It’s a busy time in Key West

Key West City Commissioner Sam Kaufman joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city. 

A number of events are coming up in the Keys, including boat races and Fantasy Fest. 

Kaufman said, “Our staff is just wonderful and doing everything that’s needed to be sure that all the personnel is in place and everything that the organizers need are in place for a fun and safe Fantasy Fest and an organized boat races and lots of activity in City Hall getting geared up for the these amazing events and then going right into season. So it’s a fantastic time of the year for us.”

The Housing Authority has been in the news recently with switching positions. 

Kaufman said, “There are, I believe, three positions that are open for mayoral appointment. The way our city code of ordinances are organized, the mayor has the appointment for the appointments, and then the City Commission must ratify the appointment. So next week, when we have our City Commission meeting, the mayor has nominated Thaddeus Cohen, who’s a former city planning director and private planner in his occupation. Also Attorney Robert Cintron who’s a very well known local attorney, involved in many, many city boards. She has appointed both of them for two of the open positions.”

A third position may open up and Frank Toppino’s son may be appointed. 

Kauffman said, “I think that that is a very good option. Richard Toppino is very involved in affordable housing projects. That’s close and dear to my heart. Anyone who has been involved and really wants to promote affordable housing, that’s not a bad spot for them on the Housing Authority Board. We have a partnership between the city of Key West and the Housing Authority on many projects, and projects that are that are still in development. I’m very involved with that and someone like Richard Toppino, I’m perfectly supportive of because of his involvement and his interest.”

How does the Housing Authority affect affordable housing in the city? 

Kaufman explained, “The Housing Authority is charged with building and maintaining affordable housing in the city. There’s a City Housing Authority, and there’s also a County Housing Authority. These housing authorities, they operate and maintain, I think, in the city, it’s something like 1,400 or 1,300 units, and they’re redeveloping some of the older housing stock that they have. So it’s a very important time for the housing authority and it’s very important that we have strong board members on the Housing Authority Board to help organize and marshal through these changes that are happening now. There really is strong leadership in the administration of the Housing Authority. I think the public should know that.”

Why is the Housing Authority not a seven-person board like other boards in the city? 

Kaufman said, “A lot of cities are organized with five member City Commissions. In fact, the City Commission in the city of Key West used to have five members. It was changed, I think, I don’t know 25 or 30 years ago, something like that. It is not necessary to have a seven member board by statute or law. That has seemed to work for the Housing Authority, and I believe their board is also enacted by Florida statute. So there probably needs to be a statutory change if they expanded it to seven. But for me, the biggest and best result for the city as a whole would be with new appointments to have greater communication, potentially between the Housing Authority, and the City Commission and the city leadership. So that there can be mutual support and aid for projects that are being pursued on both sides.”

The next city commission meeting will be October 12. 

Kaufman said, “The morning session is at 9 a.m. and then the evening session starts at 5 p.m. and of course, that’s at City Hall on 1300 White Street. Everyone is welcome by attending in person and submitting email comments if you want there’s a mechanism for that as well. We always want to hear input from the public. So please, please reach out to us.”

Land authority funds will be discussed at the meeting. 

Kaufman said, “There is an item going to be on the October 12 agenda to increase the amount of land authority funds by $900,000 or so to lower the purchase prices for some of the for sale units in the project (The Lofts). I think everyone is pleased that with the groundbreaking and we know that the different folks involved in the construction, all those folks we know are going to be on time and to specifications. So we’re happy with that because really, the main goal is to get people into these units as soon as possible. That is on track. So everything else, whether or not the land authority funds can be used in the way that we want them to be used, that is to be determined at a later date by the state legislature. We’re working on that and we’ll see but there is the funding in place and the construction going on. So I think that we’re all pleased with that.”