Last week’s Key West City Council meetings were busy, busy, busy

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.

The City Council now has one meeting a month with two different meeting times – one in the morning and one in the evening.

The morning meetings focus on presentations.

Johnston said, “They were all very important presentations for us. A water quality presentation by Alison Higgins. We had a presentation by the CEO of the Lower Keys Medical Center. We had a very spirited conversation there. But I think probably the most important conversation that we had in the morning was on our legislative agenda for the 23/24 season. This is the most robust, organized agenda that I have seen in 16 years here in the city of Key West. We had our objectives set out. We had a chance to talk to our lobbyists who we renewed one more year on their contract. We renewed it basically, with a change in the contract. We are embedding our legislative priorities in our contract because this is what we expect them to get done and help us get done in this legislative session. So we’ve embedded that into their contract.”

Communication requirements were also included in the contract.

Johnston said, “We’re also putting in there a manner in which we can actually evaluate the effectiveness. How much money did they bring back to the city of Key West? Because we pay our lobbyists $72,000 a year and we have expectations for that. We will have goals and objectives and expectations in which we can evaluate them at the end of this contract. So we’re looking forward to a much more productive legislative session in Tallahassee this year. But that was a real lively conversation there.”

The American Cruise Lines also made a presentation to council.

Johnston said, “It’s not a cruise. It’s a big ship and they basically requested coming into Mallory Square They’re an upper end cruise line, about $6,000 a cruise ticket. It certainly gives them time to dine in in some of our wonderful restaurants. So during the referendum, no matter what side you were on, this is this was the goal. The goal is to bring in a smaller ship that does no environmental damage and this ship has a draught of seven feet. So it’s much more applicable to our channel. We’re working with them to see if there are dates that we can work out and agree upon. But first, we’re also going to take a look at our Mallory Square project in which we’re going to reimagine Mallory Square to make sure that having a large luxury ship there has any negative impact on the work that we’re doing at Mallory Square. But I think we can work it out and I think we can bring some more business into this city of Key West and have people stay here for a couple of days and enjoy our community.”

The ship would be docked for about 36 hours and would move during sunset and come back.

Johnston concurred, “They know how important sunset is to every single person in Key West. So their marketing plan is to leave the dock, cruise around during sunset themselves, and then come back after sunset. We’re also checking with Cultural Preservation Society, our group down at Mallory Square, which entertains and has entertained many people for years and years, are making sure that this works in with their schedules. So we’ve got some checking to do, but it certainly is positive and it certainly is the type of vessel that we would like to welcome into the city of Key West.”

There will potentially be three dockings in December and 11 more dockings in 2024. There are also several other cruise lines that the city could work with.

Johnston said, “Many of them have already booked three and four years out, but I’m sure that with the with a publicity of American Cruise Lines coming to the city of Key West, I’m sure it will make its way around other vessels of similar size and environmentally responsible vessels that that we would love to talk to.”

With the legislative session beginning in January, it’s important to get the lobbyists ready to go.

Johnston said, “Our number one is changing the language for the land authority funding. Because as you remember, that’s our hiccup that we had with one income category, which is 160 percent of AMI. That was the area that had to re-qualify based on the current reading and language of the land authority. So we are working to change that language to make sure that these people don’t have to re-qualify every year, particularly for those 28 homeownership units in the 3.2 that we broke ground on last week. So that’s our number one priority. But we’re also taking a look at TDC funding for affordable housing. We’re looking at allowing us to give tax breaks to people who do rent long term. We’ve got a number of affordable housing issues, as well as our stormwater and our wastewater systems need updated and upgraded. So we’ve got a lot of different areas we’re working on.”