This letter to the editor is in The Key West Citizen today:
New homeless shelter proposal is flawed
If the “vagrants” are not to be allowed into the proposed new homeless shelter at the Easter Seals property on Stock Island, where will they hang out? Perhaps more importantly, where will they sleep at night? In public parks?
By federal case law, the city has to allow them to sleep outside if no city shelter is provided for them to sleep.
Another question: Will people with booze and/or other addictive drugs in their blood and urine be allowed into the proposed new shelter? If so, there is no way it will be a “rehab” or “turn-around” shelter. And if addicts are not allowed into the proposed new shelter — figure that being about 90-95 percent of the people who currently stay at KOTS, and about the same percent of street people who do not stay there — where will they hang out during the day and sleep at night?
Refer back to federal case law, particularly Pottinger v. City of Miami. That same federal court has jurisdiction over Key West.
Little Torch Key
From bigpinekey.com’s Coconut Telegraph legal department yesterday:
[Crappy Christmas Present] Let me share with you a report from the trenches of the slumlord/foreclosure industry victims. After living in the Keys for approximately 6 months in a friends backyard, we finally came into an affordable rental. Hooray! Now keep in mind, we are the people that bag your groceries, serve you your food and drinks, and generally work to serve our wealthier residents. You know, the hidden service industry. You don’t want us at your house for dinner, but your life would be miserable without us. Imagine how excited we are. As dismal as the rental might be, we can afford it on only 2 part time jobs apiece. I sign a year’s lease in good faith, and we move into our new home. And good lord, is it atrocious. I cried for 2 weeks over how horrible the living conditions were. But in the end, I made it ours. We scrubbed and cleaned and decorated, and we finally come to love our new home. We know we have a slumlord for a landlord, but that’s ok. We’ll deal with it. We faithfully pay our rent on time every month. And, oh, did I mention that we have an elderly disabled man on Social Security living next to us on the same property? And he has been living here for 7, some, odd years, paying half of his meager SS check on his rent. But he is happy, and so are we. Imagine my surprise when a real estate agent comes knocking on our door a couple of weeks ago. And she informs us that the bank she works for just purchased our home in a foreclosure sale, and we need to get the hell out. Nice. Shelter is one of the most basic human needs, and now we have none. I do my research and learn that tenants in foreclosed properties have lots of rights. Great news. The new owner is supposed to honor our lease, so we should be safe until August 2013. What comforting news. Then I get a letter from some hotshot attorney in Ft Lauderdale telling me otherwise. Apparently, the lease that I entered into is completely invalid and fraudulent. The landlord, had lost the property over a year and a half ago. He never even owned it when the lease was signed. And he know it. No wonder he was in such a big hurry to get his rent every month. He was committing a criminal act every time he collected rent from us. Now we have 60 days to find a new home. And of course, we are in peak season. So the best rental I have found so far in Big Pine is $1200 a month, with F/L/S. If we combined all of our assets (us and the elderly neighbor), we might be able to come up with $1000. We have learned from our attorney that we have no recourse against the criminal that signed the fraudulent lease with us. Apparently renting something you never owned in the first place is somehow OK. And the bank has no interest in being a landlord, even though this piece of crap property will probably sit vacant for years and will become infested with crack heads and shruburbians the moment we are evicted. There will soon be 3 new homeless service workers in the Keys, due to no fault of their own. And our elderly, veteran, disabled neighbor won’t leave until they “take him out in handcuffs”. Basically, a nightmare. The owners of several successful RV parks in the lower Keys are laughing all the way to the bank, while they enjoy the comforts of their brand new homes, and girlfriends with fake breasts. And there are three new honest and hardworking people out on the streets. Maybe the sheriffs will take us out on Christmas Day; it certainly would fit their sense of conscience. And this is a story that I have heard many times. So the next time you thumb your nose down at the people that are making you life more pleasant, remember this is the kind of thing that happens day after day here, not only in the Keys, but all over our great country. No good tenant, or good worker, should have to worry every minute of every day where they are going to live. Or if their next home might be the bushes across the street. Such a basic human need that is being exploited by unscrupulous and disingenuous slumlords. My only hope is that Karma really is a bitch. If there are any legal professionals reading this, any advice would be greatly appreciated. I would be happy to provide contact info, but I am not sure if the CT would print it. Thanks for reading our story.
I submitted this reply to the Coconut Telelgraph:
Christmas Eviction Notice
For starters, ask the State Attorney to prosecute your so-called landlord for theft by fraudulent misrepresentation, probably not the exact legal name for the crime he committed, but close enough.
Also for starters, advise the bank and its attorney in writing that you insist on trial and notice of all legal proceedings being delivered to you, so you will know where and when to show up and explain your side of the case to the judge assigned to your case. And at the same time, tender future rent payments, by check or money order, to the bank and/or its attorney. Save a copy of all documents.
This is a guess on my part, perhaps educated, that if there was no sign or other visible notice on the property that a bank owned it, a sign saying the property had been Foreclosed, was For Sale and/or No Trespassing, and if the so-called landlord was, in fact, the owner before the foreclosure, then it might be a judge will say the bank is “estopped” from denying your lease with the prior owner, and must honor the lease until its term expires, if you pay the rent due under the lease to the bank henceforth.
I cannot imagine a judge being unsympathetic to your situation, if it is as you report it to be. I cannot imagine a judge ordering the eviction of three people paying rent to the person they had every reason to believe owned the property because the bank had not put up a Foreclosed, For Sale or No Trespassing notice. I can’t imagine a judge not telling the bank to work it out with you for the remainder of the term of your leases. Judges have considerable leeway in dispensing what is called “equity”, and they also have considerable influence in recommending settlement. When a lease is up, however, it’s a different story. A landlord does not have to renew a lease, absent the tenant having an explicit right to renew.
You do not need to hire a lawyer to represent you. Any tenant faced with eviction can go before a judge pro se and ask for relief. It is very important, however, for a pro se tenant to stay on top of any court proceedings and make all court appearances, and in that regard, a pro se tenant much let the judge know there is a pro se tenant resisting the eviction and the pro se tenant wants to be timely noticed with all legal proceedings, so as to allow the pro se tenant to be at court when such proceeding are before the judge. Give the judge your name, your US Post Office mailing address, your phone number and your email address.
If there were a Legal Aid office in the Keys, a pro se pauper tenant probably could get legal representation in that way, but I am not aware of a Legal Aid office in the Keys. A call to the Public Defender’s office could determine what, if any, legal represention a pauper pro se tenant might be entitled.
I will send my reply to the Coconut Telegraph and post your story and my reply to my blogs at goodmorningkeywest.com and goodmorningfloridakeys.com, and to my bulk email list. I suggest you shorten your story to the bare essentials and submit it to The Key West Citizen and the Keynoter, as a letter to the editor. And to Key West the Newspaper, as a case they might wish to investigate and report. Put your names on it before the public. If the bank has offices in the Keys, the local publicity might become a serious ally for you. Keys banks do not like adverse publicity and/or pissing off the public and losing accounts.
Furthermore, as you describe this case, a bank would be stupid to kick a paying tenant out and let the property lie vacant. It might be the bank does not know what its mainland lawyer is doing. It might be the bank will not like what its mainland lawyer is doing. It might be, contacting the bank locally and/or at its headquarters and talking with the top of the local and/or home office totem pole might get results. Especially, if the top of the local and/or home office totem pole knows all three of you, counting your elderly neighbor, will resist to the bitter end and be hauled away in handcuffs. I can see that one making the national news.
“FLORIDA KEYS BANK FORCES THREE GOOD-PAYING TENANTS TO BE HOMELESS FOR NO GOOD REASON”
All this free advice is offered for what it is worth. Any person, lay or lawyer, can offer free legal advice for what it is worth. It happens all the time. I don’t know who your lawyer is, nor to I want to know. But you might wish to ask him/her why you had to go to the Coconut Telegraph to get this advice, which any lawyer with half a brain and half a heart should give you for free. Bad karma for your lawyer not providing it, for free. Bad karma for the mainland lawyer representing the bank. Bad karma for the bank if it doesn’t work something out with you. Bad karma for a judge who does not help you. Bad karma for the thief who took your money under false pretenses. Feel free to share this reply with your elderly neighbor.
When I talked with my Key West banker friend Todd German about this situation last night, after I wrote the above, he said he hopes it isn’t his bank, but this sort of thing is seen all the time. Someone rents out property he/she doesn’t own, or takes deposits from mainland people to rent Keys property the alleged landlord does not own. Todd said he hopes the State Attorney gets involved in this case. But he was not hopeful for the tenants prevailing legally. I said there is the law and their is equity, and I were a judge and this case was before me, I would tell the bank I am going to let the tenants stay in their apartments until their leases run out, on condition they pay rent on time to the bank, and if the bank doesn’t like that, then appeal my ruling, which will take at least as long as the remainder of time on the leases. Todd said he could see that side of it. He also said some banks like to keep people in foreclosed properties paying rent, and some banks don’t want the hassle, and if the bank involved learns these tenants have fixed up the property and are paying rent and will switch to paying the bank rent, the bank might go along with that. Todd said any prospective renter should check with the real estate records department in the County Clerk’s Office to find out who really owns the property, before plunking down any money. I said that is a far reach for average people, and banks which foreclose residential property should put notices on the property itself that the property is foreclosed, and in that way do their part to stop people renting out properties they do not own.
I thought last night that the above was the end of this legal clinic, but Todd came in a dream before dawn this morning, asking me to speak to the shaman and the avatar before a group of men and women. I woke up knowing I was being taken back to a prior life, when I self-published THE HIGH LEGAL ROAD – A New Approach to Legal Problems (1990) – about using legal situations as reflections back to us of what we need to look at in ourselves, before pointing our finger at someone else, so …
Under that approach, these three tenants would examine what, if any, part of this situation is on them, in the sense they could have avoided it with the use of maximum diligence, ie. check the real estate records in the County Clerk’s Office. That’s the easy part. The rough part is they would contemplate what this unfortunate situation reflects back to them about their past. Who does this pretender-thief landlord remind them of? Who did something like this to them in the past, which never got resolved? To whom did they do something like this in the past, which never got resolved? They let the history come forward. This might take a few days. They marinate in it. they get uncomfortable in it. They emote in it. They go crazy in it. They wallow in it until it passes through them. Then, they do the same internal exercise with the bank.
Their lawyer does the same internal exercises. The banker behind this does the same internal exercises. The bank’s lawyer on the mainland does the same internal exercises. A judge this goes before does the same internal exercises. That’s the high legal road. That’s first taking the beam out of our own eye.
Having said that, as per the angels’ request, through Todd in the dream, under these presented facts, if I were the judge in this case, I still would let the three tenants remain in their apartments until their leases run out. I would do that because I would not feel the foreclosing bank has entirely “clean hands”. It waited a long time after the foreclosure to exert its right to possession. It did not put a Foreclosed, For Sale or No Trespassing sign on the property. The foreclosing bank using reasonable diligence could have prevented this unfortunate situation. In the bigger scheme, if all foreclosing banks use such due diligence on foreclosed properties, that would go a very long way toward stopping people from renting out property they do not own. As would the State Attorney prosecuting the pretender-thief landlord. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Sloan Bashinsky, ex-practicing lawyer, in Alabama ====================
Moving over to the local blackboard jungle legal department … Received this from Larry Murray yesterday, which Superintendent of Schools Mark Porter, himself a lawyer, asked me in a dream last night to publish today – that, and a second email from Larry about vocational training. ====================
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2012 16:57:43 -0800
Subject: Let’s Not Kick The Can
To: email@example.com CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Ken.Gentile@KeysSchools.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought that you made a number of very valuable contributions in today’s Audit and Finance Committee meeting, especially with regard to the HOB construction project. If I understood correctly, the AFC is requesting from the School Board clarity with regard to District policy concerning the authority of the superintendent to approve change orders in excess of $25,000. The Committee seems to believe, and I think you concurred, that the superintendent’s authority to approve change orders in contracts is limited to $25,000 in all circumstances including the construction of HOB. Conversely, the HOB oversight team, including Michael Kinneer, seems to believe that the superintendent may approve change orders in excess of $25,000 so long as the change order in question does not alter the total contracted amount. Presumably, you will undertake on behalf of the Committee to bring before the School Board this issue and request of the Board that they determine which interpretation is correct and to be followed in the contract for the construction of HOB and all other contracts executed by the District. I am confident that you will do that. Where my confidence wanes is with the traditional behavior of the Board and its disposition to kick the can around and down the road and to otherwise act in an casual, informal manner. The matter at hand has arisen before and will no doubt arise again if and until the Board clarifies matters while making its policy abundantly clear and not subject to interpretation. With that in mind, I strongly urge you to present one of the following two motions at the Board meeting and have the Board formally vote. 1. It is School Board policy that the authority of the Superintendent of Schools to approve contractual change orders is limited in all circumstances to $25,000 regardless of the impact or lack thereof of the change order on the total contracted amount. All change orders in excess of $25,000 must be brought to the School Board for approval. OR 2. It is School Board policy that the authority of the Superintendent of Schools to approve contractual change orders is limited to $25,000 except in those instances where the amount of the change order has no impact on the total contracted amount. You may wish to massage my words, but I think that you understand where I am going. All I am looking for is a firm, unequivocal statement voted on by the School Board that clearly delineates the superintendent’s authority when it comes to issuing change orders. The argumentation and interpretation needs to end. This has been going on with regard to the HOB project for nearly three years. I hope and expect that you will continue attending AFC meetings and will continue to provide the constructive insight and assistance that you did today.
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
At the last School Board meeting, in Key West, I told the Board they should vet this issue in plain view at a School Board meeting, and let the general public see their thinking and decision. I told them there was no way for them to know the HOB contractor had earned a cost savings bonus before all the contrruction is done and all the costs are known. That’s what Larry Murray and Audit and Finance Committee member Stuart Kessler had told me this “change order” really is about – HOB wants to be paid a cost-saving bonus of over $200,000 before all the construction is done and all the costs are known. Larry, Stuart and I thought that was not a good idea. Also in play, whether Superintendent Porter could make the decision without getting the Board’s approval, because of the large payment the HOB contractor had requested. ============================
Larry also sent me this yesterday, responding to the “college is for suckers” part of yesterday’s college is for suckers, Bammer Nation and Junkyard Dawg Nation karma, and other subjects not taught in school post:
Sloan: In view of your commentary in today’s blog, I thought that you might find my commentary timely on vocational education in Monroe County. Larry
Date: Mon, 3 Dec 2012 11:39:10 -0800
Subject: Vocational Education To: email@example.com
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; John.Dick@KeysSchools.com; 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; Theresa.Axford@KeysSchools.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple of months ago, there was considerable local blog traffic regarding vocational education in the School District and most of it was highly critical. I did not know much about the subject and I asked around, only to learn that, at least in my circle, no one knew much more than I did. With my interest piqued, I reached out to those in the School District who had more expertise, particularly Melanie Stefanowicz, the new Director of Adult and Alternative Education. Ms. Stefanowicz, a consummate professional, was a wealth of information and assistance. I began with telephone conversations and email exchanges with Ms. Stefanowicz.Second, I followed that by soliciting from Ms. Stefanowicz a large body of data and asking questions about that data.Finally, I met with Ms. Stefanowicz and Terry Axford, the Director of Teaching and Learning, to discuss the current status of vocational education and how it might be expanded and improved. What did I learn?
1.Breadth and Depth; Number of Courses Offered
Coral Shores High School leads the way with 9 courses followed by 6 at Key West High School and Marathon High School with 5. There is a total of 13 different vocational education curricula offered by the District.Of these, 8 are unique to one high school (CSHS 4, KWHS 3, MHS 1) and 5 are offered at more than one high school.The only curricula offered at all high schools are Culinary Arts 1-4 and Television Production I-II.Attached is a list of all classes. When I asked how a relatively smaller school, CSHS, could offer a 1/3 more classes than a much larger school, KWHS, the answer was shocking.CSHS operates on a 7 period day whereas the others function on 6! How is this possible?Ms. Axford told me that the principal at CSHS convinced his staff to teach a 6 period day versus the contract mandated 5.It was not clear as to how he persuaded them, though I expect that supplemental pay is involved.I have only recently received the List of Supplements and have not had an opportunity as yet to analyze it. Regardless, if the key is supplemental pay, that is a bargain for the District as new Board member Ed Davidson routinely notes.Why the other principals were unsuccessful in inducing their staff via supplements or otherwise to teach a 6 period day is unclear.Apparently the United Teachers of Monroe County took no position. Critically, with a 7 period day, a student has an opportunity for 2 electives, whether vocational, remedial or enrichment.With a 6 period day, only 1 is available.If a student has a remedial course to take, that course is mandatory and precludes any opportunity for vocational education at KWHS and MHS.Other students may have to make an ugly choice between an enrichment class and something in vocational education. Obviously, a 7 period day presents the entire student body with more options and alternatives when it comes to vocational education.
Attached is a list of courses and enrollment in each course by high school. However, a review of the summary statistics for each school is revealing.
|?||Total Enrollment||Vocational Ed||
% in Vocational Ed
KWHS has by far the largest enrollment of the three high schools, yet it has the smallest percentage enrolled in vocational education.Conversely, CSHS has 69% enrolled in vocational education, 2 out of every 3 students. Because CSHS has, as we know, a 7 period day, that provides more opportunity to take vocational education classes.That does not, I believe, explain why, on a percentage basis, nearly 3 times as many students at CSHS are taking vocational education courses as compared to KWHS and 50% more than MHS. My research was built around obtaining and analyzing statistical data.I have no way of explaining the enrollment anomalies and I will not try at this time.However, research should be done into why there is such a spread in vocational educational enrollment among the three schools.
3. Curriculum The curriculum is mired in the 20 th Century, if not the mid-part of that centruy. I say that because mnost of today’s classes were offereed when I was in high school in the 1950s despite all of the changes in our society and economy over the last 50 + years.
I include in this category such curricula as Cosmetology, Auto Service and Marine Service, Building Construction Technology and the like.The viability of these offerings is contingent on how well the instructor keeps up with technological change.(Another area that I have yet to pursue is the qualifications of the instructional staff.)As offered, they will provide education for some of today’s jobs, but preparation for future employment is problematic. There is a nod to the new millennium in courses for Solar Energy, Television Production/Digital Video Production, Web Design and so on.While it is nice to see those offerings, the greater world of computer-based technology and other digital innovation is largely ignored.Television production may be superior to Commercial Fishing but it lags behind the I-Pad and I-Phone.The fastest growing sector of the US economy, Health Science, is limited to 3 semesters at CSHS.There is nothing about Engineering, Finance and other growing fields. I would suggest that the curriculum needs to be more forward and less backward looking.I have recommended elsewhere and discussed with Terry Axford and Melanie Stefanowicz the need to overhaul the curriculum with a clearer eye for the future and we unanimously agreed.Hopefully, they will produce as promised and we will have a report this academic year.The cost to do so is nil; it only takes desire.
4. Local Employment Opportunities One of the major concerns articulated by the supporters of vocational education is to better prepare students for local employment after graduation.Given the size and nature of our tourist based economy I am not sure how realistic that is. For example, when nearly 75 students per year complete a television production class, how many are likely to find employment in Monroe County with only cable based television opportunities at home? Can our community absorb 15 beauticians/nail techs each year, especially when competing with those in adult education?I could continue with additional illustrations, but I think the point is made. Considering the particulars of our county, geography, location, population and so on, I think that it is virtually impossible and not necessarily desirable for the School District to try to provide a vocational education program that will prepare students principally for local employment. The simple fact of that matter is that Monroe County, like Ireland for most of its history, exports people.From 2000 to 2010, Monroe County was one of only two counties in Florida to lose population. I think that we would better serve students by preparing them for occupations in the national marketplace, not the provincial local one.That is what is done for college bound students.They are prepared for colleges everywhere, not just FKCC.
5. On The Job Training
Perhaps the greatest failing of the Vocational education program is the complete absence of On the Job Training.There is none unless a student has the initiative to go out and find something.As it stands, all a student has to offer an employer is “book learning”.The excuse that I was given is that there is no money and OJT is not required by the state.So much for local initiative. Money is needed so the argument goes, because the District prefaces providing OJT in large groups, cohorts they call them.According to John Welsh at a candidate forum, that was done some years ago when buses took students to Stock Island with one portion going to FKCC for Marine Science and another left at Lower Keys Health Center for Health Service for experience and training.So long as that mindset prevails and money is in short supply, there will be no OJT. I suggested to Terry Axford and Melanie Stefanowicz that the School District reach out to the local community for OJT opportunities.My thought is to solicit local businesses and let them know that there are quality students looking for an OJT experience in a variety of curricula.I am confident that there will be a positive response. Axford and Stefanowicz agreed that this was an idea worth pursuing and agreed that they would.I am pleased to report that this outreach has begun, first with the Key West Chamber of Commerce to be followed by meetings with other Keys Chambers of Commerce.Again, this is a no cost initiative that relies only on desire. Another possible dynamic within OJT is internship.Internships would be more structured and continuing, perhaps after graduation.Also, either OJT or internships may be paid situations depending on the circumstances.I am not advocating slave labor in the name of OJT or internships. An added benefit for paying students is that paid OJT could be done after regular school hours and weekends.An illustration of where OJT and salary can overlap is within the District itself.For years, the District has been paying a firm to maintain and move electronic equipment, e.g. put a new bulb in a projector or move and connect a computer.There is no reason why students cannot be trained to do just that as part of a larger IT curriculum.The key is to be creative.
6. Certification Another failing is the real absence of Certificates of Completion. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of Comprehensive Industry Certifications identified by Workforce Florida for the Career and Professional Education Act, 2011-2012, Updated.Yet, MCSD offers only one curriculum that has a certificate of completion, the “Pro Start” Culinary Certificate. Why the absence? No one seems to know .It is imperative, I believe, that each segment of the vocational education curriculum be examined to determine if it does qualify for certification upon completion.If not, what must be done so that students qualify for certificates of completion? Without OJT and without some certification of what has been learned, graduates are at a decided liability when seeking employment.”Book learning” alone is not likely to persuade skeptical employers who may not have the most positive impression of our school system. It certainly appears that vocational education is the ugly stepsister in the School District.It is there, but nobody really much cares.That is the fundamental deficiency, caring.Money is not really a major problem. As noted above there is much that can be done to improve the vocational education program, but only if there is a desire to do so and a priority is established.
Dr. Larry Murray
December 3, 2012
Dr. Larry Murray
Fiscal Watchdog and Citizen Advocate
The vocational ed course statistics in Larry’s email, which I had seen before as the result of his digging, indicate Key West and the Lower Keys are far more “racially prejudiced” against vocational training and trade work than are Marathon and the Upper Keys. While I feel Larry’s inquiry and suggestions are a step in the right direction, I do not agree that Keys students should be educated with a view toward them emmigrating to the mainland. I do not agree that Keys students should not be taught tried and true vocational skills, such as automotive and marine mechanics, hotel management, culinary arts, cosmotology, plumbing, electricianing, construction, landscaping, tree and shrub care, nurserying, criminology, commercial fishing, etc. right here in the Keys, to enable them to do those trades right here in the Keys. The higher tech stuff they also can and should be given the opportunity to learn right here in the Keys. You can be a computer technician living anywhere on this planet, including the Keys. Larry does not know how to boot up a computer or set up or open an email account or type and send and email. He makes money as a contractor. Hearing for the first time that he wants to export Keys students to the mainland leaves me very glad he was not elected to the School Board. Our school district’s stated mission is to have high school graduates college and/or career ready on graduation. I learned at a School Board meeting early this year that then Superintendent Jesus Jara and his curriculum director Theresa Axford and the School Board viewed college ready and/or career ready as one and the same. That was further clarified at a later School Board meeting as meaning ready to go to college or to a vocational college upon graduation from high school. I was astounded to hear such word twisting to suit the twisters’ utter and total failure to honor the plain English meaning of college and/or career ready upon graduation from high school. It convinced me yet again that the only way all Keys children have a chance to be college and/or career ready upon graduation from high school is for each Keys school to go charter and take control of its own destiny and prepare its students to be college and/or career ready upon graduation from high school.