Let’s check in with what’s been happening in Key West

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

The hiring of the city attorney will be on the agenda for next week’s City Commission meeting.

The city clerk will also be retiring in July. The process to hire a new city clerk will also begin at next week’s commission meeting.

The city has budgeted $200,000 for the water quality testing program which will be done this year.

Kaufman said, “It has never been done locally. It’s something that some of us have been advocating for for years. That’s really exciting because when it comes to many of the environmental issues that we really need to be addressing, we need that data.”

The information should provide data that will allow the city to further protect the environment.

Some people believe cruise ships could also affect the water quality.

Kaufman said, “The current rules for the city government, we have an ordinance in place and a resolution which basically states that there will not be more than one ship at the port of Key West and because the owners of Pier B do own privately their pier, the city cannot control the schedule at Pier B. So essentially there can only really be one ship at Pier B per day. Management made a decision earlier this year to allow a second ship on several occasions. That never came before the city commission. There was a lot of discussions after that and consideration and now the city management’s position is there will not be any second ships at Mallory Square or otherwise. For now, that issue has been resolved. I think the bigger issue is for the environment, we need to have some very serious discussion with our partners, the Navy, the Department of Environmental Protection and ask the questions why are we not proceeding with cleaning up our harbor and the deep water channel there?”

Other ports have cleaned up their harbors without any disruptions.

Kaufman said, “Remember the city does not have the responsibility or the authority to do those types of things in the channel or in the harbor. That is the responsibility of the Navy and we have a great relationship with the Navy. So we should be able to engage with the Department of Environmental Protection, perhaps the Department of Commerce and let’s come up with a plan and see it through to be sure that our fisheries, our tourism is protected. If we don’t do that, worse things can happen.”

With issues like the water main breaks a week or two ago, the importance of protecting infrastructure is really important.

Kaufman said, “It is a real question of sustainability and bigger questions of how everyone who lives here and works here, including visitors, how we can rely on the current infrastructure for water, especially. Water issues seem to be the most important in terms of our environment and sustainability in this regard. We’re probably going to need to ban together and to go to Tallahassee and really have some frank discussions because we are a big economic generator for the state and we are an area of state critical concern for the environment and I think there would be support to provide greater funding for our water infrastructure and that’s really I think what our elected officials can be doing and our residents can be advocating for.”

Transportation can also be a concern with the influx of people.

Kaufman said, “Residents are very concerned about the additional amount of congestion on our streets. We’re going to get there. We just need time and effort to manage everybody on the streets so it’s safe for everybody and the flow is better for everybody trying to get to where they’re going.”

Affordable housing has been taken up in Tallahassee with funding.

Kaufman said, “When there’s that type of funding made available, the city, the county, the school board, every agency, every non-profit that is really thinking about how are we going to sustain having employees and having people working in our restaurants and our hotels, when there’s this type of influx of money that could come even to our small county as compared to the bigger counties in Florida, it can make a big difference. So we need to basically all of us who are involved with developing affordable housing, we need to better understand and connect with people who are the resources that can obtain that funding.”