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 first City Commission meeting in the New Year will be this Thursday.
Johnston said, “We start at nine o’clock in the morning with our morning session that normally has resolutions on it and things that are on the consent agenda. So we’ll be discussing, I believe it’s 21 items on the morning session. Then we will reconvene at five o’clock and that’s when we have normally our appeals and our ordinances, either the first or second reading of our ordinances. So we will be going through those and this is the first meeting of the year. So by resolution, the mayor gives the State of the City address and I’ll be doing that third on the agenda at the five o’clock session. So we look forward to that. It’s been a great year and it’s always easy when you have good news.”
The State of the City address will be looking back as well as forward.
Johnston said, “We’ve got 15 departments that do an incredible job here and so we will be highlighting their accomplishments in the annual report. We published an annual report, now it’s 70 pages long, thanks to our city manager, Al Childress, that will be available on Thursday night to hand out to the public. You get a thumbnail sketch of what every department has accomplished in 2023 and also, what we’re shooting for in 2024. Because we have things that we can certainly improve on, to make Key West a more livable community and that’s our goal here in the city of Key West. So, we’ve identified several of those, we are moving forward, a lot of long term projects that are in the works have been in the works for a couple of years, and they continue to move their way through getting funding, identifying revenue sources, once we get these venues built, to make sure that they’re not a burden on the taxpayer. We are moving forward on some amazing, great projects that are going to improve the quality of life for our residents, and certainly going to make us a more interesting and unique tourist destination.”
The State of the City address will also focus on the residents of Key West.
Johnston said, “I think that’s something that sometimes we gloss over because people want to visit a community where people are happy to live there. Certainly our residents do a lot towards that goal. I think we have to recognize they also are really, really good at putting up with all that we do in the city of Key West to remain a vibrant tourist destination. Sometimes that’s an event every weekend. It’s 5k races around the city. It’s block closures. It’s closing down the Truman Waterfront for the boat races, and our residents really do move along with it with the program. It’s time to give them some accolades and credit and to just point out what we do every day in the city of Key West to make their life easier here to live.”
The Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride this past Friday and Saturday was an amazing event.
Johnston said, “It’s one of the most moving ceremonies that the city of Key West is involved in. Thanks to Cathy Crane, and to the military affairs group, because they do a wonderful job every year welcoming in these men and women who have certainly sacrificed for all of us and are working through some extensive personal challenges right now. But this community comes out in force, from the banners to the people lining their bicycle route to we’ve had dinners for them. They were down on Duvall Street. We had them in Bayview Park to recognize them and this community loves our military and particularly our military who have served and are back struggling with some significant personal issues. I had an opportunity to speak yesterday and one of the things that I talked about, not only is this community’s love and respect and undying gratitude that we have, but also the fact that these personal challenges that these veterans are going through require more than banners, and more than applause. They require us to really dig deep into our pockets and help them financially because all the services, all the rehabilitation programs that they go through cost money. I would hope that everyone would dig deep and be generous when you’re given the opportunity to support this group.”
The start of the legislative session in Tallahassee will also be watched closely.
Johnston said, “That’s one of the things that Al Childress has brought to the city of Key West is just so many accomplished events for us. One of those is that he understands how important Tallahassee is to the city of Key West, and how many needs that we have that we need help funding. We need them to change some of their rules and regulations to make it easier for us to accomplish our goals in the city of Key West. So we had our goals and objectives as you’re ready in July, which is unheard of for the city of Key West. So we’re organized, we’re ready to go. There will be a contingency of us going to Tallahassee for Florida Keys Days at the end of this month. We intend to have a number of meetings to, again, forward our requests. We got a lot of requests in the engineering department, a lot of requests for sea level rise and in our environment, a lot of requests for our infrastructure because our community of 26,000 people takes a beating every year when we welcome in 3 million tourists. So they certainly not only benefit the city of Key West, but the state of Florida. So we would like the state of Florida help us to maintain an environment that keeps his community vibrant. We’ll be doing a lot of work up there at the end of January and much of that is thanks to Al and his commitment to get our agenda ready and approved and to our lobbyists in Tallahassee.”
Has the state been supportive in the past and will that continue?
Johnston said, “I would certainly like to see more support to take the burden off of our local taxpayers. We are a worldwide tourist destination. They pay sales tax, that sales tax goes up to Tallahassee. So I certainly would like to see them reciprocate with more support for our community and particularly, in the area of infrastructure. We spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money every year on maintenance of our roads and sidewalks and still we can’t keep up. We’ve got some major items in our wastewater and stormwater systems, again, infrastructure maintenance that we need to take care of, as well as we’ve got a new fire station that we’ve got to build out there on Flagler Avenue. We’ve got a Martin Luther King pool structurally needs some repairs right now. So we’ve got some big, big ticket items that we would certainly love their assistance on. That’s what we’re going to be up there talking about.”
A meeting with a sister city in Puerto Rico will discuss tourism.
Johnston said, “Today we’re meeting with our one of our sister cities in Puerto Rico, who is very interested in coming and learning how to become a more vibrant tourist destination, what the pitfalls are, what you stay away from, what you really focus on, and so we’re going to be inviting them to the city of Key West here in the in the coming months to spend three or four days learning about Key West and how we became such a force in the tourism industry. So we like to share that information with them. So we’ll be inviting about eight of them into Key West I believe in February.”
For Thursday’s agenda, click here: https://keywest.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1160855&GUID=7BBFADE4-46B0-46A3-BCD0-28C5C61FDFA7&Options=&Search=