Saturday, March 31, 2007

Blogger Registration or Anonymous?

One of our commenters has indicated "Sorry, but i don't understand the difference between a "blogger identity" and and an "anonymous blogger." " This is an interesting question raised in response to one of our posts.

In a reply to one commenter, on another subject, we had made a distinction between someone who posts as one who has registered with blogger and someone who simply posts as "Anonymous." That distinction, admittedly, was not clear. What we meant was that if you have registered with Blogger and have created a Blogger profile for yourself, your screen name will appear in blue (or some other color) at the top of your post and will contain a link to your profile. If you have not registered with Blogger, no link will be contained in your screen name.

We had indicated that, as many blogs have done, we are thinking about requiring a registration in order to be able to post a comment on this blog. We have not, as yet, decided what, if anything, to do in that regard.


More Dry Cat Food Recall

The pet food recall has been expanded to include a brand of dry cat food, Prescription Diet m/d Feline, made by Hills Pet Nutrition. Here's more.

The FDA reports that it had found melamine, a chemical used to make plastic and also fertilizer, in the pet food it tested that has been killing animals. The FDA said that the Prescription Diet cat food mentioned above had been made with wheat gluten shipped from China and contained melamine.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The President's Man Does Rap

Here comes "M. C. Rove." Can you believe this?

Labels: ,

Guns And Porn: Comming To A Car Near You

The folks in Tallahassee are at work. The Florida Senate is protecting our rights once more. This time a bill has passed a key Senate Committee, 7 to 1, that will let you keep guns and porn in your car (but out of sight) as long as they are licensed and legal. The bill will punish employers if they bar guns and other material, deemed to be offensive to the employer, from cars in its parking lots. The bill will subject employers to prosecution if they question an employee about the contents of his or her vehicle.

So if this remarkable piece of legislation passes, when you go to yell at those workers in the parking lot behind Truman Annex, better take your gun and porn with you with you to equalize your odds.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A New Word: Wisdomality

Some anonymous commenter challenged us on the use of the word, troll, in a reply to a comment we made on Monday. We came across another word with an equally mystifying usage: wisdomality. Here is where we found it.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Florida Porn Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of a child pornography law called the PROTECT Act of 2003. The issue the court will consider arose in the case of a man whose conviction in Florida for promoting child porn was reversed by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. That court found that the pandering provision of the Act was unconstitutional because it was overbroad and impermissibly vague. The court held that the law makes criminal the speech of someone who touts material as child pornography when in fact it is clean or nonexistent.

The appeals court found that the pandering provision of the Act could apply to an e-mail entitled "Good pics of kids in bed" sent by a grandparent, with innocent pictures attached of grandchildren in pajamas. One sender might be a proud grandparent while another might be a convicted child molester who hopes to trade for more graphic photos with like-minded recipients, the appeals court said.

In its petition asking the court to take the case, the Bush administration's Solicitor General said the appeals court had read the law's language more broadly than was warranted.

One thing we know. There are at least four votes in favor of one side on the Supreme Court. Anyone care to guess?

Labels: , ,

A Thought For The Week of March 26, 2007

"As more of us learn to express the ways in which we exclude members of our community and as we learn to candidly express our own bias, we can learn to live with both feet firmly planted in a world that is whole."

-- Lawrence Otis Graham


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Still No Update To the TAMPOA Website

We have previously blogged here about the TAMPOA website. After reading Cayo Dave's blog post about the TAMPOA rules, we checked the TAMPOA website again. It still languishes unattended.

Interestingly, there is a message from President Tukey in the newsletter purporting to summarize and commenting on the depositions taken in the Southard street state court litigation. Guess we'll have to blog about that one day.

We find it appalling that the leadership of TAMPOA can spend oodles of money on two lawsuits. That same leadership can stop using recycled paper (like it used to do) and instead pay for expensive slick magazine paper to print its latest (March 15) newsletter. However, the leadership of TAMPOA won't spare the time or dime one to add it's latest newsletter to its website. Why do you suppose that is? Is it another example of misplaced priorities?

Whatever the reason, we find it hard to believe it is an accident, i.e., the TAMPOA office just hasn't gotten around to it. We hope Annex residents will begin to ask questions about what is going on with the website. It's time for some answers.

Labels: , ,

Spotlight On The Annex

Truman Annex still stirs the passion of bloggers outside the Annex. As we tried to catch up on our blog reading, we found this on the Key West Chronicle Blog. It seems that the same anonymous trolls that always comment here are frequenting Cayo Dave's blog. We couldn't resist helping to set them straight. We hope Cayo Dave and other bloggers will keep the spotlight on the nonsensical rules and policies that infect Truman Annex and make it difficult for the larger Key West community to appreciate the many contributions to real Key West life a number of Annex residents make. The actions of a thoughtless few who want to narrow the freedom of others to conform to their own class and cultural-based stereotypes have wrecked the reputation of Annex residents in this City.

The one thing that these thoughtless few fear is that their closet stereotyping is exposed to scrutiny and that they may be embarrassed by it. That is why they react so fiercely, in truth squad fashion, at the slightest criticism that their rules or policies may be less than egalitarian or even paternalistic. These few need to look politically correct even while they are not. When some blogger, like Cayo Dave, punctures their proverbial high-minded bubble, they get offended, because the one thing that gets their attention is that they might look stupid. The fear of looking stupid accounts for most of the political change in the Annex. After all, "when you are filthy stinking rich," as one of our friends put it, "you are expected not to look stupid, and when you do something has to change."

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Alert! Alert!

Menu Foods which makes dog and cat food that was the subject of a nation-wide recall last week has now recalled ALL of its dog and cat food brands. This expands the initial recall. The FDA website has been updated today to say that "consumers who have any of the products subject to the recall should immediately stop feeding them to their pets."

Tests have discovered rat poison in some of the recalled cans. The substance in the food was identified as aminopterin, a cancer drug that once was used to induce abortions in the United States and is still used to kill rats in some other countries, according to New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker.

For more information on the brands and specific products check out this FDA site.

If you own a pet or know of someone who does, you owe it to that animal's safety to check out this recall. In a previous post, we provided details of the Menu Foods website where you can find more information. Here is the website for Menu Foods again.

In information obtained from Menu Foods, the FDA learned that Menu Foods conducted "tasting trials" of the pet food on cats and "nine cats died died during routine taste trials conducted by the company."

Now what we wonder is whether there wasn't a better way of determining that the pet food was contaminated than to feed it to NINE cats?

UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Menu Foods in a press release this afternoon indicated it had not recalled all of its dog and cat food brands, as was earlier reported in the news media and here. The recall remains limited as stated in this press release issued this afternoon.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 23, 2007

For Our Detractors

And now, for our detractors out there, we found this bit of amusement.


If You Go To Eat At The Outback . . .

Leave the drugs at home is the message from the incident described by two hungry cops in their police report here.

Labels: ,

Coming To A Starbucks Near You

Singer Paul McCartney has been signed as the first artist with the new Starbucks Corporation record label.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What's Going On Here?

The Key West Airport is a mess. Heaven only knows when that project will be completed, if ever. The Freeman Justice Center, a/k/a, the Courthouse, construction appears to be grinding to a halt because the contractor chosen to do the work on the building's facade may not be able to get the $260,000 bond it needs. The County has already agreed to buy the materials for the facade. Seems like there is a basic problem here with the way the County is managing its projects. Maybe it's not the projects but the County's oversight and administration of the projects that needs to be fixed.

The Courthouse construction has certainly given the Truman Annex residents their share of headaches, noise, and dust for almost four years. Anywhere else, such a project would have taken half that time, including the hurricane stoppages. And TAMPOA seems powerless to help the Annex residents who live near the construction zone.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Citizens Will Cut Rates Some More

In case you hadn't heard, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation will cut rates for wind insurance another $1.21 per thousand dollars in coverage, lowering the rates from the $13.59 per $1000 the Insurance Commissioner had ordered. Read the details here. And here.


And Now Children

What kind of sick minds would do this? Very sick minds. Iraq isn't the only place where warring groups have used or co-opted children into fighting their battles. Having spent time in war zones in Central and South America and Africa, the number one fear one had was to see a child running toward you (or even near you) with an automatic weapon. It's easy to say Iraq is different -- more cruel -- and may be it is, but the result with children is the same. A whole generation is lost.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Either way he is going to get his money"

That's what the Mayor was quoted as saying in advance of tonight's City Commission meeting. The Mayor is preparing to ask the City Commission to terminate the City Manager's contract nine months early. The Mayor has asked the City Auditor to audit Manager Avael's sick leave and vacation time. It is clear that the Mayor wants Avael gone, but what do you suppose is really going on behind the scenes?

We suspect that it's not just that Mayor McPherson believes that Manager Avael is not being effective as a City Manager any more. What was the straw that broke the Mayor's confidence in Avael. Was it the replacement-of-the-code-enforcement-officer flap? If Avael does get the axe, who will take his place? Oh yes, we know there is the Assistant City Manager, but there has to be more to the story. Whatever the full story is, unless the City is careful, it will likely impact the search for the next City Manager.

Labels: ,

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

We wonder if that is the new motto at TAMPOA HQ? For instance, has TAMPOA abandoned its practice of sending the quarterly newsletter by e-mail and reverted to just a paper newsletter. Also, it seems that TAMPOA has not bothered to put the newsletter on its web site, which, as of this post, has not been updated since the new Board members' names were hastily added after the election in January.

The newsletter was finished and sent out by mail on March 15, 2007 (with the quarterly bills), but as yet has not been added to the web site. If we wanted to think conspiratorially about these lapses in efficiency, we could believe that the lack of an e-mailed newsletter is an effort to prevent broad dissemination of information in the newsletter. Of course, we don't think that way, and even if there were such a lame idea afloat, it would be totally in effective to prevent an active discussion of what is going on within the Annex.

Since some in TAMPOA have suggested that there may be no need to send a paper newsletter as everyone has e-mail, we can only assume that TAMPOA has found (as we have) that this is not the case and has decided that paper will continue for the foreseeable future, even though it is considerably more expensive. Then again, when has TAMPOA ever really worried about saving money on the small stuff?


Monday, March 19, 2007

With An Idea And Some Good Clients

"But I live in Naples, Florida, in a gated community. I don't feel real threatened down here." So says the architect of the lawsuit that did away with the District of Columbia gun-control law. The lawyer who conceived the attack on the gun control law is not some radical militia man. He does not even own a gun, but thinks he might want one if he were living in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill. Nor is he a member of, as he has put it, "one of those pro-gun groups." No, he's a guy who says his only interest is "in vindicating the the Constitution."

Once a D.C. native, he now is a constitutional fellow with the Cato Institute, a libertarian Washington think tank, and works out of his expensive Naples condo. His successful suit against the D.C. gun law was the result of carefully selecting the plaintiffs in the suit and carefully crafting their desired outcome.

He is one of three lawyers involved with the case, which is probably headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, since the District of Columbia says it will appeal. You would think that would be expensive. Yes, it is. "To take something like this all the way through the Supreme Court, you're talking about several hundred thousand dollars," he has said. Because, however, his counsel are charging a reduced rate, "it hasn't been nearly that much."

Hum . . . , where was this guy when TAMPOA needed him?

Labels: , ,

A Thought For The Week of March 19, 2007

"He who fears actually causes his own destruction. Fear saps our energies and our ability to act in our own best interest."

-- Carleen Brice


Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Trouble With Secrecy

The trouble with the lack of open records is that the secrets are bound to get out. When that happens, what was hidden always gets sensationalized and the revelation always seems worse than it probably would have been had the event not been covered up in the first place. This is almost always the case when the event ordinarily would not even command a page 20 position in the local newspaper.

While we realize that even a traffic arrest can seem like major news in Key West, in a city the size of Miami, there are hundreds of arrests in an evening. Of those, only the most serious felonies (usually involving violence or large quantities of drugs) are likely to raise a news-brow. But let an intrepid reporter even think that something is being covered up or someone is getting "special treatment" and the journalistic pheromones go into such an uncontrollable episode of heat that a hound dog could drown in the saliva generated by the panting to get the story. This appears to be true even when the "story" is more than half a dozen years old, has little relevance to any current event concerning the person in the "story," or otherwise would generate only a titter -- among the consigliere.

The only other time an event generates such a journalistic feeding frenzy is when the event has the scent of sex. Then journalists (who must appear starved for it ) seem to lose all sense of restraint and don their National Enquirer waders to slog through muck to bag their quarry. Such sex-driven feeding frenzies of the National Enquirer variety usually involve quarry seeking attention, directly or indirectly. A case in point: the erstwhile "star" whose crotch recently was memorialized by the paparazzi. But arguably that story at least was a "current" event, if one can call crotch-watching an "event."

Harder to understand, much less explain, is the fascination with an almost seven year old arrest in Miami that did not result in a prosecution or a conviction. Perhaps part of a rational explanation is to be found is in the philosophy of journalism that drives any particular reporter or editor. That philosophy is usually made up of a combination of instinct, news acumen, ethics, drive, political sense, passion, and character all operating together in assessing and producing a story. Another part is whether a tip was involved.

Reporters are almost cop-like when a tip is involved, particularly when the tip comes from another reporter or a trusted source. Reporters are duty-bound to follow up on a tip for a whole variety of reasons. First, a tip is just that. You never know where it will lead. It may be nothing, but it may also be the story of the decade. A part of your job is detective work if you are an investigative reporter. Second, if your tip is from a trusted or credible source, it is journalistic malpractice to ignore it. Another reason you have to follow up on a tip, especially from a trusted source or another reporter is that if you don't, you won't get any more tips. Tips are like favors. If you ignore them, people will stop giving you favors. Your thank you for the favor is your follow-up. Your extra thank you is the resulting story. That story says to the one providing you the lead, "Well done." Your follow up and the appearance of that story is empowering to your source. It vindicates his or her notions of justice, whether or not you intended that result. So there are compelling reasons for a reporter to follow up on tips and get the facts.

What a reporter (or editor) chooses to do with those facts is another matter. That decision is often at the root of the criticism the press receives because the public is a great second-guesser and Monday morning quarterback. Many journalists (and editors) solve the "what-to-do-with-the-information problem" by simply going with the story. They prefer to err on the side of telling most, if not all, as accurately as they can while depending on the readers' ability to sift and winnow the information appropriately. Otherwise, the journalist must take on the very dilemma posed by the secrecy of the information the reporter has uncovered: whether the secrecy was appropriate in the first place. If it was not, then why is the reporter continuing to perpetuate that inappropriate secrecy by sitting on the information?

The sifting and winnowing approach seems to work fairly well and has another advantage. It keeps the press independent from influence by the rich or politically powerful and results in a more open society. The truth is that the public is a pretty forgiving lot, and is able to cut people it feels have gotten a bad rap in the media a good deal of slack, even if what was said about them turns out to be accurate. That was likely the case with President Clinton's interlude with Monica Lewinsky. What most of the public got steamed about was not his interlude but was that he was not exactly forthcoming about it. To be sure there were some who disapproved of the relationship with Monica in general, but the polling seemed to show that the public was more concerned with the denials than with the details of Clinton's Monica folly.

So will anyone really care about what really happened to Tom Tukey, or whether it (whatever IT is) happened, as Dennis Cooper portrays it? Some may, especially Mr. Tukey. However, the people we have heard from in the Annex, who are not particularly rabid Tukey supporters, seem to care little about the event, if they even are aware of it. For these folks, and perhaps others, ultimately the burning questions will be these: what does whatever happened, if it happened, in Miami on some date almost seven years ago have to do with what is happening NOW with TAMPOA? And, how, if at all, does it affect the job (yes, volunteer or not, it is a job) he does or must do in the future as TAMPOA's President? Until those questions get aired and answered, the whole event, even if it produces an abundance of back-porch-cocktail-hour tongue-wagging among the power elite at the Annex and sells a lot of newspapers, is a yawn.

The real lesson that is lost on the tongue-wagging-cocktail-set is that the story would have been a non-event, even for Key West The Newspaper, had some in the Florida justice system not tried to cover it up. That's the trouble with improper secrecy in government. The fallout is always worse than the initial event.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Alert! Dog And Cat Food Recalled!

If you own a dog or cat or know of people that do, please check the brand of food you are feeding your pet NOW to see whether the food has been recalled. That is especially true if you shop at Publics or Winn Dixie.

A style of food called "cuts and gravy" that consists of chunks of meat in gravy sold in cans and small foil pouches and made between December 3, 2006 and March 6, 2007 has been recalled. A number of dogs and cats have suffered kidney failure and died after eating the re-called pet food. The food is sold under a number of different brand names in stores operated by PetSmart, Inc., Safeway inc., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and a number of others , including Publics and Winn Dixie, throughout the United States.

The food was made by Menu Foods for about 17 of the top 20 North American retailers, including Proctor & Gamble. That company and the manufacturer has recalled specific products sold under the Iams and Eukanuba brands. Menu Foods lists all the brands that have been recalled on its web site.

The products recalled are said to be 3 ounce, 5.5 once, 6 ounce, and 13.2 ounce canned and 3 ounce and 5.3 ounce foil pouch wet cat and dog food made by Menu Foods. The recalled products are said to bear the code dates of 6339 through 7073 followed by the plant code of 4197. The recall covers pet food made at plants in Emporia, Kansas and Pennsauken, New Jersey.

The listing of recalled dog foods we were able to obtain is: America's Choice; Preferred Pets; Authority; Award; Best Choice; Big Bet; Big Red; Bloom; Bruiser; Cadillac; Companion; Demoulas Market Basket; Fine Feline Cat; Shep Dog; Food Lion; Giant Companion; Great Choice; Hannaford; Hill Country Fare; Hy-Vee; Key Food; Laura Lynn; Loving Meals; Main Choice; Mixables; Nutriplan; Nutro Max; Nutro Natural Choice; Nutro; Ol'Roy; Paws; Pet Essentials; Pet Pride; President's Choice; Price Chopper; Priority; Publix; Roche Bros; Save-A-Lot; Schnucks; Springsfield Pride; Sprout; Stater Bros; Total Pet; My True Friend; Western Family; White Rose; Winn Dixie and Your Pet.

The listing of recalled cat foods we found is: Americas Choice; Preferred Pets; Authority; Best Choice; Companion; Compliments; Demoulas Market Basket; Fine Feline Cat, Shep Dog; Food Lion; Foodtown; Giant Companion; Good n Meaty; Hannaford; Hill Country Fare; Hy-Vee; Key Food; Laura Lynn; Li'l Red; Loving Meals; Main Choice; Nutriplan; Nutro Max Gourmet Classics; Nutro Natural Choice; Paws; Presidents Choice; Price Chopper; Priority; Save-A-Lot; Schnucks; Sophistacat; Special Kitty; Springfield Pride; Sprout; Total Pet; My True Friend; Wegmans; Western Family; White Rose; and Winn Dixie.

More information about the recall can be found on the Menu Foods web site. When we checked there just before this post, the site had slowed to a crawl, so you may have to be patient.

The recalled dog and cat foods are also listed on the web here.


Friday, March 16, 2007

More Guns For The Keys?

A week ago, a federal appeals court for the District of Columbia overturned Washington, D.C.'s long-standing ban on handguns. In doing so the Court rejected the city's argument that the Second Amendment right to bear arms applied only to militias.

The 2-1 decision held that the activities protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution "are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right [to keep and bear arms] contingent" on being part of a militia.

In a city with a previous reputation as the murder capital of the country, this is no small matter. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the city cannot prevent people from keeping handguns in their homes. The ruling also invalidated a requirement that owners of registered firearms keep them unloaded and disassembled. The court did not deal with provisions of the law that prohibit people from carrying unregistered guns outside their home.

This decision is the first time a federal appeals court has struck down a portion of a gun law on the ground that it violated the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

It's hard to know whether and in what manner other courts may follow suit. It is too early to tell whether the case will get to the U.S. Supreme Court. The harder question is what do you suppose all this means for the Florida Keys?

The Police Executive Research Forum in a recent study noted that the biggest factor in the spike in violent crime is easy access to guns and a willingness to settle disputes with them, especially among young people. This report comes along at the same time there is the divergent holding by the D.C. Court of Appeals mentioned above.

It may be that judges are no longer likely to be persuaded by the notion that denying guns to everyone will result in a safer situation for law-abiding citizens, since access to hand guns (even by those who should not be able to get them) seems relatively easy. Public opinion may also be changing. As law enforcement encounters more difficulty in controlling gun possession and violent crime, a change in public opinion that favors gun ownership based on notions of protection may likely occur. After all, when you think everyone else except you has a gun, it is not very hard to justify the idea that you need one too.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Here's Another Fine Mess. . . Part 2

In our initial post about the TAMPOA Federal Suit we reviewed who the parties and the attorneys were and the theory behind why TAMPOA believes the matter belongs in Federal Court. Now let's take a look at some of the history behind the suit.

The story begins during World War II. Early on, it was a war we were not winning, and the United States was concerned about the security of its Southern and Eastern Coastline. As part of the war effort, the United States determined that it needed to expand the Key West Navy Base. The government wanted the waterfront area which we now think of as Truman Annex. The United States started a condemnation proceeding in the U. S. District Court -- the same court in which the TAMPOA Federal Suit is now pending. As a result of the condemnation proceeding, the City of Key West conveyed to the United States all of its rights, title and interest in the land known as the Truman Annex Parcel, including, according to the TAMPOA complaint, "any such streets and roadways." The Truman Annex Parcel is the area of land measuring 32.98 acres on which the development we know as Truman Annex was ultimately constructed by Pritam Singh. One of the streets was, of course, Southard Street.

Interestingly, Southard Street is not called "Southard Street" in the TAMPOA federal complaint. Instead Southard is referred to as the "Private Street." If you are the least bit familiar with Key West, however, you know darn well TAMPOA is referring to Southard, and you may be tempted to ask what kind of a psychological mind game the TAMPOA lawyers are playing with the Federal Court. But hold on, there may be a reason for what appears to be an ineffective attempt at a mind meld.

You see, TAMPOA doesn't claim it owns ALL of Southard Street, and the Navy didn't take ALL of Southard. The street continues to run north of what is now known as the Truman Annex Southard Street entrance. That portion of the street, north of the Annex entrance, remained the property of the City, and still does today. The TAMPOA lawyers, therefore, may be trying to differentiate the "private" Southard from the "public" Southard. That's a legitimate technique and one that gets the judge thinking about and calling the street private from the get go. Hey, the technique comes right out of Legal Writing 101 -- if you are going to frame the issues, make sure you do so in a way that is not only clear to the judge, but favorable to your side.

Whether the technique is artfully executed is not for us to say but for you, and ultimately the judge, to determine. If you begin to be persuaded, then the technique may be effective. If your reaction is why couldn't the lawyers simply have said the "private portion of Southard" instead of "the Private Street," when everyone is going to be calling it Southard Street anyway, then the technique doesn't work for you. We'll see. Nonetheless, you have to give it to the TAMPOA lawyers; they're inventive, and the term, Private Street, does have a bit of Spock-like precision to it.

But back to our story. The TAMPOA Complaint alleges that from 1942 until March 11, 1987 the Navy used Southard street as one of two entrances to the Key West Navy Base. That's true, in that Southard was one of the main gates to the base. However, there were several gates to the base.

During the 45 years when the base was operative and Southard Street from Thomas Street South to the water was part of the base property, the Navy controlled access to that part of Southard Street. The complaint also asserts that during the time the Navy owned the Truman Annex Parcel, the Navy allowed visitors to use Southard Street to go to the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park on the Waterfront.

As many of you know, the Navy base actually began in 1845 as part of the Fort Zachary Taylor army base. Fort Zachary Taylor, was originally a Union Army fort that played a roll in the Civil War. The base was eventually taken over in 1947 as the "Fort Zachary Taylor Annex" to the Key West Naval Station. New docks had been added in 1932 to make it a home base for submarines. Submarine warfare was important in World War II and explains why the Navy wanted to expand its waterfront operations in Key West.

In 1968, volunteers began to excavate the old armaments in the gun rooms of Fort Taylor. In 1971, Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1973, the fort was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Navy Base was mostly decommissioned in 1974 because nuclear submarines were too big. The Base at Key West finally was put on the list to be permanently closed.

In 1977, the federal government offered to lease the Truman Annex Parcel of the closed base to the City of Key West. The City and the federal government had lengthy negotiations while the City struggled to find the money to eventually buy the property. For a time, during the off and on negotiations with the City, the Truman Annex Parcel was leased to the Key West non-profit economic development corporation, the Key West & Lower Keys Development Corporation. After that, the Parcel was leased to the Development Corporation's successor, the State of Florida's Redevelopment Agency, pursuant to Title III, Section 163 of the Florida Statutes.

The City government of Key West has never been swimming in dough and has always had to struggle through one blunder or another to raise or conserve its funds, and the years after the Navy Base closed were no different. (My own connection to Key West as well as my name comes from my godfather who became the Administrator of Key West when the City went bankrupt in 1935).

The efforts of the City to buy the Truman Annex Parcel from the Navy were destined to and did ultimately fail. Much like it has done with the efforts to develop its current newly acquired waterfront property, the City pussy-footed around in moving ahead to raise the funds and do what was necessary to close the deal with the Navy -- the Navy wanted the City to get the property -- but the City bungled the deal. When the lease on the Truman Annex Parcel ended, the United States, in 1986, put the property up for public auction.

Next time: enter Pritam Singh. Stay tuned. . .


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Creating A More Open TAMPOA Government

Monroe County, Key West, and TAMPOA could take a lesson from Governor Crist on the notion of open government. Florida's Sunshine Laws are often violated, and Governor Crist has determined to do something about it. One of his first acts as governor was to create an Office of Open Government to train state officials and employees about open government and public records laws and to require compliance with them. As part of the compliance process, the governor has directed State Agencies to designate someone to oversee public records requests and insure that they are responded to quickly and completely.

The apparent lack of knowledge regarding the applicability of the Sunshine Laws by some on the Monroe County Commission was recently brought to light. The side deals that have gotten made in the past in the City Commission, while not violations of the Sunshine laws, probably would not have been made had more light been shed on them. The latest example is the effort by the City Commissions to reverse course once they were sued by Last Stand. A final example is the tempest now unfolding over sealed court records in Miami-Dade. It is not enough to obey only the letter of the Sunshine Laws and the requirement for open records but they must be observed in spirit as well.

That's where TAMPOA comes in. We realize that TAMPOA is private and can thumb its nose at will at both the letter and spirit of the Sunshine Laws. But wouldn't you think that a group that is battling for public acceptance in the Key West Community would want to embrace the notion of open government within its own ranks? Wouldn't you think that the TAMPOA leadership would want to be more proactive about providing the broadest array of information to its members?

Instead, it appears that a member of TAMPOA who may not be a permanent resident of Key West has to go to some to get information that would be readily available to the average Joe dealing with the City of Key West. TAMPOA certainly has the technology to make it's government more open to its members, so it's not a case of "can't" but a case of "won't." And we don't see how, for example, TAMPOA got away with inviting the Mayor to speak to its Annual Meeting while excluding the public (and the media).

Despite its claim that the Annual Meeting had the largest turnout in a long while, the reality was that only about 88 owners showed up in person -- the rest appeared by proxy, i.e., gave their vote to someone who was already there or showed up in their place. Since there are at least 267 owners in the Annex, not counting Shipyard, it's hard to claim (at least in real terms) the Annual meeting was a crowd. But we suppose it's all relative and if 88 real owners show up in person and you've never had 88 before, then maybe you are making some attendance progress.

Think of the progress that could be made in having a more informed membership if TAMPOA would simply use it's existing technology. Many of the TAMPOA Board members already attend the Board meetings by conference call. Why not let the membership in on the call as well and let members who want to dial in?

Why not be more proactive in updating the TAMPOA website? The site still has an old newsletter from 2006 on it, and even though TAMPOA has added the two new board members to the posted list of board members, the list is still being referred to as the "2006 Board" when the two new members were elected January 29, 2007. The Board appears ready to spend money on (some think fruitless) litigation but won't spend money on improving the TAMPOA website to better communicate with members.

There are even advantages in using technology to better communicate for those few on the Board who want to keep some matters secret. There are numerous organizations, both smaller and larger than TAMPOA, that use secure and confidential web technology to communicate with their members. TAMPOA has simply chosen to remain in the dark ages as far as informing its membership is concerned. Frankly, we don't understand why. But its choice to do so is short-sighted and is hurting its members understanding of its actions.

Perhaps TAMPOA's choice will prompt some folks, including Governor Crist, to seek to include homeowners' associations like TAMPOA within the ambit of the Sunshine Laws. These associations often function as virtual governments, with the power to police, fine, tax, and spend with little oversight. They are subject to few federal or state constitutional controls and hold sway in Florida over a large number of peoples' lives. The actions of these homeowners' associations affect the cities, towns, and villages where they are located, and yet they are not accountable (in the same way the cities, towns, and villages are) to those within their often-gated walls.

The Mayor of Key West was right when he noted at the TAMPOA Annual Meeting (from which the resident citizens of the rest of Key West were largely excluded) that Key West is changing. Judging by the number of condo conversions and gated communities being planned and built in the Keys, the day may not be far off when all Key West will be is a series of gated communities governed by private homeowner associations that are not subject to the Sunshine Laws or the requirements of open government.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Top Ten Ways To Get Your Comment Published

Having set out the ways to NOT get your comments published, we thought we would approach getting your comments published from a positive direction and set out the 10 BEST WAYS to get your comments published. Here they are beginning with number ten:

10. Be nice to the Blogger.

9. Be a blogger who links to our site.

8. Be a friend.

7. Be directly involved in news or controversy.

6. Write well.

5. Be witty and funny.

4. Make a good argument, even one we might not agree with.

3. Write something thoughtful.

2. Be a reliable source for news or information.

1. Sign your comment with a name other than anonymous.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Keys And Locks

For the second time within a year the locks are being changed on the gates in Truman Annex. Why? It's not because this is needed to ease the residents' worries about the burglaries occurring in Key West, but because the maintenance on the locks has become too expensive. Of course, until the locks are changed burglars in the Annex knew they could leave their crowbars behind. They didn't need them to pry open the Truman Annex gates at night since there are at least 2000 keys to the locks installed on the Annex gates (see the post titled "Not Enough Pedestrian Gate Keys"). There are only 267 household members of TAMPOA, so there are enough keys out there for every burglar currently in town.

So let us understand this. We've had normal ordinary keys for the pedestrian gates for way more than a decade, but because we've given a key to almost 10% of the population of Key West, we've decided to get new locks because the current ones get busted too often. Of course it never occurred to anyone that the reason the locks are busting is that there are too many keys afloat and being used by too many people.

The real reason for getting new locks is not maintenance, it is because too many people have keys!

As for these new locks they will be a newfangled kind -- an orbital lock set. Of course once the Key West sand and dirt from the Court House and other construction gets in these they'll gum up too.


A Thought for the Week of March 12, 2007

"If you want to see a positive image, it's in your house. It's standing there washing your underwear. If you want to see a positive image, it's cooking dinner and has a job to go to in the morning."

~ Bill Cosby


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Top Ten Ways Not To Get Your Comments Published

As many of our readers know, comments on this blog are screened (moderated). Some of you who have tried to comment have complained that although we have published other people's comments, we have not published yours. We hope that the following may give you some insight about why your comments may not have made it into print. Starting with number ten, your comments will not be published if in them you:

10. Threaten anyone with physical injury.

9. Use what we judge to be nasty language or swear words directed personally to someone in your comment.

8. Are dull, boring, uninteresting, or have nothing to say.

7. Make a comment that has nothing to do with the article you are supposedly commenting about.

6. Have little else to say except to try to insult the blogger or another poster.

5. Engage in name-calling, instead of addressing an argument on its merits.

4. Try to post to an article that is more than a week old. Unless the thread of the article is an on-going series, your comment may be viewed by the editors as old news.

3. Make the same type of comment over and over again.

2. Use an incorrect name or initials when referring to a person in your comment.

1. Refer to the blogger by a presumed name or initials in your post.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

We Feel Your Pain, But We're Still Cutting The Trees

That was the message delivered to Key West folks who are concerned about the tree-cutting at Fort Taylor. With super efficiency for a government group, the tree-cutters moved in and 88 trees bit the dust. Half of these trees were living things.

We understand the motive for the cutting is to remove the invasive plants and try to promote the growth of native species. While this may be a laudable motive, we wonder, however, whether there is not some alternative to doing away with all the Australian Pines at once. Not only will there be no shade where the cut trees were, but we wonder whether there will be an increased likelihood of beach erosion -- the very thing the cutting was meant to control -- while the State Park planners wait for the "non-invasive species," whatever that might be, to take over for the Australian Pines that were cut down.

Let's hope the planners are right. We, however, are a bit skeptical. History has taught us that when humans start trying to engineer nature, we often cannot predict the ultimate outcome.


The Mayor At the TAMPOA Annual Meeting

Mayor Morgan MacPherson spoke (by invitation) to the TAMPOA members at at the Annual Meeting on January 29, 2007, but the public was not invited. Some of what he said was particularly interesting, although not necessarily new. We all know, for instance, that tourism is down. Some like that, some don't. Those that don't know that the downturn in tourism hurts the tourism-based Key West economy and could portend higher taxes or more belt-tightening for an already financially strapped Key West Government. Particularly interesting were the Mayor's observations about the downturn in foreign visitors to the island and the Mayor's observation that this may be due to the increased scrutiny now being paid by the government to foreign visitors arriving in the country.

Another interesting observation -- in case we all hadn't noticed -- was that Key West is changing quickly and we all better pay attention. Translation: we are moving away from being the welcoming, live-and-let-live, vibrant, economically and culturally diverse community we once were. Instead we are moving toward a community in which only the rich can afford to live, and the gap between the rich and what was once the "middle class" continues to widen. Housing, for instance, is scarcely affordable for even the middle class.

The Mayor also indicated that he still supported the Master Plan for the Truman Waterfront. Good news, but no concrete move has been made to implement it. The Mayor says that the traffic plan for the Waterfront should be revealed soon. It will be interesting to see this proposal when it is released.

The Mayor said that the City could not sell any of the Waterfront property for the development of single family homes. Not now, but since the City Commission approved the Waterfront Plan, why couldn't the City Commission go through the steps to change it?

Maybe we didn't understand this the way we initially thought it was meant, but from what we gleaned from MacPherson's remarks, the original plan for an assisted living facility would have gotten in the way of access to the waterfront and the City's asserted efforts to use all of the streets for access. The clear implication was that was changed or is to be changed.

The Mayor also indicated that the only affordable housing units to be built on the Waterfront property were to be built above the retail space. Key to the development of the waterfront at all is the development of an upscale marina, which the mayor supports, as the City would need the revenue from that to sustain the project. Where, however, will the revenue, much less the political will, to build such a marina come from when access to the waterfront continues to be a contentious issue?


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Walgreens Is Sued For Job Bias

The United States has filed an employment discrimination class lawsuit against the Walgreen Company, the Illinois-based national drugstore chain, alleging widespread racial bias against thousands of African American workers.

The chain has two stores in Key West. According to its web site, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen Co. “is the nation’s largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2006 sales of $47.4 billion. The company operates 5,584 stores in 47 states and Puerto Rico.”

The suit was filed yesterday by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a class of African American employees at the chain. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation.

The EEOC charges in the suit that Walgreens assigns managers, management trainees, and pharmacists to low-performing stores and to stores in African American communities because of their race. Additionally, the EEOC asserts that Walgreens denies these managers and professionals promotional opportunities based on race – all in violation of federal law.

“This lawsuit demonstrates that the Commission’s focus on systemic cases will be a powerful weapon to tackle obvious as well as subtle forms of race discrimination,” said EEOC Chair Naomi C. Earp. “We will not rest until workplace decision-making is based on merit rather than immutable and irrelevant characteristics, such as race or color.”

Walgreens’ actions were investigated by the Miami and St. Louis District offices of the EEOC after more than 20 current and former employees from around the country complained to the federal agency. The EEOC filed the litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with Walgreens.

EEOC St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr., said, “Essentially, Walgreens has made store assignments based on race. This policy has served to restrict the opportunities for advancement of African American employees at Walgreens stores nationwide.”

A group of current and former African American managers filed a private lawsuit making similar allegations in June 2005. That lawsuit is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, and the plaintiffs in that case have asked the court to certify it as a class action.

Johnny Tucker, one of the Walgreens employees who reported the discrimination, said, “Walgreens has erected barriers that hinder qualified African Americans in their pursuit of advancement through promotions and job assignments. Our plea is for our judicial system to take notice and require Walgreens to end discrimination against African Americans in its work force.”

EEOC St. Louis Regional Attorney Robert G. Johnson said the Commission seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief for the class of aggrieved workers. “It is unthinkable in this day and age that a company of Walgreens’ size and reputation would differentiate between its managers based on their race,” he said. “All individuals deserve the freedom to compete in the workplace on a fair and level playing field.”

Walgreen asserted in a statement in response to the EEOC that it had always been fair with its employees and that it is the country's "best-represented retailer in urban areas, and managers of all backgrounds are promoted to senior levels from those locations."

On February 28, EEOC launched its E-RACE Initiative (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), a national outreach, education, and enforcement campaign focusing on new and emerging race and color issues in the 21st century workplace. In Fiscal Year 2006, the EEOC received 27,238 charges alleging race-based discrimination, accounting for 36 percent of the agency’s private sector caseload. According to the EEOC, historically, race-based charges have been the most frequent type of filing with EEOC offices nationwide. The EEOC says that there has been a substantial increase over the past 15 years in discrimination charge filings based on color, which have risen from 374 in FY 1992 to 1,241 in FY 2006.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"Here's Another Fine Mess You've Gotten Me Into"

That's what Oliver Hardy used to say to Stanley Laurel, and it may apply to the Federal lawsuit filed February 6, 2007 by TAMPOA against the United States and the City of Key West. You, ultimately, will have to be the judge. This lawsuit is, to say the least, complicated and fact intensive. To sort out the claims and the issues will require significant time. The complaint alone is 35 pages long! It contains eight (8) counts. We've been studying the lawsuit and doing some fact gathering of our own. In the coming weeks we'll be trying to help you understand what this matter is really all about. It's complicated and not something that can be explained in a paragraph or two -- if you want to understand it, that is. So, we'll start with the players and bring you the play by play in installments. There are some surprises, so stay tuned.

Let's start the story with the players. Truman Annex Master Property Owners' Association (TAMPOA) is the plaintiff. There are two defendants: The United States of America and The City of Key West. The case is styled by the TAMPOA attorneys as having been brought by TAMPOA "individually and on behalf of its members who own residential properties within the Truman Annex Planned Residential Development." (TAPRD) (More on the TAPRD later). Ordinarily this phraseology "individually and on behalf of . . ." is used indicate that the lawsuit is being brought as a class action, although there is nothing else in the complaint specifically requesting that the case be certified by the court as a class action. In addition the Civil Cover Sheet (a document that the plaintiff's lawyers filing the case have to fill out) provides a box to check if the case is being brought as a class action, and the box is not checked. However, the TAMPOA attorneys can ask the court to certify the case as a class action later in the proceedings, but this will have to be done before too much else transpires if TAMPOA really wants to make the case a class action.

Why is whether this case is ultimately certified as a class action significant? It is because it may affect whether you, as an individual homeowner in the Annex may be bound by what happens in the federal court and may affect whether you, individually, can ever contest a result you are not happy with. So, one point that needs to be clarified by TAMPOA for Annex residents, as well as for anyone thinking of buying in the Annex, is whether TAMPOA intends to seek class certification for the lawsuit.

Even if, however, TAMPOA does not intend to seek class action certification, the outcome of the lawsuit may well affect the rights of all residents of the Annex. From that standpoint alone, Annex residents need to pay attention to what happens in this case. In fact, this lawsuit could turn out to be the most important lawsuit in the history of the relationship between the Annex and the City.

TAMPOA, so far, is not seeking money damages from any defendant nor has TAMPOA requested a jury trial. According to the complaint the federal Quiet Title Act is what TAMPOA relies upon for its claim that the federal court has jurisdiction of the subject matter of the lawsuit, and the Declaratory Judgment Act, TAMPOA claims, provides authority for the court to issue a declaratory judgment in the case.

Who are the attorneys for the parties to the lawsuit? So far, the only official information from the court file shows who the attorneys are for TAMPOA. They are (in order of their listing in the court's file) William Eric Andersen of The Andersen Firm, Key West, Florida and Lynn Edward Wagner also of The Andersen Firm. (Lynn Wagner's office address of The Andersen Firm seems correctly listed in the court's file but there may be a mix up in the data regarding Wagner's current firm affiliation with that of another firm in the court's online attorneys' database connected with this case -- the document we looked at showed Wagner's firm affiliation as "Rumrell Wagner & Costabel," but our investigation leads us to believe that part of the document showing such an affiliation at the time the case was filed is incorrect). The complaint which bears both Andersen's name, Wagner's name, and The Andersen Firm name and Key West office address is signed by Lynn Wagner.

We don't yet know yet who will represent the United States, except that it will be someone from the United States Department of Justice. We also don't know if the Key West City Attorney, Shawn Smith (whose name was listed on the Cover Sheet), will represent the City of Key West or whether the City will retain outside counsel. We are likely to learn that "shortly, " that is, shortly in terms of the pace of litigation.

Stay tuned for more . . .


Monday, March 05, 2007

A Thought For The Week of March 5, 2007

"Our greatest problems in life come not so much from situations we confront as from our doubts about our ability to handle them."

~ Susan Taylor


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Picky Picky Picky

Yes, our ever vigilant commenters have taught us. They have sparred no mercy in pointing out that that we need to proofread more carefully, and they have caught every little mistake we've made in our prose. Well, we want these incessant English buffs to know we are learning. Here's a mistake we caught that changes the how time will be interpreted. Did those of you who live in the Annex catch this in the minutes of the Annual Meeting?

The minutes of the January 29, 2007 Annual meeting (approved by the TAMPOA Board on March 1) say that the meeting ended at "12:15 A.M." Really? If you were there, you know better. You know the meeting ended around 15 minutes after twelve noon. But that's not what the minutes say. They say that the meeting ended at 15 minutes after midnight. Oops!

Was the TAMPOA Social too much of a good time? It would be nice to blame the TAMPOA Social, but she is innocent.

The confusion between A.M. and P.M. in this case had nothing to do with the Social. On the contrary, this confusion is a common mistake that is often made when referring to the hour just past noon or midnight. It is a mistake that would be caught if the proofreader actually understood the usage and read the minutes. Unfortunately, merely reading the minutes would not reveal the mistake if the reader also did not understand the usage. So, did the TAMPOA Board understand the usage and actually read the minutes before it approved them on March 1.? Whatever happened it was done pro forma, and provides an English lesson: Do sweat the small stuff because it can result in an inadvertent change in the meaning of a phrase.

So, now we know that P.M. is used with times between noon and midnight and A.M. is used with times between midnight and noon.

Are you still confused? Whoever told you in High School English class that this stuff was easy was fibbing.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Candidate Announces For Bethel's Seat

A Key West businessman, Barry Gibson, has become the first to announce he is running for the City Commission seat to be vacated by Harry Bethel. His candidacy is profiled in the Key West Citizen. According to the Citizen, in announcing his candidacy, he says he "will listen to residents and act as a voice of reason."