have open access to our streets in the middle of the night. Further, when the waterfront park is ultimately much more open, there is concern that non-residents might come in the back of Southard near Noah in the middle of the night. As has always been the practice, these gates would be wide open for unhindered transit from early morning until late evening (7 AM to 10 PM). Pedestrian gates at all entrances to the Annex would also be open to the public during the day. What primarily concerns the Navy is identification inspection. In fact, at mediation both representatives of the Navy approved gates. Commissioner Verge also supports this. We would strongly urge you to take all media publications with several grains of salt if not the entire shaker.

Regarding litigation costs, we have had to deal with unmitigated bad faith by the City. They breached the 2000 contract. They neglected to cure this breach despite assurances by officials at our annual meetings and several written communications by staff. They did not enact the mediated settlement that their own representatives approved in March. Extensive title research was required due to inadequate documentation by the developer and by slander of title accusations by City officials. Public demonstrations were carried out by public officials on our private property and one of our security staff was assaulted. Various pleadings and research have been necessitated by all of these events and have, in turn, generated significant legal costs. To be blunt, these costs have been caused by the City.

All of the above have presented difficult problems to the volunteer directors. Hard decisions have been made but we must look to the future. We must consider potential problems associated with unfettered waterfront development. Also, under our documents, we simply do not have the option of giving away common property (i.e., the streets). And finally, we can not be the cause of significant property devaluation to all members based on what we know to be the negative ramifications associated with loss of access control. Because of these factors, and because of our fiduciary responsibility as directors, legally enforcing our property and contract rights is our only option.

All of this is complicated, costly, prolonged and frustrating. We continue to be eager to hear your thoughts and chat with you. And as part of your thoughts, please remember, the board tried in 2000 but was met with default. We have tried at public meetings where there was much more heat than light. We have tried on more occasions than we can recount in direct discussions with all commissioners. We tried and succeeded in mediation but, again, the City defaulted. The City has forced us to defend our rights.

This is why we are where we are.

The Board of Directors