Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.
City Manager Al Childress does a great job in following up with issues discussed at the commission meetings.
Johnston said, “I’ve been involved in city politics since 2007 and one of the issues that has always concerned me greatly is that you would get done with a seven hour City Commission meeting and there were a number of requests that were made by the six commissioners and the mayor, but we never knew where they stood. We never had any follow up on that. That would create seven of us continuing to contact staff and the city manager and assistant city manager saying, where are we on this? What have we done on this? There were a number of things that fell through the cracks. But right now with Al Childress, the day after we have a City Commission meeting, every single department head, City Attorney, city clerk is called into an after action meeting. They go right down the agenda and they have a number of notes that are created by not only Al’s assistant, but also the mayor and commissioner’s assistant. They they’re there during the meeting, taking notes as far as what the requests are. So Al calls this meeting, they go through each one of the requests, and a department or an individual is assigned to achieve and close out those requests. All of those requests now go on a flowchart. So the flowchart is created to make sure that every one of those is closed out in a timely manner and an answer has been received. So to me, it really is just a godsend. I rarely even send the message anymore to follow up on an item, because I see it on Al’s weekly reports from each one of the department heads and it’s on the after action report. So these things are being closed out. They’re being done in an organized efficient manner. And I for one certainly appreciate that.”
The Fantasy Fest zones were agreed on at the most recent meeting.
Johnston said, “Probably no one receives more telephone calls than the Mayor of the City of Key West during that time. It’s an event that we’ve had for 43 years. The event was created in the city of Key West to create some business in a very, very slow time in our city, and it certainly has done that. It’s benefited a lot of people, but as with any event in anything after 43 years, it needs some tweaks. Sometimes it moves in the wrong direction. Sometimes, we bring it back to the right direction. The director of TDA is certainly trying to bring back a creatively costumed event. I know it’s difficult to turn around that Titanic and that’s basically what she’s taking on here. But it is a creatively costumed event. I don’t think anybody wants to see naked people walking down the streets of Key West. Here’s the fascinating thing, they certainly wouldn’t do it in their hometown. So why would you come to Key West to do it? There’s lots of creative ways to have fun and to bring income into the city to West and just have a great event. I think every year, we need to take a look at it, we need to evaluate it, we need to tweak it, and continue to make it one of the best events that we have in the city. We are driven by a lot of events, but those events also have to have a dual purpose. One is to respect our community and our residents in our community. Because we were community first way before we were a tourist destination, and we can’t lose sight of that. We also want to make sure that we’re bringing a vibrancy to our economic engines, which are our restaurants our hotels our bars, because a lot of people benefit from Fantasy Fest. The thing also that we have to take a look at is that the city of Key West contributes heavily to this event. So when some people say, well, this is an event run by our businesses, no, it’s really paid in a great deal by the taxpayers of the city of Key West. So we always want to make sure that we are representing their needs and their wants and respect our community as well as have a great fun time during Fantasy Fest.”
The Fantasy Fest zone is up to the 900 block of Duvall Street. The issue is the body painting. What would be the alternative? Possibly banning the body painting?
Johnston said, “This all boils down to enforcement, and our police department have their hands full. There’s no doubt about that. Their job out there is to make sure that nobody’s in a fight, make sure that we don’t have any stabbings, no gunshots, that people really act well. When you take a look at arresting somebody, that officer really is off of the streets then and is out at the Monroe County Jail for about four hours, while they’re arresting somebody. So it’s got to be something with some common sense. Body painting is an art, and I love body painting. But we also have people out there that are not body painting, they just take off the clothes. We’ve all seen them. We all know where they’re at. They’re not in the Fantasy Fest Zone. They’re walking around the city of Key West. I think it’s more of a philosophical difference. We need to say to people, please come to Key West, have fun, enjoy yourself, but don’t do anything in the city of Key West that you wouldn’t do in Sandusky, Ohio. Because that’s basically what it boils down to, you come you come to Key West to do things you would never do at home. Why is that?”
The mayor’s appointments to the Housing Authority Board were postponed at the last meeting. They will be handled on November 14.
Johnston said, “I will be appointing Thaddeus Cohen, former city planner from the city of Key West to take Roosevelt Sands Jr.’s spot. He retired in 2022 and we will be honoring him at his service and honoring his family here very shortly. Also I will be making a second appointment, which is Robert Cintron. He’s been in the city of Key West since he was six years old, a local attorney, and he will be replacing Bob Dean on the board. So I will be bringing both of those back on November 14.”
A conversation was also had about the number of presentations at the commission meetings.
Johnston said, “Al actually takes those recommendations from not only staff but the City Commission themselves. One of the things that we are striving to do better in the city of Key West is to educate our residents, to keep them updated on new things. One of our major issues in Key West is health care. Our physicians are leaving. We’re having difficulty finding a primary doctor in the city of Key West. Lower Keys Medical Center came out last time to speak. We had Mount Sinai now, but that’s important to know alternatives for healthcare in the city of Key West.”
In addition, a discussion on Monroe County becoming a charter county was heard.
Johnston said, “That has long reaching impacts for every member of the City Commission, as well as our relationship with the county. We’ve had a 200 year history with the county that that could possibly change with this charter agreement. Certainly, there are great things that will come from it, but also with anything, there are unintended consequences. That’s really what we want to as a commission hone in on, is what could change that would negatively impact the residents and the citizens of Key West?”
The funding request for the Monroe County Land authority passed.
Johnston said, “We’re adding $900,000 to that, our request from the land Authority Board. So that’s going to bring us up to about $4,900,000 in order to help subsidize the 3.2. (The city) is looking at the increased costs, construction costs that are going to incur while we’re under this construction process. Those are those are funds that are designated to the city of Key West. Every year we take a look at where we’re going to use those. Many municipalities use them for acquiring land, but of course, the city of Key West has no land to acquire. So we use ours all for affordable housing projects and we’ve used a great deal of it to help the Key West Housing Authority. Now we’re branching out and we’re using it to help the 3.2, which is a public private partnership. We’ve got several things in the works right now. But that’s where we’re going to be spending our money is trying to create housing so that we can keep our labor force in Key West.”