Karen DeMaria retired on Friday from the city of Key West

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s happening in the city.

Karen DeMaria retired on Friday as the Urban Forestry Manager for the city.

Johnston said, “Karen retired on Friday after a 10 year career with the city of Key West. I don’t think most people realize how important that position is and what Karen did for the city of Key West. But our canopy, as we know from last summer’s temperature is so important to cool down our island. We’ve had some state legislation a couple years ago that made her job exponentially more difficult, which allowed people to remove trees on their properties without replacing them. So Karen has just done an incredible job for the city. I took a drive down United Street from City Hall, and driving down United Street, first of all, it’s beautifully paved now, but what I noticed is there are 31 new trees that have been planted between White Street and Simonton Street on United. I think that’s a testament to Karen and her love for the city and her love for our trees and her undying attitude to protect our trees and our canopy. So I just wanted to thank Karen for her 10 years of service. She did a wonderful job and I think we’ll all benefit and our children and grandchildren are going to benefit from her efforts, as we move through the generations here.”

Thursday is the City Commission with 58 different agenda items.

Johnston said, “If you can believe it, we’re already approving events for Songwriters Festival, which has seemed like it just happened. Conch Republic Days which again, seems like it was just right around the corner and we’re getting right back into season. But the city of Key West has so many major projects right now that we have undertaken, that we are moving forward on. One of them is the Douglass Community Center. If you’ve not been down in Bahama village, please take a look, because we are making tremendous progress on that. We’ll have a brand new community center very shortly. We’re out for survey on the Martin Luther King pool, what do you want to see there? How often do you use it? How do we want to use it in future so we make the right moves there? On our agenda, we’re taking a look at authorizing Bender and Associates to redesign Bayview Park. That has been another issue that we have come back and forth to community on. We’ve got a lot of people in the city of Key West that either live here or visit here and we are trying to use our spaces more efficiently. We’re not growing any more land in the city of Key West, so we’ve got to take what we’ve got and we’ve got to use it to the maximum capabilities of that facility. So we’re taking a look at Bayview Park, how can we make it work better, particularly for our locals? How is it going to be more effective? So we’re authorizing Bert Bender to take a look at that. We have the results from our strategic plan. We had three organizations that actually applied through our RFQ process. We’re taking a look at approving one of those to continue our strategic planning efforts. It’s so important because there are seven of us who sit on the commission, who clearly have needs and wants for each one of our districts and for the entire city. That’s what makes strategic planning so important is that we take the issues that are most important to the entire city and we prioritize those, as we did four years ago, when the community came out, almost 4,000 people answered our survey and said, these are the things we want. These are the things we want to spend money on, these are the things we want to move ahead on. That brings me to one more agenda item, which is the approval to move forward with the general obligation bonds, to bring it to referendum in November. That’s going to allow us to move these projects forward, because they’re big ticket items. We have lots of needs in the city. The city takes a beating every year with over 3 million visitors in and we’ve got to keep our infrastructure up. So that’s one of the things that’s going to help us and we would like to move forward to create language to have on the November ballot for our citizens to weigh in on. Beyond them, lots of projects that we’re moving forward. We do have a couple items coming back for a second reading. And those will be regarding accessory units and also impervious soil. So we’ll be taking a look at that. We’ll also be meeting as the board of adjustments and the CRA so it’s going to be a long evening, Thursday night. So please tune in or join us and weigh in on these issues.”

What about displaying flags in the city?

Johnston said, “That’s still under discussion. In fact, we have a resolution tonight sponsored by four of us actually objecting to that legislative issue. It impacts this community so much. Not only do we have the Pride flag, but we got the Conch Republic flag. It’s a local issue, and it should be determined on a local basis. So, once again, we’re at odds here with individuals eight hours away, trying to determine what is best for the city Key West.”

The lease on the hospital on Stock Island will come up within five years.

Johnston said, “Congratulations and hats off to Vice Mayor Kaufman for bringing that forward because you can’t go anywhere that healthcare in the city of Key West is not a conversation. My very first meeting as a city commissioner, we had a workshop, and we were talking about threats to the city of Key West. What are our greatest threats? What are our greatest opportunities? Well, one of the greatest threats to maintaining long term residents in the city of Key West, is our level of health care, all across the board. We certainly have to be concerned about that. You take a look at people who are leaving Key West and the primary reason they are leaving is because we just can’t provide the services that they require at this time in their life. So it’s an important conversation to have. I don’t think we can start it too soon. I look forward to getting some public input along with Vice Mayor Kaufman.”

The death of a wave runner over the weekend was incredibly tragic, where a young gentleman lost his life.

Johnston said, “So please be careful when you’re out there. They are pretty powerful machines. We want everyone to come down to the city of Key West and have a wonderful time. But be safe so you can come back again year after year. So please be careful out there on the waters.”

For the city commission’s agenda for Thursday, click here:  https://keywest.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1182410&GUID=EEEABE2B-951A-4A0F-9242-B47A2BEA85E0&Options=&Search=