I ran into Tom Milone twice yesterday.
The first time, he showed up at Patrick the Terminator’s apartment in the Trumbo Housing Authority project, where Patrick was dutifully terminating me at chess, again. Although yesterday, I gave him a pretty good tussel in each the three games we played. Tom was out stumping for his city commissioner race against incumbent Jimmy Weekley, who has served several terms as either city commissioner or mayor.
At Patrick’s, Tom asked me about the homeless situation, about which I have been writing heaps lately. I said, basically there are three things heavy against the new homeless shelter Mayor Craig Cates wants to build, which perhaps was shot down by four of the six city commissioners at the last Commission meeting. Jimmy Weekley was not one of the four.
1) 90-percent of long-term homeless people are addicts. Old-timers in AA and NA, if they are honest with you, will say 95-percent of all people who enter those programs relapse. So, you can clean up long term-homeless people, get them looking pretty good, but eventually, most of them will go back to their old ways.
2) Key West is a homeless destination point, and that means no matter how many local homeless people the city cleans up and gets to looking pretty good, or ships on Greyhound to the mainland, more homeless will come in to take their place. There is nothing that can be done about that but move Key West to, say, Greenland.
3) Key West does not have affordable housing, such as where Patrick lives, for homeless people Key West cleans up and gets to looking pretty good. Key West does not have the land on which to build such affordable housing. Key West does not have the money to build such affordable housing. Patrick said there is a long waiting list for apartments in the Trumbo project.
Patrick is on disability, receives a monthly check from Social Security. The Housing Authority takes 1/3 of his check for rent, he keeps the rest. Patrick is on of the 95 percent people who did AA, who relapsed. I don’t see him ever coming out of it, absent an act of God. But for his disability check and the Housing Authority, he would be homeless.
I asked Patrick if he was going to vote for Tom? Patrick said he would like to, but he couldn’t. Ooops! I had forgotten something. I told Tom, the reason Patrick could not vote for him was because, at age 18, he was put in a federal penitentiary for 3 years because he would not fight and get killed in Vietnam.
When Tom asked Patrick if he had tried to get his rights restored, Patrick said he could try that, but he didn’t want to. If he got his rights restored, he would have to do jury duty, and there would be other disadvantages.
What do you think happens to an 18-year old boy in a federal prison?
What kind of people would put an 18-year old boy in a federal prison for not wanting to die in Vietnam?
Is it any wonder now that the US draft is voluntary?
Well, I digress.
Last night, I ran into Tom Milone at Harpoon Harry’s,
where I went to listen to live music. Monday night is open mike night there. Tom had only just come in from stumping all day. He looked beat. He was beat. He ordered dinner. He lives in one of the apartments upstairs.
I said something really interesting had happened during his race’s part of the Hometown! PAC candidate forum at Tropic Cinema.
When Jimmy Weekley was asked about tight street parking in Old Town, he said, among other things, that he had not parked in a residential space, and he had a city parking voucher which was good to about 8:15 that night, so he would have to get out of there in time to get to and move his car. He said the parking is rough in Old Town, people need to start being smarter, driving less, using bicycles more. I asked the people sitting around me, why come Jimmy did not ride a bicycle to that forum, instead of drive?
Tom said Jimmy lives on Elizabeth Street, near the library. About a 4-block walk from Tropic Cinema. I did not know where Jimmy lived until then. I asked Tom if Jimmy drives his car to Faustos, the grocery on Fleming owned by Jimmy’s family, where Jimmy works? The library is on Fleming, about 2 blocks from Faustos. Tom said he did not know. I said I might write about that today.
Another city race also caught my attention at the Tropic. The Keys Energy Board race. Three candidates. A fellow named Vidal, just Vidal, who seemed totally ignorant of anything having to do with Keys Energy. Cheryl Cates, who seemed to know a little about Keys Energy, but mostly was traveling on her business experience and being a Conch and the wife of Mayor Craig Cates. And Tim Root, who seemed to know a good deal about Keys Energy.
I don’t see me voting for Craig Cates or his opponent, Margaret Romero. I just might write myself in for mayor, even though I don’t know if the Elections Office would count the vote, because I did not qualify as a write-in candidate.
On the other hand, I wonder what the Elections Office would do, if 5,000 Key West voters wrote in Jolly Benson for Mayor,
because of his hard work to defeat the channel-dredging bring-in-bigger cruise ships referendum, billed as only a “study” in the referendum wording? Would the Elections Office count those 5,000 votes?
Historically, write-in candidates did not qualify to run. They did not do anything. They were drafted by the voters, often without even being asked if they wanted to be elected. That’s the true democratic write-in process.
Would the Elections Office count my write-in vote, if I changed it to Jolly Benson, for Mayor?
Jolly is an interesting fellow. An award-winning local playwright and poet, he runs the lighting end of his father’s business. Jolly and his brother Will, a tarpon guide, decided some time ago that a PAC needed to be formed to oppose dredging the channel. Jolly got into the books, studied the federal law re the Sanctuary, dredging, the Army Corps of Engineers. He became quite knowledgeable, a force to be reckoned with, as the pro-cruise ship camp learned.
Maybe the cruise ship camp figured it would be a slam-dunk. Maybe it would have been a slam-dunk, but for Jolly and his brother Will.
If the referendum does not pass, Jolly says the next step is to focus on bringing in more of the kind of tourists Key West wants, the kind who spend the night in Key West, the kind who drop lots of money in Key West.
We talked about that a good while at Jack Flats the other night.
Eco tourists, Jolly has in mind. That was part of his suggestion for putting a city-run tent camping park on Truman Waterfront, charging $100 a day. Campers would not be allowed to take their vehicles out of the park, but would have to walk or ride bicycles. If they took their cars out of the park, they could not come back.
Jolly said the owners of Wisteria Island,
if they prevail in the title dispute in federal court, should turn the island into an upscale nature retreat for rich people, instead of making it into a carbon copy of next-door high end Tank Island, now called Sunset Key. Far as I can tell, there is not one piece of native vegetation on Tank Island. All vegetation was imported. The architecture is redundant.
The entire place looks to me like it was designed in a cosmetic surgeon’s office. Plastic comes to mind.
I said, if the city made the upper half of Smather’s Beach clothing optional,
that would bring in hordes of visitors who otherwise would never come to Key West. Hordes from all over North America, and from Europe. And from the world, Jolly added. Tourists who spend the night, drop lots of money.
I said Wisteria Island
should be a city nature park, for day and tent camping. It has beaches on both sides. The far side could be a nude beach. The owners, if they prevail in federal court, or if they and the Feds agree to it, could give the island to the city, for it to be a public park in perpetuity.
In exchange, the city gives a 99-year nominal lease on the left-hand waterfront section below of Truman Waterfront
to the owners of Wisteria Island and their development partners who own the upscale Westin Resort around the corner from Truman Waterfront. (The cut-off cruise ship is in front of the Westin.) They partner with the city to build a 5-star hotel on Truman Waterfront, and the city gets back one percent of the annual gross revenues during the lease term.
Jolly said the Navy would never agree to it, the Navy does not want that kind of development on Truman Waterfront. The Navy did nix the city and the Spottswoods’ plan to build and co-venture a mega yacht marina at Truman Waterfront. The Navy was never asked how it felt about that, so finally the Navy told the city and the Spottswoods how it felt. No way, forget it. National security not compatible with mega yachts from wherever owned by whomever.
No telling what all grief the Navy might have saved the city. The Spottswoods apparently did not have the financial ability to build a mega-yacht marina. They had all sorts of creative financing in mind, including using Tourist Development Council taxes. It didn’t look to me the Spottswoods would have much, if any, financial exposure if the deal went bad. It looked to me, if the deal went bad, the city would end up with it and whatever debts it had.
I told Jolly, the city did not have to give a new 5-star waterfront hotel marina rights, only land rights. Jolly said the Navy would never go along with it.
I’d have to ask the Navy about that, before I let the idea go.
If I were the city and the owners of the Westin and Wisteria Island, I would ask the Navy about it. I would not worry, though, if I were them, about the voters approving via referendum, the city receiving Wisteria Island as a public park in perpetuity.
The city has to get voter approval to acquire any land, by purchase or gift, or by annexation. That came about some years ago, when, in reaction to the City Commission trying to annex Wisteria Island into the city, so it could be turned into Tank Key Deux, a petition drive put the aforementioned restriction on the ballot, and it passed about 70-30, as I recall.
If the city voters have that power in Key West, surely they also have the power to write-in Jolly Benson for Mayor, and the Elections Office will have to count their votes.
If you attended as many referendum forums as I attended; if you saw and heard Jolly at those forums, as I saw and heard him; if you had the private conversations with Jolly I had this year, you would know he would be a far better mayor than any mayor the city has had in quite a while. Not only that, he is a native Conch (born in Key West).
Even so, I think I would make a better mayor, because I am not a Conch; I have no business interests in Key West, nor in the Keys; I don’t worry about losing friends and social standing; I know a new 5-star waterfront hotel, and a community garden, and tent camping, and parking decks on Truman Waterfront, and the upper half of Smathers Beach being clothing optional, and Wisteria Island being a city day and overnight camping park, would generate so much revenue for and would enhance city residents’ quality of life so much, that cruise ship revenues would become trivial in the big scheme of things.
Moreover, I would push for banning cruise ships from Key West altogether, because
cruise ships never should have been allowed to call on Key West in the first place.
For all these years, the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships have called on Key West, and the city knew it; the Chamber of Commerce knew it; Ed Swift, whose conch trains and trolleys haul cruise ship passengers all over the city, knew it; Reef Relief knew it; Last Stand knew it; the Sanctuary knew it; Will and Jolly Benson knew it.
Far as I know, I am the only person who ever ran for office in Key West, who tried to get cruise ships banned from the city, because they were dumping their sewerage offshore and I felt Key West should have nothing to do with that. I tried in the 2007 and 2009 mayor races.
So, when I vote early today at the Elections Office on Whitehead Street, kitty corner from the Green Parrot bar, I will write in myself for mayor after all, because, far as I know, I’m the only person in Key West who wants to see cruise ships banned from the city in perpetuity; and I know what can be done to replace the devil’s bargain cruise ships are in Key West.
By the way, don’t you think Key West would be a lot nicer place to live, or to visit, if it didnt’ have conch trains and trolleys running all through the city, clogging traffic, blaring their loud speakers?
Don’t you think Key West would be a lot nicer place to live, or to visit, if everyone living in Key West walked or rode a bicycle to work, to attend candidate forums, etc? Tom Milone doesn’t own a car. He walked from his apartment to the Tropic Cinema candidate forum. He walked yesterday, stumping his campaign.
Don’t you think Key West would be greener, if it allowed people to paint the roof of their homes and buildings white, to reflect sunlight, and if people were allowed to put solar panels on the roof of their homes and businesses?
Don’t you think Key West would be safer, if it allowed Keys Energy Services to trim trees back away from power lines in the city? Far as I know, Key West is the only place in America where trees are not trimmed back from power lines. I hoped that issue would be put to the Keys Energy Board candidates at Tropic Cinema, but it was not.
I suppose some things are sacred and cannot be questioned. A few of them are named above.