Holly Merrill Raschein, Mayor Pro Tem for Monroe County, joined Good Moring Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.
The county is in the very early stages of discussing the possibility of becoming a charter county.
Raschein said, “This was something that came up at our last meeting. We’ve got some unique needs and one of those needs and challenges actually is transportation. We hear it every day from residents and tourists alike about traffic jams and just hold ups and logistics.”
With US 1 being the main highway in and out of the Keys, accidents can be a common occurrence.
Raschein said, “There are options out there as a county. So often, when you hear about charter counties, you think of Miami Dade County. There’s several other charter counties around our state and with that charter status comes options. Belonging to a conglomerate of transportation authorities would be very costly. We would be a big payer in to the system and maybe not really recoup the resources that we put into it.”
Could the Florida Keys stand on their own?
Raschein said, “If we had a charter County, obviously, the voters would have to vote on it. We’re not going to move forward if it’s not something that our residents want to do. And obviously, there will be a very, very widespread, very open, very clear, public discussion. We’ll have multiple public meetings. We’ll reach out to the chambers, we’ll reach out to the realtor associations, we’ll reach out to the political clubs, we’ll reach out to the homeowners associations, you know, any organization that really has a resident face membership, and sort of float the idea is that something that you guys are interested in?”
The top three issues that are addressed at the county level are housing, traffic, the environment.
Raschein continued, “The second part of that is, why are you doing this? Well, it’s defined an additional funding source, because to solve these transportation challenges, or woes, it’s going to take some considerable resources, whether we’re talking about switching up our roads, whether we’re talking about raising our roads to deal with the flooding. Should we have that that extra funding? That initiative would then go on the ballot.”
If Monroe County became a charter county, some funding could come from tourists.
Raschein said, “So while the residents would have skin in the game, the tourists that come to our community, that tax or resources that use our infrastructure, will have even a bigger share. They’ll have to pay the lion’s share of this and, you know, if that’s something that the residents are interested in, we’re going to hear it, but again, I cannot stress enough that this is at the very elementary level right now. We are looking at the possibility of doing this. I think that we have done a good job, being resilient, being effective, being able to bob and weave when things come our way. But we have one road. We are really, really limited. Something happens, we can lose a whole day of work. We can lose a whole day of school. That that is something that comes with living on an island, but we do have options and we can make it better. And I think that this is, this is one of those ideas. And I’m very excited about it. Again, I can’t stress enough that we’ve got to have a lot of discussion. For me to feel comfortable moving forward, I want to make sure that we’re ticking all the boxes that we need to and that we’re not we’re not going too far off the plantation, if you will.”
County staff has been talking to other communities in charter counties.
Raschein said, “I’m excited to see the discussion. It’s different. People are kind of like, no, no, no, change is bad. But sometimes change is good. So we’ll see.”
A picnic on June 17 in Key Largo will celebrate the bicentennial.
Raschein said, “Any celebration with a zero in it is a big deal. And this is certainly a quite a shindig for our community and an opportunity for us all to come together and celebrate our rich history. And we are taking the time throughout these coming months to celebrate that history, to celebrate our heritage, to celebrate the people who came before us and to celebrate what we’ve got going on now. The next stop is going to be up in the upper Keys in Key Largo and it’s a family friendly event, it is free and open to the public. Then coming up after that, obviously, Father’s Day is the next day. So happy early Father’s Day to all the dads out there.”
The actual anniversary of Key West is on July 3.
Raschein said, “I’m excited that we have been able to partner with the TDC on this. I’m excited that we’ve been able to use our public parks that we’ve worked so hard on. We’re trying to use as many local businesses as possible, and this is a time for our community to celebrate. I’m just glad that I’m here and I hope everybody else will take the time to come out and have fun.”
It is hurricane season, so folks in the Keys are reminded to be prepared.
Raschein said, “I think that down here in the Keys, we’re obviously old hats at this. We’ve got this, but I think that with that comes a little complacency. I just really encourage folks just go do it now. Get your water, get your canned food, whatever. Batteries, extra phone charger. I mean, you don’t need to go overboard, but you know, it’s that season and we just want everybody to be safe and not sorry.”