Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Veto Pen

We're happy to see the report that Governor Crist vetoed the $1.3 million for street beautification for tourism for Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale; the $840,000 for Exponica International, a three-day Latin America cultural and trade festival in Miami; and the $900,000 for a gospel music museum planned in Broward County for which the pork bubbas in Tallahassee were going to spend our tax dollars. We had blogged recently about such excesses.

While we have some reservations on his vetoes of tuition hikes, we do agree with the governor that now is not the time to burden families and students with those hikes. We know also that there is a good deal of waste in higher education and therefore some ways for the institutions affected to ameliorate the effects of the loss of a tuition hike. Moreover, we don't think a 5% tuition hike can be called "modest" as the State University Chancellor would have us believe.

As for the Florida Board of Governors' threat to mount a legal challenge to the veto, our view is save your money. It will cost more than the rise in tuition, and, win or lose, you will lose in the end. Remember, politicians, like elephants, have a long memory. Politicians don't get mad, they just get even. And the governor is, above all else, still a politician.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Even

As we have observed, masterful politicians don't get mad, they just get even. And City Manager, Julio Avael, that master of politics, has done just that to his detractors and their efforts at control by granting raises to the Chief of Police and the Assistant City Manager. These raises were neither small nor (in the case of the Assistant City Manager) uncontroversial. Avael's payback not only rewarded these public servants for their loyalty and hard work in certain areas, but exercised a prerogative granted by the City Charter to the City Manager that the Commissioners and future City Manager are now stuck with. Avael's move also emphasized once again the message of all good bubbas: that if you stick with this bubba, you'll do all right. And do all right in the pay department they did.

The Mayor and some Commissioners had been out to get Avael. They made no secret they wanted him out, and some even wanted him fired or worse. They were playing for keeps, but they were playing with fire.

Now, the sputtering Mayor and seemingly politically inept Commissioners have been caught napping at the game of politics while the shrewd and knowledgeable Master has cunningly out maneuvered them. It was so easy; it must have felt like taking candy from a baby. And all the Mayor and Commissioners can do now is put their best face on it and whine a bit.

Undo the raises? Not a chance, which is why the whines were not screams or howls. The Mayor and Commissioners knew they'd been had by the Master, and all they could do is wonder how it happened and what just had occurred. It was all so smooth.

Even when gone and as he moves into retirement, Avael has, of course, unwittingly insured he will remain in the good graces of the Assistant City Manager and Chief of Police. Should Avael remain in Key West, his bridges to important influence in City government remain in tact.

In many ways Avael plays the game of politics like another master, Sam Rayburn, maybe the most masterful of all House Speakers at the game of politics. It's a gift few have. Rayburn taught it to Lyndon Johnson, who forgot it during Vietnam by listening to the wrong crowd. We dare say Avael didn't have such distinguished mentors; but regardless of what you think of him, he sure has the gift. Let's hope he is willing and able to pass some of this gift to his successor, who surely will need it.

The Commissioners also could learn much from the masterful political lesson Avael has just administered. But in their arrogance, we fear they won't. What they really should be worried about is what else is in store for them in the remaining days of Avael's term. There may be more to this than meets their dollar.

So now the fun begins. As granddaddy once said, "He who laughs last, laughs best." Or, as Jackie Gleason used to say, "How sweet it is!"

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Monday, May 28, 2007

A Time For Reflection

Memorial Day was originally a day to honor Civil War veterans, but it has become so much more. For some of us it is a a time of sadness and grief as we recall -- as though it were yesterday -- how we lost our best friends in America's wars. Unless you have had, first hand, that experience, you cannot know how much it hurts. And you cannot understand how much your life is forever changed as a result of it.

In a larger sense, however, this Memorial Day is a time to remember who we are as a people and a time to reflect upon our human values. It is a time to look at our past and a time to hope for our future. It is a time to remember sacrifice and a time to remember service. Most of all, it is a time for love and its power for renewal.

Our thoughts on this day are with Michael Yon, an independent journalist and photographer who is now covering the war in Iraq. Like many independent, and often unknown, journalists who provide information beyond that reported by the mainstream media, Yon tells stories of hope and sadness. These stories will open your eyes about Iraq and offer a new perspective on this most dangerous of places. You can learn more about his vision and support his efforts to bring you real news here.

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A Thought For The Week Of May 28, 2007

"Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies
And be it gash or gold it will not come
Again in this identical disguise."

-- Gwendolyn Brooks


Sunday, May 27, 2007

TAMPOA Board To Meet In Executive Session

The TAMPOA Board is having an "Executive Session" on Memorial Day at 4:00 p.m. The session was called by Board President, Tom Tukey. Executive Sessions are by definition secret. Here is the curious agenda for the meeting:

The Truman Annex Master Property Owners’ Association, Inc.
Executive Session
Board of Directors Meeting
201 Front Street, Suite 103
Key West, Florida 33040
Monday, May 28, 2007
Monday at 4:00 PM

Purpose: Conduct Business as Properly Brought Before the Board


1. Call Meeting to Order
2. Determination of Quorum
3. Proof of Notice of Meeting
4. Approval of Minutes
5. Reports of Officers
6. Reports of Committees
7. Unfinished Business
8. New Business
9. Member Input
10. Adjournment

* * *
This agenda appears to reflect that the meeting is to be held as an "Executive Session," that is, in secret, but raises a number of questions including the propriety of dealing with certain items on the agenda in secret.

Take item 2, "Determination of a Quorum." Why is secrecy needed for that. Either there is a quorum or there is not. If there is no quorum, the meeting is not legitimate. Of all things the TAMPOA members are entitled to be present for and to know, this agenda item ranks among the most important. What could possibly be the legitimate interest in hiding whether there is a quorum at the meeting? But, of course, we'll never know whether there was actually a quorum because the meeting is secret. In short, there is no reason to make this part of the meeting secret since, after determination that a quorum exists, the Board is free to go into Executive Session.

Take, item 4 on the agenda, "Approval of Minutes." Why the need to approve minutes in secret? The minutes likely to be approved are the minutes of a prior non-secret meeting. Why does it take a secret meeting to approve those minutes? What possible interest is served in talking about what has been written about a prior open meeting in secret? In our book no legitimate interest is served.

Then there is item 6, "Reports of Committees." Why have reports of committees in secret? Since when did TAMPOA establish secret committees? What, we're now turning into a gulag? Unless we really have turned into a gulag, not all business of every committee likely to report can be secret. There is no reason most reports cannot be made in open session, and then the Board could go into executive session. But apparently not here, not in the closed society that TAMPOA is becoming.

There is also item 9, "Member Input." You've got to be kidding us. If the meeting is secret, what member input can or will there be? This is a joke, right? Oh, we get it, that input is for the "secret members." Who do you suppose they might be? The Board members are not secret, unless we missed something in the voting and there are little green creatures from the Pleiades in our midst.

Why meet Memorial Day? We realize that Memorial Day was originally a Northern Holiday not celebrated in some parts of the Deep South, but as far as we know Key West was always, nominally at least, a Yankee outpost. And we assume the holiday is one recognized by all but a few members of TAMPOA, including most, if not all, TAMPOA Board members. So, why meet on Memorial Day?

One can guess that it must be something fairly urgent since only three days notice was given for the meeting. What is so urgent that it couldn't wait one week until the regular meeting of the TAMPOA Board on the first Monday of the month, i.e. June?

Why is there no particular subject or reason specified for the secrecy of the meeting in the notice of the meeting or the agenda? In most executive (secret) sessions, there is at least a subject of the meeting given in the announcement of the meeting -- e.g. review personnel matters, confer with legal counsel, etc. -- things that one might expect would ordinarily command an executive session. Not here.

That raises a question of whether the notice of the meeting, which is required by law, is proper. If not, then possibly whatever action is taken at the meeting may also be improper. If the meeting and business to be conducted are such an emergency and so important that the meeting has to be held in secret on three days notice on a National Holiday, wouldn't you think the Board would want to make sure that the notice was such that it was beyond even the appearance of question? We would.

Did the TAMPOA Board leaders even think about that? We may never know since the meeting is secret. In essence virtually all the notice tells us is "Hey folks we're having a secret meeting where we can talk about anything and everything related to TAMPOA and all we're telling you is the headings found on our usual agendas without any further description of the subject of the meeting." Is that the kind of notice that gives a scintilla of the kind of information a TAMPOA member would want from a Board that is spending hundreds of thousands of the members' dollars a year? We doubt it. And since we are paying for the extravagant fiscal policies of this Board, we want more information than, "Hey folks we're having a secret meeting."

We are certain some will say, why bother, it's only one meeting. If that were all, we might chalk it up to ignorance and forget it. The problem is this conduct of TAMPOA is illustrative and symptomatic of what is wrong with many homeowners' and condo associations, and something the Florida Legislature needs to fix. It's called the tyranny of the majority.

These association boards -- and now we're talking not about TAMPOA but generally about a larger problem -- often spin out of control, become unresponsive to their members, treat those who complain like pariahs, and are very hard to remove from office because of the way voting is conducted and staggered terms of office. Moreover, they are able to meet and even spend money in secret. They are not required to put substantial expenditures to a vote of the membership, can change the rules without a vote of the membership, can make it almost impossible to force a vote of the membership on a given item, and generally can act any way they want short of committing some crime.

And sadly for some other associations, for as much as we and others have complained about our own association's foibles, some other associations have much deeper and more serious troubles of the kind we've just mentioned. Actually, when lumped into the total mix of problems TAMPOA may be one of the better run of the associations with perhaps a better board and better leaders. In that sense we are fortunate. But even though we don't have some of the serious problems of other associations, we can do better and expect more from those who would purport to lead us. With good leadership comes greater expectations.

We hope that in light of the problems with many associations now coming to light nationally that the Florida Legislature and the Congress will tighten significantly the oversight of such associations. We certainly intend to push for such reforms, and we invite others to do so.

Several reforms should be at the top of the list. The first should be an end to secret meetings except for actual face to face meetings with legal counsel that will involve attorney-client privileged discussions. Since most of these associations have some sort of corporate structure, we have been told that not necessarily every meeting with a lawyer a corporate officer or board has will qualify for that privilege, and it should not be used to avoid such a reform.

Second, the Florida Sunshine Laws should be made to apply to homeowner and condo associations and members of their boards. We know that all kinds of deals and doings go on behind the scenes with such association boards just as with government entities, but we suspect there is less back room dealing because of the applicability of the Sunshine Laws than there otherwise would be. They should be made applicable to homeowner and condo associations by the legislature so association members can have half a chance of knowing what is happening with their governing bodies.

Third, the Florida Legislature should require that association meeting agendas identify, even for executive sessions, the subject of the business to be conducted. This would do away with the kind of pablum and vague formula agendas that now come out of the typical board. The association members have a right to know what the board is going to talk about in some detail in a regular session and to know at least the subject of and reason for an executive session. It is no argument to suggest that well these board members are just volunteers and don't have the time for all that formality. Hogwash. Some of the largest and best organizations in the country are run superbly by volunteers. These organizations, many of which operate on a national level, seem to have no trouble complying with complicated disclosure rules.

Fourth, the Florida legislature should require that association minutes reflect in sufficient detail and plain language what actually occurs in the meetings of the association or its board so that an absent member can know in fact what occurred. A board should not be able to make the minutes of its meetings so vague that someone who hadn't attended the meeting will have to guess at what occurred.

Well run associations should neither fear nor oppose such reforms. These associations certainly have an interest in this kind of reform; the same kind of interest good landlords have in eliminating slumlords. They spoil it for everyone else.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

What Is Plan B ?

The Monroe County School Board has announced that it is looking for money to replace the four school resource officers the Sheriff has told them he may have to cut from his budget. The School Board and the superintendent have met with a representative of the Sheriff's Office.

But just what is the School Board's plan? To say we are looking for more money, we are lobbying Islamorada or Marathon officials, or we'll have to talk to the municipalities are not plans. What is it besides look for more money and talk to the municipalities that the Board is going to do? Will it cut other services to meet the shortfall in funds? Will it cut administrators? Will it do without the officers? Will it seek private funds? Will it ask businesses to help? What, exactly, is the School Board going to do? A plan would be good and now would be a good time to tell the public what it is.

The way the School Board is proceeding makes us (and perhaps others in the public) think there may be no Plan B.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Ignoring Education and Obesity

Don't you just love the Florida legislature? The fat cats there can refuse to increase the amount of money for teacher merit pay; refuse to provide 400 more reading coaches for Florida schools; and refuse money for obesity prevention.

However, when it comes to their own pork, they can provide $100,000 for a shrimp processing plant in Nassau County; $840,000 for a three-day Exponica International cultural and trade festival in Tamiami Park in Miami so the sponsoring organization can get out of debt and promote the event; $725,000 for a new YMCA in Miami; $100,000 for a new trolley depot in Coral Gables; and a cool $1,300,000 to improve Las Olas Boulevard (which runs down to the beach) in Fort Lauderdale to make it more attractive for tourists.

Of course, there are also other items, like $1,500,000 to convert a canal on the campus of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbournne into a rowing training center. What do you suppose they'll do with the alligators? There's also a plan to give $50,000 to an organization hosting an annual World Orchid Conference in Miami; as well as $800,00 for for new synthetic football fields in Miami. Whatever happened to grass?

The bottom line, if the bubbas in the legislature have their way, Florida kids will be too fat to learn row, assuming the alligators don't get them; and they'll be able to play on Astro Turf. But they'll be dumb as a stump and unable to read well enough to get that job in the shrimp processing factory in Nassau County, thanks to the departure of good teachers for better pay elsewhere. That's the future for the new bubbas. Along their future path, there will have been $50,000 for orchids, as well as money for tourism beautification and cultural trade fairs. What a life!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cutting The School Resource Officers

What we don't understand about the announced potential cuts of four school resource officers by Sheriff Rick Roth's office is where the School District Administration was when all of this was happening. We don't believe for a Conch minute that the School District was unaware of the potential for cuts. The School District has a liaison with the Sheriff's Office. It is reasonable to assume the School Superintendent knew what was going on. If school officials were co concerned about the potential cuts why weren't they revving up the parents before now?

We wonder whether this situation is not another one of those forget-about-it-until-it-happens situations that has continued to plague this school district's operation. Maybe the School Superintendent is confident that the positions will in fact not be cut or will be restored in the end. We don't know.

What we do know is that the Sheriff's Office doesn't just willy-nilly make cuts. Position cuts are a matter of the tough choices that have to be made among scarce resources. Does one increase this response team or that response team? Does one devote more resources to the schools or to the road? Does one put more resources into crime prevention or to apprehension? Ideally, the Sheriff's Office would like to have the resources to put more of them toward every one of these activities. But the resources just aren't there. So the Office has to make some hard choices about where to put the resources it does have. At the end of the day, it all comes down to money.

The County Commission or the School District (or both) could allocate more money for the school resource officers. Of course, it is still the Sheriff's call whether to assign the officers to that duty, but there is no reason to believe the Sheriff would not do so. Alternatively, the Sheriff could "find" additional money or back away from the potential cuts. However, that seems unlikely at this point in time.

Now if the Sheriff is about to fight with the County Commission over his budget, it is a well known budgetary strategy to cut cows that seem sacred to politicians to increase the likelihood that money for those cows will be added to the budget without reductions being made to other priority items. Do school resource officers fall within this category of sacred cows? Probably not, but the announced potential for cuts may generate enough calls to Commissioners and School District politicians to save some of the resource officer positions or give the sheriff some budgetary wiggle room.

The potential cuts may have one salutary effect. They may force the School District to focus more closely on its own goals and priorities and develop back up plans for situations like the potential loss of the four resource officers. If the School District has a Plan B the District has not announced it. That is not surprising since to do so might lessen the chances of insuring the survival of the resource officer positions. What worries us is that there may be no Plan B on the drawing board.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Bibles On The Bike Path

Distributing Bibles on school property could be dangerous, according to the State Attorney's Office spokesperson, Matt Helmerich, in commenting upon a lawsuit filed in Key West Federal Court against the Monroe County Sheriff's office and the State Attorney's office. The suit was filed after two persons (Gideons members) were arrested while distributing Bibles on a bike path near a school. The Gideons are challenging a Florida law that purportedly prohibits persons who do not have "legitimate business" (whatever that means) from loitering within 500 feet of a school.

"If we let anyone with a stack of Bibles on school property, that would be tantamount to giving a license to sexual predators," Helmerich reportedly told The Citizen, while, according to The Citizen, "emphasizing that he was not suggesting Gideons members are sexual predators."

He told The Citizen, "The arrest was not based upon a freedom of speech issue, it was based on protecting our children. The idea that we are arresting them or charging them because they are handing out Bibles is a spurious claim."

Really? Let us understand this, Mr. Helmerich. You are not claiming the two who were arrested are sexual predators, so they were not arrested for that. You apparently admit they all they were doing is handing out Bibles. What exactly were they doing that was not "legitimate" if they were only handing out Bibles?

Oh, we get it, you really just want to "protect" bike path users. some of whom may happen to be kids, but some of whom may also be adults, from that dangerous stuff in the Bible, is that it?


So then, is it that (when you seem to have no good arguments left) you think it's O.K. to inferentially trash these defendants by evoking the dangerous, fearful, what-if-they-were-but-we're-not-saying-they-are "sexual predator" words? That way no one might really think carefully about what you have said, and might accept your argument that passing out Bibles on the bike path within 500 feet of a school constitutes "loitering" and is not "legitimate."

Well, guess what? We have thought about what you apparently have said, and we think it's in the running for our "Dumbest Statement of the Year Award."

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We Were Right! It's The Navy Man!

Our political prognostications about who the KW City Commission would pick for a new City Manager to succeed Julio Avael were correct. The number one choice of the City Commission is former Navy base commander, Jim "Dagwood" Scholl. Second place went to Coast Guard Rear Admiral Jeff Hathaway. Third place went to Gary Edwards, City Manager of Moberly, Missouri.

Only the Mayor and Commissioner Bill Verge, whose district includes Truman Annex, had other "favorite sons." Verge's choice came in second. The Mayor's choice was out of the running.

In an interesting twist, the Commission picked Commissioner Harry Bethel, who is retiring, to lead the contract negotiations with Scholl. This was probably a wise move, since after Bethel leaves, the City Manager will no longer be politically beholden to him. The new Manager's negotiated contract will still need Commission approval, but Bethel, as the most fiscally conservative of the Commissioners, should be able to convince the rest to go along with whatever monetary amount is negotiated.

The Commissioners have set a salary range for the new City Manager of between $160,000 and $200,000 per year, which is considerably more than the present City Manager, Julio Avael is making.

ADDED: Turns out some other Commissioners also had "favorite sons," including Commissioner Bethel, whose choice also came in second.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

A Thought For The Week Of May 21, 2007

"Adversity is a profound teacher. We should rejoice and give thanks when difficulties occur, not because of the suffering itself, but because of what will come of it."

-- Joan W. Anderson


We'll Know Tonight

Tonight is when the City Commission is supposed to rank the City Manager Candidates. The Commission will then begin negotiations with the top one for a salary somewhere between $165,000 and $200,000. This is way up from the current City Manager's salary range.

We'll see if our predictions of who the Commission will choose are close. You can review profiles of the candidates in the front page article in The Citizen.

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Mayor Served With TAMPOA's Federal Suit

TAMPOA's attorneys have made an effort to insure early and timely service of its lawsuit papers on the City and avoid any potential difficulty in complying with a Federal Judge's Pretrial Order issued in the newly re-filed case by TAMPOA against the City. (TAMPOA's prior federal suit was dismissed because of a failure to file a required scheduling report in a timely manner). TAMPOA's attorneys have hired a process server who promptly served the new Summons and Complaint on the City on May 9, 2007. The new Summons and complaint were served on Mayor Morgan McPherson at 525 Angela Street. The declaration by the process server that the Mayor had been served was filed with the Federal Court on February 14, 2007.

According to the Federal Court Clerk's Office, the City's Answer is due on June 8, 2007. Our guess is that the City will ask for an extension of time.

As he did in the prior (dismissed) case, the Federal Judge, on May 10, 2007, issued a Pretrial Order. That Order requires, among other things, that the attorneys for TAMPOA, forward a copy of the Order to all the defendants upon receipt of a responsive pleading. The Court's Pretrial Order was issued on May 10, 2007 and sets out the various procedural matters the judge expects the parties to deal with prior to the trial as well as deadlines for completing that work. Of course there is no reason for the City's attorneys to wait to be served with the Pretrial Order, since it is available from the Federal Court Clerk's Office or by a phone call to the Andersen Firm (TAMPOA's attorneys). The City's attorneys can get it, if they have not seen it already, and get a head start on complying with it.

A joint pretrial scheduling conference required by the court's Order of May 10, 2007 must be held no later than 20 days after the answer or other responsive pleading filed by the last responding defendant, or within 60 days after the filing of the complaint, whichever is sooner. This likely would make the scheduling conference occur sometime around July 9, 2007, unless the United States had not been served by that time. If so, according to the federal court's order, TAMPOA would be obligated to request the federal court to extend the time to hold the scheduling conference. However, at the rate TAMPOA is moving, if the United States has not been served, it likely will have been by July 9.

Within 10 days of the joint scheduling conference counsel for the parties must file a joint report with the judge. (It was the parties' failure to file this report that lead the judge to dismiss the case the last time around). According to sources at the Federal Court, a plaintiff's counsel (in this case TAMPOA's counsel) generally has the primary job of preparing and submitting the report.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Opportunity In TAMPOA's Malaise

When one goes to meetings in this town, it is painfully obvious that TAMPOA has a serious image problem. Unfortunately, for the residents of the Annex who care about how we are perceived, TAMPOA continues to take the low road and echo a "Frankly-my-dear-I-don't-give-a-damn" approach to its dealings with the rest of the community when it comes to Southard street and possibly other portions of the Truman Waterfront. This is very sad, as well as down right stupid.

Unfortunately the reality right now is that there is so much anger and resentment lingering in the Annex over TAMPOA's litigation strategy that the TAMPOA Board is virtually paralyzed by a circle-the-wagons mentality. About the only actions it feels empowered to take now have to be guaranteed to be undeniably safe, insular, and low profile. The Board has effectively painted itself into an insular box thanks to its reliance on some incredibly bad advice that ignored the context of the problems it has faced. In many respects, right now the Board feels and acts like its hands are tied, and it is adrift in the litigation winds. It is hoping in vain for a miracle that may lead it out of the black hole it is now in and does not seem to realize, despite some advice to which it has been privy, that the problems it faces will still exist regardless of whether TAMPOA wins or loses its litigation with the City.

Right now, TAMPOA is living its life through its litigation, a typical, but dangerous, syndrome from which many who put all their eggs in the litigation basket suffer. This has caused the TAMPOA Board to become incredibly defensive, hostile, and edgy at the slightest criticism.

The Annex right now is very polarized, but the issues over which that is occurring are at best diffuse. The polarization lines are clearly drawn. You are either with the Board, or you are viewed as a virtual traitor. Yet there is no clear line or issue on which everyone agrees; only bits and pieces. Everyone wants change, but few here seem to agree on (or perhaps even know) what that should look like. Folks in the Annex right now are stuck, and all their leaders can muster at the moment is to vent and blame, neither of which moves us closer to a resolution of the existing ill will between TAMPOA and the City that has now infected many other City residents.

For those of us who feel like it is time to stop all the nonsense the Board has continued to allow itself to become enmeshed in and to seek creative solutions based on objective criteria, the Truman Waterfront Project offers TAMPOA a renewed and unique opportunity to foster creativity and cooperation with the City and other City residents. That opportunity will require new thinking, new attitudes, the ability of TAMPOA to put itself in the City's shoes, a clear nonjudgmental understanding of the City's perspective, and decision-making based on objective criteria, not blame, finger pointing or accusations of gamesmanship. Frankly, we are not sure the TAMPOA Board, as a whole, is up to the task or has the leadership it needs to get where it needs to go. Nonetheless, the opportunity for change or doom is there in the Truman Waterfront Project.

This opportunity is not simply to successfully construct the Waterfront Project. If that is all that both sides (TAMPOA and the City) think the Project is about, the Project has already failed as far as the relationship between the parties is concerned. No, the opportunity is a renewed chance to focus on the most critical question facing TAMPOA and the City. However, the question is more critical for TAMPOA since it may involve TAMPOA's survival as an institution that purports to govern the Annex.

That question is a simple but essential one. How can we all create the respect for each other that will make it possible to constructively discuss (and even disagree over) options while uniting behind common goals? That is the hard but essential question the TAMPOA Board and those of good will in the City must wrestle with if the Waterfront Project is to succeed.

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The Don & Tom Show

". . . I'm one of probably six remaining Americans who still believe in the concept of free speech." So says Tom Walker in his column in The Citizen. Really? We wonder who the other five are.

Is it possible that the FCC believes there is a difference between the public airwaves and a private newspaper regarding the extent of the "free speech" to which those who rent the airspace from the public are entitled?

If not then maybe we would not have had the enormous fines generated by a "wardrobe malfunction."

As for not being permitted to use the words, "poop" and "bonehead" in The Citizen, well, what can one say?

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Worth A Listen

If you haven't listened to Pandora, you should. You'll become a fan. Pandora gives you a chance to program your own Internet radio station with music you like. And it's legal.

Unfortunately, as of May 3, 2007, Pandora has been forced to block foreign listeners because countries outside the U.S. don't have the equivalent of the law that provides a virtual automatic license for music streamed on Pandora. It has not been able to negotiate enough foreign licenses to make the streaming to foreign countries financially viable.

Pandora has no commercials, and you decide on the music, so the station is a real treat. Try it!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

When You Gotta Go Should You Have To Read?

When the urge is there reading is the last thing on most folks minds. Most are on auto pilot. You find the sign and enter, assuming all the while you are in the right place. At McGuire's in Destin and Pensacola, however, reading is required. Not reading may get you to the wrong place, and the butt of an Irish joke as well.

bathrooms. The Department's bottom line seems to be that the sign can't have any fine print about gender or be confusing. It seems, however, that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation thinks doing your "business" is serious business and in need of professional regulation. So this Department is enforcing its regulations to insure appropriate signage on Women's and Men'sWomen's can be "Ladies," of course. Men's can't be "Ladies" and certainly not "Girls."

To the Department, which is gender neutral, it's all too confusing. So it has told McGuire's to put up signage "properly designating bathrooms" or risk being shut down.

So here's our suggestion for McGuire's: The sign for the Men's might read: "Men (except when the line for the Women's room is out the door)." The sign for the Women's might read: "Women (hurry up so you don't have to go next door)." That should be clear, even to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Did Cutting The Mangroves Impact Flooding?

With reference to the flooding now going on in KW, Assistant City Manager John Jones is right: "There is nothing [they] can do about it." Now, that is. The City should have thought about this possibility before it cut the mangroves near the flooded area without a permit.

What city officials didn't mention in their attempt to explain that it wasn't the cutting of the mangroves that caused the flooding is that there is silt now filling up the culverts and that the water has no where to go. Of course, it wasn't the cutting of the mangroves that promoted that. Yeah, right.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Geeks Search For Porn

"If there were a competition between a Playboy editor, a photo lab technician, and a voyeur for the person who has seen the most random pictures of naked people... the only way any of them would win is if the Geek Squad agent was late to the contest." So says an article on the stuff that computer geeks come across (search for) on your computer when you take it in for repairs. Do you think that won't happen in Key West? Think again.

"Let me make it clear again: if you have any interesting pictures of yourself or others on your computer, then they--will--be--found. Some geeks are like bloodhounds when it comes to pornography," says one geek.

You just may not know about it, because you won't be around while your computer is being "fixed." In addition, most geeks, and a good many non-geeks carry a thumb drive so they can copy stuff from a computer. You can locate every image on your hard drive just by using the windows search function. And geeks can be "like bloodhounds when it comes to pornography." In addition, if you use Window's Internet Explorer, you should know that Windows keeps a retrievable record of a lot of your user names and passwords, even to your banking websites, whether or not you chose to save them.

So you may want to keep those naughty photos you and your "other" have been sharing on that camera and not in your computer. Of course, if you keep those images in your mind, you are even safer. That is, at least until someone develops decent mind meld techniques. Spock, where are you when we need you?


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Republicans Debate Tonight

The Republican presidential candidates go at each other in another debate tonight. It is another chance to see who if anyone will seem more "presidential." It could be great theater. Then again, one wonders whether we will hear anything new.


Seniors Getting Tax Help?

It looks like there may be an additional homestead tax break for senior citizens. They may be able now to claim up to $75,000 if they meet certain income requirements, if local governments act by June 1. These governments must adopt an ordinance implementing the tax breaks and deliver that ordinance to the county appraiser.

The sticking point is going to be how much of a hit the local budget will take if a particular locality implements the change in the tax law. Several cities have already declined to implement the tax break citing financial reasons. Some are waiting for the legislature to finish work on a tax overhaul bill. That stance is going to be real popular with their low income senior citizens.

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The Key West Chicken Is A What?

Sonny McCoy says that fossile hunting archologists have discovered that the Key West Chicken is related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex as are "the strutting Roosters on this Island."

We wonder whether the relationships to Dinosaurs to which he is refering aren't closer than he may suspect and may be alive and well in City Hall doing business and writing legislation.

So, as Sonny has said, "when you see these proud descendents of the Dinosaur ages doing their thing here in Key West reflect on their dominance of the past and their beautifully colored plumage."

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Monday, May 14, 2007

While We Were AWOL

While we've been away from blogging for a week, the news has not waited.

In KW, according to The Citizen, the City has announced it has narrowed the field for the new City Manager to six. Our prediction is the new manager will be a Navy man, with the Coast Guard rear admiral a close second. We'll just have to wait and see if our read of the political tea leaves is accurate.

Paris Hilton, reportedly, will make a foray to KW on her way to an all important date on or about June 5 with a Los Angeles jail. Nothing like taking the long way around.

The hurricane insurance battle continues in the legislature. A Senate Bill has passed freezing Citizen's rates until 2009, but there is much left to be done to push insurance reforms ahead. The battle will continue, as will the efforts to derail any reforms.

The costs for the Monroe County Courthouse continue to increase.

And, TAMPOA has made good on its pledge to re-file the lawsuit against the City and the United States that had been dismissed by the federal court in April. The filing was not quite as quick as TAMPOA had announced it would be, but the suit has been re-filed (with a new case number). The TAMPOA suit starts anew, and TAMPOA must re-serve the defendants with the new summons and complaint.

TAMPOA has learned from the dismissal though. This time around, the summons is typed, not hand written (an insignificant matter, but it does show attention to detail, and it just looks better). This time around, TAMPOA got the summons for each defendant issued right away on the day of filing the new suit (May 8) instead of waiting for some time as in the previous case. And now, the City and its Mayor, instead of the City Attorney (as in the previous case), are listed (in the summons for the City) as those to whom the summons is addressed and from whom a response is requested. We hazard a guess that someone may have gone over these papers (and perhaps the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) with a fine-tooth comb before they were lodged with the Clerk of Court. We'll have more to report in the coming weeks as the suit progresses.

In case you haven't noticed, the sky is a different color at sunset these days. It's the wild fires from the mainland that are having an effect.

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A Thought For The Week Of May 14, 2007

"One of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through the revolution."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Hug A Mom Day

Today is Mothers' Day. We like to think of it as a time to honor all moms. They really do have the weight of the world on their shoulders. If you are a mom, you know what we mean.

Have you hugged your mom today? Is she in your thoughts? We owe moms more than we can possibly know. We just haven't figured it out yet.

We wish all moms out there a very Happy Mothers' Day


Saturday, May 05, 2007

It's Kentucky Derby Day

Yes, the 133rd year of race of kings will be run today. It's any body's guess as to who will be the winner, but, of course that's not the point any more. The real prizes are the pre-race goings on -- the parties, the gossip, the ambiance. Amidst all these, the race can be anti-climatic.

However, when there is a wide open field, and at least to us, no clear announced favorite you can take to the bank, like there is today, the first Saturday in May can be full of surprises.

So how do you choose your favorite? Just like Mom did for years -- by the one that knows, the jockey, of course. When I was a kid and Mom would take us to the races, we'd pick winners by the jockey. Turns out that's as good a way as any to choose. And logical too. Who, aside from the trainer, is likely to know the best horses to ride? So, if you find a winning jockey, odds are he'll be in the money, even if he can't pull off first. Our problem as kids was that we didn't know any of that. We picked by the jockey, sure enough, but it was not by the jockey's name. It was by the color of his silks.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Threats Don't Mean Much In Florida

Ignoring the threats of sanctions from both the Democratic and Republican Parties, and trying to become relevant in the nations debate over who should lead it, the Florida legislature has voted to change the Florida Primary to January 29, 2008. Florida becomes one of the top five states whose primaries are the earliest. The Florida primary now will likely have a major impact on who is the nominee of each of the major political parties. Florida has the largest population of the swing states.

Florida's move may cause other states to move their primaries. But there is risk in what Florida is doing. “This is kind of like the track touts trying to figure out what’s going to happen at the Kentucky Derby,” William Gavin, the Massachusetts Secretary of State told the NYT.

That kind of talk doesn't seem to bother the Republican speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mark Rubio, who, it appears, clearly understands the nature of the current hard-ball politics. He told the NYT that at when all is said and done, “the truth of the matter is that the nominee of either party is going to want to make sure they have not offended the big donors and the biggest activists in the most important state in the country that is electorally available.”

If the slogan, "follow the money," has any meaning in politics, the change in the Florida primary likely will pour quite a bit of extra cash into the state's economy. The candidates may be spending a good part of their winter and their cash campaigning in Florida. So by the time all the snow birds get back to Key West they'll be just in time to open their wallets and greet their favorite potential president.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Talk Spoiled The Federal Lawsuit

Back in November 2006, as we recall, Tom Tukey, President of theTAMPOA Board felt there was so much animosity against the City among TAMPOA members that it would be impossible to resolve the dispute short of litigation. Tukey at that time felt that TAMPOA had to file a lawsuit, though his preference would have been to continue to talk. He felt that talk alone would not satisfy the TAMPOA membership. So the lawsuit got filed in February, 2007. However, the TAMPOA attorneys, Tukey, City Attorney Shawn Smith and Commissioner Bill Verge continued to talk. The time whiled away while the good old boy network tried to work its magic. Unfortunately the federal judge was not part of the that network.

When it came to buckling down and doing the work necessary to produce the required Scheduling Report, well, we hear Shawn Smith let the TAMPOA counsel know he had not given the matter sufficient attention and was too busy to do so. And, the network being what it is, the TAMPOA attorneys just let him get away with that and the deadline for filing the Report went by. They were too nice; to their own detriment.

And, of course, the United States' Attorney didn't care. He, at least had filed something with the court asking for more time. Tell us the City didn't know that the judge would dismiss the case. Is the City now going to compensate TAMPOA Attorney Bill Andersen for his time in refiling the lawsuit? Bet not! No, the City will just know that it now owes him a favor within the network. The problem is that the City's pile of IOUs in the network is getting pretty large, and no one in TAMPOA seems to be collecting on them or benefiting from them.

What we don't get is why TAMPOA and its attorneys continue to get taken in by the good old boy games being played. You'd think that by now, they'd be players in the network too, and good at it. Apparently not. Political hard ball is not their style. And the players on the City side seem to have figured that out. When will TAMPOA draw a line in the sand and say never again? Many TAMPOA members thought that had happened last November, but they were wrong.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Disingenuous Disinformation Spin

We are now getting the spin of disinformation being put on the dismissal of TAMPOA's lawsuit. One commenter who is spouting the spin says we are jumping to "negative conclusions" by our reporting and with more spin opines,

"The City Attorney and the Mayor have been avoiding accepting service. The suit was dismissed merely as an administrative item. When they are successfully served, the scheduling meeting will be held."
Sorry Anonymous, that dog won't hunt. Here is WHAT IS REAL:

Under Rule 4(j)(2) the City Attorney does not have to be served; only the Mayor. Almost everyone, including even the TAMPOA attorneys, know where the Mayor is. He has not avoided delivery of the Summons and Complaint to him. Rule 4 states:

"Service upon a state, municipal corporation, or other governmental organization subject to suit, shall be effected by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to its chief executive officer or by serving the summons and complaint in the manner prescribed by the law of that state for the service of summons or other like process upon any such defendant."

Service on the United States (the only other defendant in the suit) is also a simple matter. Rule 4(i)(1) says:

"Service upon the United States shall be effected

(A) by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the United States attorney for the district in which the action is brought or to an assistant United States attorney or clerical employee designated by the United States attorney in a writing filed with the clerk of the court or by sending a copy of the summons and of the complaint by registered or certified mail addressed to the civil process clerk at the office of the United States attorney and

(B) by also sending a copy of the summons and of the complaint by registered or certified mail to the Attorney General of the United States at Washington, District of Columbia . . ."

In fact, Rule 4 makes service of process in Federal Court cases increadibly easy. It can even be done by mail in some instances. Obviously, our commenter is not familiar with the rule.

The Federal judge' s February 8, 2007 scheduling order DID NOT SAY that the scheduling conference OR the scheduling report COULD WAIT for the complaint to be served.

The attorneys for TAMPOA knew or should have known how to obtain service on the defendants.

The Summons in the case was signed on March 20, 2007. The Summons should have been (and ordinarily would have been) prepared back on February 6, 2007 when the Federal suit Complaint was filed; especially if there was any inkling that there would be any difficulty with service of process. According to the Federal Court record in the Clerk's Office, the Summons in the Federal case was not even received by the Federal Court Clerk to sign (using a signature stamp) until March 20, 2007. The Summons must be prepared by the plaintiff's (TAMPOA's) counsel. See Rule 4(b). The one submitted to the Federal court Clerk's Office was hand printed, not typed, suggesting it was done somewhat hastily or in person at the Clerk's office. To be sure, there is nothing technically wrong with hand printing the Summons, but as a routine matter, we would expect such documents to be typed, especially coming from a firm with the alleged reputation of the one TAMPOA has hired.

If Counsel for the defendants will not waive service of process, as was alleged to be the case here, service can be made in the manner described above. As a matter of courtesy to each other, lawyers waive service all the time, unless their clients instruct them not to do so. It is simply not credible to assert that the City or the United States or their counsel were "avoiding service." Why would they, when they know what the Federal Rules provide?

The reality here appears to be that service was NOT made until March 28, 2007 on the United States and perhaps not at all on the City. The United States has said it did not receive the Summons and Amended Complaint until March 28 in its motion for an extension of time that the federal judge denied as moot.

The judge's February 8 order was crystal clear and contained a clear warning about non-compliance:"[f]ailure of counsel to file a joint scheduling report within the deadlines set forth [in the February 8, 2007 order] may result in dismissal, default, and the imposition of other sanctions including attorney's fees and costs." The scheduling order required that a joint scheduling conference be held by April 7, 2007 and that a report be filed by April 20, 2007. Service had been made before April 7. The judge was not provided any valid excuse for missing the April deadlines. They were either forgotten or ignored.

The failure of TAMPOA's attorneys to abide by the deadlines in the Federal judge's Scheduling Order of February 8, 2007 that resulted in dismissal of the Federal suit can't be excused by the alleged, but unsubstantiated claim that the defendants avoided accepting service. Regardless of whether the defendants were avoiding service, it was still the respondibility of the plaintiff's attorneys to abide by the scheduling order. If that meant having to get the defendants served back in February, (instead of sometime after March 20) then that's what the lawyers should have done. The plain truth is they did not. In fact none of the lawyers in the case even asked the judge to change the deadlines or to give the parties additional of time to comply with the Scheduling Order. One can't blame the judge for letting the parties know he wasn't kidding about the deadlines he set.

The Anonymous commenter, without any evidence or knowledge of Federal Court procedure (or Federal law), states, "The suit was dismissed merely as an administrative item. When they are successfully served, the scheduling meeting will be held." This statement alone shows the disinformation spin being put on the facts by those who will buy any silly excuse to believe that TAMPOA and its attorneys can make no mistakes. What the Anonymous commenter does not get is that the Federal suit HAS BEEN DISMISSED AND THE CASE FILE CLOSED by the Federal Court. It now does not matter now that the defendants "are [or were] successfully served." The federal lawsuit filed in February is over and will have to be refiled. In essence, TAMPOA must start over.

It is also bogus to say, as our ignorant Anonymous commter does, that "The suit was dismissed merely as an administrative item." The commenter wants you to believe that the dismissal was a trivial thing, but it is not. The truth is the suit is done for unless and until it is refiled. All the time between February and now to get the litigation well underway has now been lost and effectively wasted.

And, what about the money spent? Who exactly in TAMPOA will mind the billings from the lawyers to see (if one can) whether TAMPOA gets charged for whatever work that now needs to be re-done? Will that be the TAMPOA Board? Likely not. More important, even if the TAMPOA attorneys absorb the cost of re-filing, it is impossible to absorb or recoup the opportunity costs that have been lost as a result of the case being dismissed. That time is lost, and is time which has value to TAMPOA members -- almost three months more that, despite any speed in resolution, members must wait for answers sought by the lawsuit. Moreover, all the time and energy the TAMPOA Board members and others have invested in supporting the lawsuit has been largely wasted by this result. Sadly, all that time and energy must now be reinvested again.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Thought For the Week of May 1, 2007

"On this day I pledge neither to shy away from growth in myself, nor to require perfection in order to like myself. I will recognize through self-love that I am in a continual state of renewal and evolution."

-- Eric V. Copage