Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's Tough In Federal Court in Florida

If you think North Carolina is tough on lawyers (having effectively removed a district attorney from office by pulling his license to practice), Florida may not be far behind in the toughness category. If you don't believe us, just ask the lawyer who told the judge in open court, that with all due respect, the judge might be just "a few french fries short of a happy meal." That Chicago-based lawyer is now in big trouble.

In trouble is a Chicago lawyer, from one of the bigger firms, who tangled with Judge Laurel Myerson Isicoff of the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Miami. She just happens to be the first woman appointed to be a bankruptcy judge in the Southern District of Florida and a veteran bankruptcy lawyer. She did not find humor the lawyer's comment. Read the transcript here.

The lawyer? Well, he'll have to get his rear end down to Miami on June 25, 2007 at 11:00 a.m.to explain to her honor why he should not be suspended from practice in her court. You can bet there will be many mea culpas in the works, especially at his hourly rate.

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Surrounded By Caterpillars

Most of the time we set out to fix things, when what we should do is just be. We think of so many things as chores that must be done instead of something to enjoy doing.

Some days there may simply be nothing to "fix." Some days it feels like everything is a caterpillar with no signs of becoming a butterfly. But just maybe that's how it is supposed to be, and our task is simply to enjoy the caterpillar.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

It's A Cat; It's A Rac; It's Ticket!

"We've been put on this planet and made caretaker of the planet, of the creatures here and of one another," he said. "At this point it appears we're not doing a very good job with any of those."

Those words come from a dedicated cat feeder. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, however, doesn't seem to agree when it comes to feeding feral cats. The Commission seems to think the feeding is attracting not just cats but also raccoons, who a dedicated Officer says he's seen eating right along side the cats. Do you suppose the dishes were labeled, one for "Cat" and one for "Rac?"

The Fish and Wildlife Commission apparently has a piece of administrative code that outlaws putting out food or even your garbage "in such a manner that it attracts black bears, foxes, raccoons or sandhill cranes and thereby creates a public nuisance." An officer from the Commission has issued a $295 ticket to a well-meaning cat feeder.

So, when Bigfoot comes to your door for a visit, better be careful about feeding him. He may be followed by black bears, foxes, raccoons or sandhill cranes and you might be creating a public nuisance, not to mention aiding and abetting a stroll-away kitty.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

A Swinging Door May Wake You Up

If you don't know where you are, a swinging door may do the trick. We see that's the solution the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the McGuire's came up with to end their spat over the signs on the doors to the restrooms that we blogged about here. Although the signs had been up for 10 years at McGuire's Destin location and 30 years at its Pensacola pub, the Department had found them to be confusing. It had threatened to close McGuire's for "lack of signage properly designating bathrooms."

Under the agreement, McGuire's will install a swinging door "labeled men or women as appropriate" in each of the bathrooms according to the Department's Secretary, Holly Benson. The additional doors will be installed after the main door of the bathroom and before the stalls.

This will give you a second chance to read the sign and get yourself in the right place. Well, maybe. Presumably, if you're too drunk or in too much of a hurry to read, when the swinging door hits you in the head, you'll either come to your senses or pee in your pants. Either way, you'll high tail it out of there. Problem solved.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Get Some Shorts!

It's been hot in Washington lately, but when you lose your favorite pair of expensive pants it must just send you to the edge of Wacky City. If you're a judge that is. Now going on is the trial in the case of the Judge's Pants. Washington Administrative Law Judge Roy L. Pearson, Jr. is suing his neighborhood dry cleaners for $54 million for allegedly misplacing his pants. What can one say? And folks wonder why the justice system seems broken? Will someone tell this fellow he can wear shorts in Key West where it feels down right sane.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Taking A Breather

We've just returned from a little trip to the Miami area and a chance to sample some great food -- not that KW doesn't have its share of fine restaurants, but Miami is -- well, different -- as many of you know. We didn't lug the laptop along and actually didn't miss it. Frankly, it was fun to take a breather from daily blogging, and we have vowed to do it more often during this summer. So you may not see as many columns from as as you might have come to expect.

Also, we're going to be making some technical changes to the site that may limit our ability to publish daily while we get all the code to work the way it should. We are not going to rush things and so the changes will come slowly. We're certainly not computer gurus so we're likely to get stuck and have to ask for a good deal of help. We'll keep you posted as we enter this new phase.

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A Thought For The Week Of June 11, 2007

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."

-- R. Buckminster Fuller


Monday, June 04, 2007

Are You A $10 or $15 Plucker?

Did you watch the Democrats' Debate last night? The Republicans will have their turn on TV soon. In Congress, however, the debate has not been quite as lofty as it was last night. It's been about money all right, but the subject -- well, that's the curious thing. As we listened with fascination, it occurred to us that the proper home for such a discussion topic would be right here in the Southernmost City.

The subject was chicken plucking. That's with a "P" if you please. There are, after all, more chickens of all varieties in KW that need plucking than anywhere we can think of. In fact, many have turned into turkeys just waiting for things to hatch. But, back to Washington where the debate over chickens is raging. Here's what they're saying:

KENNEDY: “I would like the chicken pluckers to pay $10 or $15 an hour. They do not do it. They are not going to do it. Who are you trying to kid? Who is the Senator from North Dakota trying to fool?” [Senator Ted Kennedy, Congressional Record, S.6452, May 22, 2007]

DORGAN: “Mr. President, let me stand up and say a word on behalf of chicken pluckers. I had no idea that was the debate. But they will never get $15 an hour as long as we bring in cheap labor through the back door to pluck chickens.” [Senator Byron Dorgan, Congressional Record, S.6452, May 22, 2007]

If this is what they are doing with your spare change in the Senate wing of Nation's Capitol, imagine what they are doing with your real money.

BTW, both Senators are Democrats.

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A Thought For The Week Of June 4, 2007

"Politicians are like diapers. They need to be changed frequently and for the same reasons."

-- Anonymous

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

City Manager's Contract Up For Vote

The City Commission is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, June 5, 2007 on the Contract with the new City Manager designee. But a complete contract has not been worked out. The most important item, salary, has not been agreed to. The City's chief negotiator, Commissioner Bethel, has offered the lowest part of the salary range, $165,000, and the proposed City Manager wants $180,000. The parties are $25,000 apart.

What kind of "negotiation" did Bethel do? Sounds like slim to none to us. According to Bethel's letter of May 31, 2007 to the City Commission, he had "several conversations [presumably by phone] and a [meaning one] meeting with Scholl."

In fairness to Bethel, he notes that "he only gathered information for presentation to the Commission" and that he has "not rejected any options available to Mr. Scholl."

But it sounds like $165,000 was Bethel's first and last offer (since the Commission authorized a minimum of $165,000). According to his letter to the Commission, Bethel says he told Scholl at their meeting that he could not "support or justify any starting salary except $165,000." If that's the way it went, while that may look like tough negotiation, it is really not the give and take of negotiation on the salary at all, since, at least with Bethel, there was no room for agreement on another number. What is worse is that the tactic is also positional bargaining, which is the worst kind of bargaining when you are trying to make a deal. What Bethel did, in essence, was to put the whole matter of coming to an agreement on the essential provision of the contract back in the lap of the City Commission.

In support of his position on the salary, Bethel makes the argument that "Mr. Scholl has absolutely no experience in local government." That may be a moot point, since the Commission knew that when they chose Scholl as their number one candidate. As far as we know, their number two candidate is also a similarly situated person in that regard. If local government experience was the sticking point, then a person with local government experience should have been the first choice of the Commissioners. He was not.

Moreover, Mr. Scholl's Navy administrative and management experience has included dealing with local government, including the likes of these Key West Commissioners. And Scholl's federal responsibilities were awesome compared to those of a Key West City Manager. So it seems to us that Bethel's argument doesn't hold much water and is not the result of a serious look at the interests of each side. He can do better.

We realize Bethel has to keep his rep as a fiscal conservative, but he seems to be playing a game of "salary chicken" here. Will the City blink or will Scholl blink? If the game continues, win or lose, there will be hard feelings and perhaps an unwise less durable agreement. Besides, the negotiation with the new City Manager is not, we hope, about winning. It is about problem solving.

There has got to be a place of compromise somewhere between the two positions. Perhaps the parties can find ways to expand the pie and find desired value in non-monetary options. Also, there is often value in difference. Creating it is what smart seasoned negotiators do all the time. Perhaps the parties may want to think about the possibility of deferred value. Are there things the Commission can agree to implement later that will have equivalent or greater value than what is presently desired by Mr. Scholl?

It seems to us that there is much negotiation left to be done and that Commissioner Bethel's efforts have barely scratched the surface. $25,000 is not a very big gap between the parties as gaps go. Closing that gap should not be hard. That Scholl did not insist on the top of the salary range is significant and indicates a willingness to compromise. But the City should not read that willingness as a sign of weakness. That would be a grave mistake. We fear that's how the Commission may see it, however.

It is in the interest of the City to compromise. Will they? How the Commissioners handle this negotiation will likely set the tone for their relationship with the new City Manager. The Commissioners in their ego-driven zeal forget that they are not in the driver's seat on this one. Mr. Scholl does not need this job. He lives up the Keys where it is cheaper than Key West and has his Navy retirement to fall back on. The City needs a City Manager. Will the City Commissioners be penny wise and pound stupid here? The voters should watch and stick it to them in November if the Commissioners botch this one. What is about to unfold will likely be pure politics and coupled with a good deal of grandstanding.

Absent from this episode will be the Commissioner whose district includes Truman Annex, Bill Verge. He will be on vacation. He has asked the Commission to delay its consideration of the annexation of Christmas Tree Island (Wisteria Island) because of his vacation. Does he have his priorities straight? Isn't choosing a City Manager more important than Christmas Tree Island? Did he ask the Commission to postpone the vote on the City Manager? Shouldn't all the Commissioners and the Mayor be present for that vote? We think so.

If the vote on the City Manager's salary issue were to be put off, it would give the City time to re-think its negotiating stance and allow the parties a chance to back away from their positional bargaining; maybe even reach a compromise. Wouldn't that be something to cheer about?

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

TAMPOA Board Meets Again Monday

A "regular" meeting of the TAMPOA Board will be held on Monday, June 4, 2007 at 4:00 p.m at the Board offices. The agenda for this meeting appears to have been handled with more care than was the case with the Executive Session agenda. Apparently, also, the minutes for the April 30, 2007 were not approved at the Executive Session of the Board held last weekend on Memorial Day, May 28. They, along with the minutes of the Executive Session are expected to be approved by the Board on Monday.

On Monday's agenda will be a report by the Board President on the litigation with the City as well as a report on the proposal for the assisted care facility on the Truman Waterfront. Of the two items, the litigation with the City is likely to be more interesting.

We may also get a glimpse of some of the data in the year-to-date financial statements when the Treasurer makes his report, although don't expect anything earth-shattering.

The Architectural Control Committee (we love that name -- especially the control part) has been busy now that hurricane season is officially upon us. They're going to talk about what kind of policy they'll have for roll-down shutters for your front doors. The shutters have to look nice, you know. Never mind whether they're the best for keeping out the wind or, heaven help us, are the cheapest. So, the Control Committee will report on all that and whether beauty will reign at the hurricane prom. We know how that will end. But, will the resulting report be posted on the Internet like the plans for the American Embassy in Baghdad? Bet not.

The "new business" on the agenda sounds interesting. An additional set of lawyers -- you can't live without 'em can you? -- has given the Board a legal opinion on "storm drainage." That might be interesting to read, if you could get a copy of it. We suggest you ask. Couldn't hurt, even though TAMPOA may not give it to you, but who knows? If you don't ask for stuff, you'll likely never get it. That's just the way government, public as well as private, is. Just another version of "You Don't Ask, We Don't Tell."

The City wants to remove the fence around the Truman Waterfront property, so there will be a discussion of that issue. The agenda item is phrased as if the City needs to ask TAMPOA for permission. It does not, so don't think there is suddenly cooperation between TAMPOA and the City over the fence. Not a chance. The City is simply going to take down the fence if it wants. No harm in talking about it though, and it certainly does impact Truman Annex. We all know, however, that if ever the City (or someone) does start to develop the Waterfront, a fence will go back up. In the meantime, the City can play its game of smoke and mirrors and pretend it is doing something with the property.

Aside from the discussion of the legal opinion on storm drainage, the most interesting item on the New Business portion of the agenda appears to be the "review of [a] survey to expand or reduce the allowable annual rentals from 16 annually." The interesting word there is "survey." What survey? Certainly it's not the Board's survey, unless it was one among the Board itself or its friends. Of course the agenda doesn't tell you who conducted the survey or what it showed. If you didn't know better, you'd be tempted to think this piece of the agenda is one of those TV advertising ploys like "I've Got A Secret" to get you to tune in and attend the meeting so you'll learn what the secret is. Well, we'd rather know the secret up front so we can decide whether to watch or go have a Mojito.

Seriously, does anyone still care about the number of annual rentals? Seems to us there was a lawsuit about that several years ago. Are we going down that road again? We certainly hope not.

Doesn't TAMPOA have enough regulations -- so many in fact that no human can keep track of them all or even find them so as to publish a comprehensive "Book of Rules?" Now there's a project that would keep someone out of the sun for at least five years. Try to find all the TAMPOA rules, compile them, and publish them for the residents. Let's see a show of hands of how many Board members would "volunteer" for that project? Not a one do we see.

TAMPOA is like Congress. It just keeps passing laws (rules) usually without any thought as to how they are going to be enforced or how much they will cost. In TAMPOA's case, no one seems to know what all the rules even are or where to find them. That's why you get "I'll have to call you back" or "I'll look into that" when you call the office with a serious question about the rules. Sometimes you even get a guess. When there are so many rules that no one can recite them all, that's understandable, but that's also a sign of a system seriously in trouble.

Our view is leave people alone. That's why many folks came to Key West. If they want to rent their property they ought to be able to rent. Quit trying to be their keeper.

For those who are not tired of reading, here's the list of the ten items on Monday's TAMPOA Board meeting agenda:


1. Call Meeting to Order

2. Determination of Quorum

3. Proof of Notice of Meeting

4. Approval of Minutes
April 30, 2007 Board of Directors meeting
May 28, 2007 Executive Session Board of Directors meeting

5. Reports of Officers
President’s report:
Discussion of litigation with the City of Key West
Update of proposal for assisted care on Truman Waterfront

Treasurer’s report:
Review the year to date financial statements

6. Reports of Committees
Architectural Control Committee:
Review roll-down shutter policy for front doors

7. Unfinished Business

8. New Business
Review legal opinion on storm drainage
Review proposal by City to remove the fence around the Waterfront property
Review survey to expand or reduce allowable annual rentals from 16 annually
Management items

9. Member Input

10. Adjournment"
Now, we can go have brunch and a Bloody Mary.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Yes, can you believe it? One year ago today, we welcomed you to this blog. Ten days later Tropical Storm Alberto was forming in the Gulf, and we blogged about it. We also talked about the looming increase in TAMPOA assessments of then 25%. Who at that time would have thought that the 25% increase would become only a drop in the bucket and end up to be a 250% plus increase. Who would have thought that assessments might go up even more? Who would have believed then that the controversy over the Truman Annex gates would continue for so long without an end in sight?

Now we turn the page and look forward to the future. We expect that there will be many changes to this blog in the coming months. While we can't say yet what they will be, we can say that our effort will be to bring you something new. We will be changing, but we will also stay the course of creating interesting discussion. We have had a challenging first year.

We thank our loyal readers for all their information and support this past year. We also thank our haters. Without your nastiness and hateful (unpublished) comments, we would not have had the energy to keep plugging away. In an unwitting way, you too have been drawn into the discussion, even though you didn't want to be. That means you have had to listen and possibly learn something you may not have known. So even though you don't like us, we thank you for sharing your point of view.

As we celebrate our one year anniversary, we'll be thinking about the future and the news and commentary we will continue to bring to you. Stay tuned.

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