Sam Kaufman, Key West City Commissioner for District II, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about what’s been going on in the city.
Kaufman, as vice mayor of the city, is proud of the work the city has done.
He said, “I’m very happy to serve with Mayor Johnston as her vice mayor. She selected me in 2018 and we’re going strong together for another two years. I’m very happy to work with her and the rest of the commission. You know I don’t know if the public knows that the seven of us really do get along pretty well. We’re friends and colleagues. Unlike some commissions, we do genuinely like each other and we’re friends. That’s a good thing for the community.”
When it comes to what’s coming up for the city, affordable housing is one of the highest priorities.
Kaufman said, “There have been some accomplishments. The 3.2 project at Truman Waterfront has been approved. The final stages prior to construction starting is really about to wrap up now. We’ll have that on our agenda next week.”
Construction is expected to begin soon.
Kaufman continued, “We also have the College Road project that’s been going on since 2015. It’s finally getting finished, completed, and people are already signed up for that housing. That’s really lower rents, which is really important because the rents in our town and our surrounding areas are out of control and not at all feasible for regular people and working people. It’s really hurting our local economy, our small businesses and so on.”
The home buyers assistance program was funded again, which allows buyers to possibly get some assistance – up to $20,000 in a down payment.
Kaufman said, “Things like that I’m proud of, but we have some challenges. We lost our housing coordinator. We haven’t hit some of the other marks in the strategic plan with regard to affordable housing. That’s where I really want to push forward now in 2023 and you’ll see some more things happening because our business community and our work force, our working families really need to have some options.”
The short term rental ordinance is also part of the affordable housing issue. The proposed regulation will resurface again.
Kaufman said, “I understand why it’s controversial. I understand that people are really thinking about property rights and that people should be able to do what they want with their property. I’m certainly a property rights person. I don’t want people telling me generally speaking what I can do and what I shouldn’t do with property, within reason, within the rule of law and the codes that apply. Every time a house transitions from a working family to a vacation rental, we lose another family and if you look at the numbers of how many vacation rentals exist, they outnumber the number of locals that we have in Key West. At some point we need to have some reasonable regulations to reach some balance in our community. The dramatic increase in vacation rentals has really put the squeeze on working people and that’s what we need to really think about. Everyone agrees we have to do something to rein in to some extent in some reasonable way the explosion of vacation rentals because otherwise we’re just not going to have any place for folks that need to serve the vacationers here in town.”
The next step for the ordinance will be to review the input that was collected during workshops and create a proposal that might be workable.
Kaufman said, “I heard from the majority of my colleagues that they wanted something to be done and so we’ll wait and see what our land use consultants come up with and perhaps our city legal staff. I don’t think there’s been any time frame proposed, but I expect at some point in the future, definitely in 2023, we’ll at least address it again.”
A discussion about vehicle for hire ordinances will also be heard at an upcoming meeting.
Kaufman said, “We’re going to see what our city legal department comes up with as far as reasonable regulations, regulations that might increase the number of privately held licenses for taxi cab drivers. The emphasis I think for the commission and what I’ve heard from my colleagues and how I feel is that we really have to have the emphasis on public safety. The regulations have to assure that vehicles are safe, that drivers have a safe and strong driving history, that there’s adequate insurance, etcetera, for all of these taxi drivers.”
In the middle of February the final three or four candidates for city manager will be in Key West and there will be a day for the public to meet those individuals.
Kaufman said, “There will be individual meetings with city commissioners and an ultimate decision is expected to be made I believe that week of February 13, 14 and 15.”
The first meeting for finding a city attorney will be held on January 17.
Kaufman said, “We have a very strong selection committee, I’m very proud to say.”
A new plastic-free Key West program will be discussed at the next city commission meeting where businesses can voluntarily sign up to commit to being plastic free or in some way reducing their plastic consumption.
Kaufman said, “I think this is going to be a great opportunity for local businesses to partner with the city and highlight how important we know that our environment is and our water. I’m hoping the public takes a look at it and gets behind it and we can make some real improvements on this front in 2023.”
The next commissioner’s meeting will be held on January 18 and the agenda can be found here: http://keywest.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1074932&GUID=581399AC-853C-410D-9C84-7957549DD322&Options=info|&Search=