What will 2024 bring for the City of Key West?

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 Key West Marching Band had their show on New Year’s Eve in London where the world got to view the talent we have here.

Johnston said, “I had the I had the privilege of working and living in England for a few years in my corporate career and what an education it is to see a country that’s been around that long and the history. It’s just beautiful countryside and I was listening to the radio this morning and Gary was talking about what an opportunity it was for the kids and the fact that they had visited Windsor Castle the day before, just a trip of a lifetime to see other cultures other countries and there’s lots and lots of history there. So what an opportunity for our kids and congratulations on their fundraising efforts and their outstanding performance.”

The community came together to help them raise about $400,000.

Johnston said, “Opportunity of a lifetime.”

The mayor’s State of the City address is coming up.

Johnston said, “I look forward to the State of the City every year. It’s pretty easy when you live in the city of Key West, because we have such an incredible community. But this year, I’m going to focus on something just a little different because we’re so adept at marketing and bringing in people and providing a wonderful experience for them. But this year, I’m going to focus on our locals, our residents, the people that make Key West what it is. I’m really going to spend some time talking about what it takes to become a livable community or maintain your status as livable community and what are the types of things that you need to focus on, that we need to focus on as city government, providing our locals with the best programs, the best environment that we can and really take some time to focus on the people that live here and make Key West what it is. Because people all the time you hear we visit Key West, and yes, we have beautiful weather and yes, we’ve got great fishing and a lot of things to offer, but what people talk to me about are the people, about how friendly people are, how they went to all extents to be accommodating. People want to come to a community where people love their community and enjoy their community and we certainly have been very blessed to have that environment. Our demographics over the years have changed as everyone knows, because about 90% of our community came to Key West because they want to live here. They chose Key West over any spot in the world for a number of reasons. We certainly want to keep tabs on that. It’s a fascinating community that draws lots of people. It’s not for everybody. It’s a tough spot to live. It’s expensive. We go through a lot of weather related situations that some people can handle and some people can’t handle. But the people that we’ve got here, the people that continue to thrive in Key West and make us what we are, are very unique, wonderful people.”

The city government has been trying to address issues for people living in Key West.

Johnston said, “Some things are out of our hands, some things we can impact. I think you get frustrated at times because there are so many things that are deeply seated in Tallahassee that are difficult to change or deeply seated in Washington DC and things that are out of our hands like Mother Nature, but there are a number of things that we can impact, that we can make better and those are the things that we’ve got to keep blinders on and keep focusing on and keep moving ahead to make Key West a better, more livable community every single day.”

What’s on the horizon for 2024?

Johnston said, “I think the first thing that we are going to have to address very seriously, is the hurricane evacuation model. That’s right on top of my radar, because we are impacted in Key West so much differently than the community of Tavernier, Key Largo, other communities in the Keys, because we sit down at the end of a two lane highway, we have storms that are intensifying rapidly in today’s world. Although development is out there, and development has been strong, there has to be a balance between, your ability to make money and human life. I take that very, very seriously, because I’ve evacuated a number of times, I’ve stated a number of times, but I know that the storm patterns are changing, I know that it just takes one accident on US 1 to clog up the entire system and to really impact the ability to evacuate safely. So we are going to have a very serious talk about this. I know the county has a number of lots that that they are concerned about, because they don’t have building permits to allow people to build on those. There’s potential takings cases out there. But this is a time where we really need to weigh human life and use some common sense here.”

What about the cruise ship issue?

Johnston said, “It was a meet in the middle type of situation. I know that’s not common in today’s political environment, but we were able to do that. The cruise ship industry has been one of the dividing issues in the city of Key West since the early 70s. So we came to a resolution where Pier B continues to bring in their cruise ships, and we actually close down the outer mall and Mallory Square pier to the large cruise ships. We are testing it out right now. We signed some contracts with American Cruise line, which brought in their first their first cruise line to Mallory Square, which had 109 passengers on it. So our entire goal here is A, protect the environment, B, don’t overrun Key West with  10 or 15,000 people in a day. Bring people in that are able to truly experience what we have in Key West, which means you are here more than six hours. That’s really our goal. Bring some smaller ships in. This ship actually stays in overnight. So they’re eating in our restaurants, they’re going to plays. They’re experiencing our live music, they’re taking a fishing tour, they’re getting on a conch train. They’re actually able to experience the things that make Key West so wonderful. So once again, the referendum said it had a limit on the number of passengers and the size of the ships and what we’re doing is we’re following that referendum and the people’s will. We are trying some new things in order to again, enhance our businesses and give people an opportunity to see Key West the way that we would like them to. I think it is working out well, and I think people are really adjusting to that. What it takes is if you have a business that you need several thousand new people to come into town every day, maybe it’s time to take a look at the marketing plans and to adjust a marketing plan to the new conditions. I know people are very bright and are able to do that. I certainly have far more positive comments than we do negative comments on the modifications that we’ve made.”

The City Commission will meet on January 11th.

Johnston said, “Hopefully we’re providing the services that that everyone is expecting and we’re just going to continue to improve Key West every single day and thank our lucky stars that we live here.”