The city of Key West is incredibly fortunate with our hard-working staff

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

How is the city doing? 

Kaufman said, “I think we had a great year in 2023. The finances are really strong, a lot of projects underway. The hiring of the new city manager was a big accomplishment, and really having the stability and the performance of staff at such a high level and things be really well organized and all the projects moving forward, it really makes the job of the commissioners that much easier. So I think that’s a big highlight. I think most most folks that pay attention and look at City Hall are really pleased with the performance of staff and management in particular.”

The potential of banning social media users who are under 16 came up recently in the state. 

Kaufman said, “The commission has not taken a stance on on that particular issue. I think that there are pros and cons. As a father of two teenagers 16 and 14, I certainly understand the concerns. To me, it’s really more of a cultural issue, and a community issue and a parenting issue. I’m not sure how you can legislate parenting and good parenting and putting some limits on the use of these phones that every single teenager has, and certainly the culture in America, not just in Florida, but everywhere has changed so much since we were kids. I mean, boy, the amount of adult adult things that are available to these kids at too soon is really, really a big concern. So I’d like to learn more about it. But I think that there will probably be First Amendment challenges from the corporations that produce these types of things.”

As the legislative session in Tallahassee starts to round out, what is the city watching? 

Kaufman said, “I’ll start with the positive first. One is the Live Local Act continues to be funded. That is for affordable housing in pretty big ways. The state legislature is funding $150 million dollars per year, and they’re promulgating the rules for the expensing and distribution of that money. The city of Key West is going after some of that money, in a big way. I’m hoping that there’ll be an announcement in the next few months about that. So there’s some good things happening. I know there’s always a lot of negative talk about the legislature, but what we want to do is in the big picture, we want to develop and continue to improve our relationships with with the legislature because of funding. When it comes to home rule, which is what you mean when you say local decision making, when we reference that as home rule. Certainly there’s a lot of tension between local governments and the state legislature. It’s interesting to me that when state legislators become county commissioners or municipal, public elected officials, they see the other side and one time they’re voting to take away and to preempt local governments from acting and then they become the local officials and then they have to deal with those issues. The big picture is you want to make sure our relationship with Tallahassee is a good one.” 

The City Commission will meet on February 8. 

Kaufman said, “I think the biggest thing that that everyone should focus in on, one thing is, of course, thank goodness, we’re awarding the bid for the contract to build the new John Jones Center, our emergency homeless shelter. So that’s pretty big for me. Finally, we’re getting to the point where construction will start on that on Stock Island. That’s such a blessing and very happy that that’s going forward. But probably the biggest thing is the discussion item on the bond referendum and survey results. What that is, is we all know in Key West, that our infrastructure needs a lot of attention and funding for improvements. Everything from our roads, our sidewalks, all the paving on the roads, that needs to be done. Our MLK pool, Martin Luther King pool, will be in need of redevelopment. Everything from Duvall Street and Mallory Square improvements, and our fire station is needing to be replaced. We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars of projects that need to be done. I’m hoping that the public pays attention to this and considers the bond referendum which we’re gonna have a discussion on Thursday about, but it will most likely be on the ballot in November.”