Right.Action Back in 2004, Sandy Downs noticed the 20 (or so) foot tall mangroves on a smallish state-owned island near her Cudjoe Key home had been chain-sawed. After talking with her husband, a licensed arborist and one of the few people in the Keys licensed to cut mangroves commercially, Sandy reported the chain-sawing to the local office of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Then she waited for DEP to take action. And she waited. And then she got tired of waiting and started sending cards and letters to the local DEP Office, which were passed on to the head of that office, who threw them away, or stuck them in a file somewhere, or maybe he ate them. Sandy grew weary of holding her breath and wrote to Tallahassee. She told state senators what had happened and that DEP in Monroe County wasn’t doing anything about it, despite her many cards and letters. Jim King, a senator from Jacksonville, got all steamed up and started making noise. The DEP office in Ft. Meyers, which had authority over the DEP office in the Keys, looked into it and discovered a phosphate mining permit had been issued to the Goodman family at the end of Blue Gill Lane on Cudjoe Key, the same road where Sandy and her family lived. Ft Myers DEP learned the permit to cut mangroves had been issued because the Goodman’s had told the local DEP office in their application that they wanted a better view from their home. And Ft. Myers DEP learned the permit had been issued without giving the mandatory notice to the Goodmans’ neighbors, to allow them a chance to object. Ft. Meyers DEP also learned the Goodman’s weren’t in the phosphate mining business and concluded the permit should not have been issued. But the Goodmans ran the Republican Party in the Keys and were tight with County Commissioners David Rice and George Neugent. Sandy Downs calculated that the fine should have been at least $500,000. Ft. Myers DEP didn’t fine the Goodmans a penny, and let the permit stand. The senator from Jacksonville, Jim King, was indicted and prosecuted for various crimes. He prevailed in court. Until the hammer was dropped, he and Sandy Downs were corresponding by snail mail and email. After that, he didn’t answer anything she sent to him. Only after Ft. Myers DEP got involved did Sandy learn who had chain-sawed the mangroves. She learned when she was accosted by Phillip Goodman, who told her that she didn’t know who she was dealing with and he was going to run her and her juvenile delinquent kids out of the Keys. Sandy did not then know the Goodmans headed up the Republican Party in the Keys. Until that conversation with Phillip Goodman, Sandy and her family had had no trouble with government agencies in the Keys. After that conversation, they were persecuted by the Monroe County Sheriff Office, the State Attorney Office, a Monroe County circuit judge, Monroe County Code Enforcement, Fish & Wildlife, the Coast Guard, and even a rogue wrecker towing company. Persecution continues. I have told some of it, but to tell it all would take a book.
Larry Murray also forwarded a praise report yesterday:
Date: Sat, 3 Nov 2012 13:50:10 -0700
Subject: The Future Of Vocational Education
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; Theresa.Axford@KeysSchools.com
CC: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought that our meeting last Thursday to discuss the current state and future of Vocational Education in the School District was both positive and productive. I am particularly excited by some of your plans for improvements in Vocational Education. My understanding of those initiatives are as follows:
1. The School District will solicit the business community for their suggestions regarding the vocational education curriculum and how it might better dovetail with their needs. I am sure that all of the Chambers of Commerce from Key West to Key Largo will be eager to participate as will other organizations such as the Key West Business Build, the Lodging Association, the Tourist Development Council and so on. Such a survey is a low cost, high return investment that will surely pay dividends.
2. As the School District solicits the business community, it will also survey the vocational needs and interests as expressed by parents and students. Again, this is a low cost, high return initiative. Ideally, surveying both communities, business and parent/student, is something that should be done periodically, perhaps every 5 years, so that the District can stay informed of employment trends.
3. An in-house examination of the curriculum should be conducted to determine how best the District can better prepare students for future jobs. The current offerings are very much mired int he 20th century and are not in tune with students who will soon have a life expectancy that will take them into the 22nd century.
4. Review the current curriculum with an eye for making changes so that vocational education students graduate with certification in their field. At present, there is only one certificate available at the high school level, the Pro Start culinary certificate. I think we agree that employment opportunities would be enhanced when a student can provide an employer with a recognized certificate of achievement. The state has a list of literally hundreds of certificates and the District needs to determine what curriculum changes need be made so that students qualify for a certificate of completion.
5. A greater emphasis will be placed on On-The-Job Training to complement the existing classroom offerings. OJT is currently non-existent and new life must be breathed into it. We all agree that job experience in the real world is an essential complement to “book learning”. The quickest, easiest way, as we all agreed, is a community outreach program to let local businesses know that the District is interested in partnering with them to obtain OJT or internship opportunities. Again, such an outreach is a low cost, high reward initiative that cannot be made too soon. I am very confident in an enthusiastic community response. Along those lines, I again urge Melanie to reach out to the media so as to inform our community of what is happening and what is planned in vocational education. I believe that an informed community will be a supportive community. Sitting down with Gwen Filosa, Sean Kinney, Bill Becker and their peers will undoubtedly reap dividends at virtually no cost.
6. Continued involvement with FKCC cannot be underestimated. There has been a close working relationship in the past and there is no reason why that cannot be revived. The upcoming meeting of the Lodging Association, FKCC and the School District regarding a hospitality curriculum is a perfect first step toward beneficial cooperation. Future joint endeavors are only limited by the extent of our imaginations.
I repeat what I said at the outset, our meeting was positive and productive. However, there is much to do to make the MCSD Vocational Education Curriculum the first class program that we all desire. We have identified a number of steps that can and must be taken in the foreseeable future. I stand ready to assist and to advocate on your behalf in whatever ways you deem appropriate. As you move forward, I hope that you will keep me in the loop, keep me apprised of your progress.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
I replied to All:
Looks to me that Mark Porter is taking to heart putting a lot more emphasis on vocational training, which is a drum I started beating months before we in the Keys ever heard of Mark Porter. In fact, I started beating that drum in 2010, when I ran against George Neuget for the District 3 County Commission seat and attended lots of candidate forums with School Board candidates, including Ron Martin, the just retired principal of Coral Shores High School, which today has the strongest vocational ed program of the three Keys high schools. I am very glad to see Larry beating the vocational education drum. So are the angels very glad. It is the best answer, by far, to the question I heard many times at candidate forums: “What do you think can be done do stem the out-migration of Keys kids after they graduate from high school?” The corollary question was, “What do you think can be done to stop the Keys from becoming a community of second-home residents who only live here a few months out of the year?”
The Key West Citizen endorsed Mitt Romney in an editorial today. If Romney is elected, and if he triages the US economy the way he triaged bankrupt companies he bought, by slashing spending, firing employees, stripping and selling off assets, outsourcing jobs and production overseas, he might turn the US treasury around – if he also raises taxes/reduces tax deductions across the board and cuts military spending by 50 percent. Otherwise, Romney will become the worst president in American history, like Barack Obama became the worst president in American history after he beat the worst president in American history – that would be George W. Bush, who gave Americans two incredibly dumb financially and spiritually ruinous wars and Barack Obama, who joined his predecessor in giving Americans Hurricane Sandy.