Sam Kaufman, Key West City Commissioner, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.
An extra traffic light at College Road on Stock Island would really help with traffic flow.
Kaufman said, “It’s you know, it’s a great time of year to be in Key West and everybody wants to be here. And for good reason. With the boat races and the weather and then we’re leading into Thanksgiving. As the weather gets colder up north, we always are happy to see our friends from the north join us here in the Keys and Key West. I remember 25 years ago, I lived in Big Coppitt and it used to be smooth sailing all the way from Big Coppitt to downtown Key West driving into work. Now it’s a lot tougher. Our affordable housing crisis doesn’t help because more locals need to move up the Keys. That’s been a trend for a couple decades now at least and more people are commuting into Key West for work. So certainly the county and an FDOT need to do everything they can to work on traffic flow and that light that they’re putting in there, we all hope that doesn’t slow things down, but on the other hand for safety coming out of College Road there safety concerns need to be taken into consideration as well.”
The city commissions will meet on Thursday at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Kaufman said, “In the evening session, we always really want to hear from the public, either through your emails or come in person or sign up to speak. It’s a pretty light agenda, but I think the main highlight for me is we’re finally approving our rental assistance program called in the Move-In Assistance Program. So I’m excited about that. I really hope that that can help a bunch of people. We are funding $250,000 as an initial funding for the rental assistance and those who are in need. I hope that they can look at for the application soon.”
Kaufman has spent a lot time in Israel and with the tragedies happening in the Middle East, what are his thoughts?
He said, “It’s a big topic, but I would say, from a Jewish community perspective, here in the Keys, it’s been positive from the perspective of being a unified group. I think that most of us in the Jewish community are very appreciative of being here in Key West and in the Keys. We have such a strong military presence. We have such strong law enforcement who support the Jewish community and work as one community. When we think about a Veterans Day, which is on Saturday, and if you go to the parade, it really instills a lot of pride in the Jewish community, and in the whole community. Every year, I go to the Veterans Day parade, and I just think wow, and I talked to the commanders of our base locally, and every year I say the same thing to them. I say, what an amazing community we have, because look the whole community comes out for this parade. It speaks volumes about us as a community. Most of the commanders agree when I talk to them, and I say, are there other places like this, that could have such a parade? And most say no, which is interesting, and says a lot about us in a very positive way. As far as Israel is concerned, it’s a very serious topic. It’s a very important topic. I would just encourage everyone, not to fall into a lot of the misinformation and mis-education that is out there, the anti American and the anti Israel rhetoric is spreading, and it’s on the internet, on the social media and it’s very concerning. The interests that are anti American and anti Israel, they are out in force. Those of us that want to know the facts, really want peace. We really want peace, and in order to have peace, you have to have a bilateral agreement. Both sides in any conflict, in order to achieve peace have to work together at certain agreements, and unfortunately, we can’t get there when Hamas, a terrorist organization is committed to the annihilation of Jews Israel as a state. So how can we have peace in this without having that bilateral agreement? That’s really why most of us are very hopeful that this will be a quick war and then there can be some redevelopment of Palestinian Authority. By the way, Gaza has been independent of Israel control for almost 20 years. To say that there’s an occupation there is interesting. But in any case, they should have control over their own land, Palestinians should have independence and self determination. Everybody wants that, but not in a direction to want to act on trying to annihilate the State of Israel. That’s not consistent with peace.”
What about a ceasefire or pause?
Kaufman said, “I’m certainly no expert in diplomacy or war. I would defer to the experts. But I would say that whatever it takes to put the situation in the best possibility to rescue the hostages. That should be the highest priority, I think. I mean, just imagine speaking to family members, with their kids that are being held in the tunnels underneath the hospital. In Gaza City, imagine the terror that’s going on and families, and it’s heartbreaking. So I think that that has to be number one. And number two, putting as much pressure on Hamas to end the war as quickly as possible should be the other priority. But I’m not an expert in these affairs. So I just have my own opinion. But I just I think that those should be the priorities to end this war as quickly as possible, with as few civilian casualties as possible, and let’s get the hostages back.”
With 2023 coming to an end, Key West has been looking back over the year.
Kaufman said, “It’s been a great year for the city. We have new city management in place, and it’s going really well. Management and staff are really taking care of business. With having one meeting a month, I think that’s actually helping in giving staff more time to focus on the substance and the operations.”
The budget is strong, too.
Kaufman said, “The city of Key West is in good financial shape. We have a city with you could say $400 to $500 million in assets, no debt. Imagine you have a business and you have $400 million in assets and no debt. You’re in pretty good financial shape and that’s where the city sits right now. There’s no bonding in place other than with our utilities, our sewer and our storm water. I do think that what we read in the paper about the TDC, on the other hand, that is a very big concern. I’m very hopeful because I see that the Board of County Commissioners is taking some action. So that’s, that’s a good thing because when it comes to tax dollars, we have to be good stewards of our of our tax dollars, and be careful and spend it as wisely as we can to stretch it and get the best production for our residents. When the government takes in tax dollars, we need to be very careful, very precise and it doesn’t sound from the reports from the clerk’s audit, that practices were in place or procedures were in place to protect those tax dollars. Then the public loses confidence in the government. We can’t have that. So taking the swift action, which it looks like the Board of County Commissioners is doing, is very appropriate. We, I know I speak for myself, but I’m sure others in the city, appreciate that.”