Mary Chapin Carpenter
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Yesterday I did the initial filing for they mayor’s race with the Supervisor of Elections Office in Key West. The rest of the procedure must be completed between noon June – noon June 30. The election is August 26. If no candidate gets 50 + percent, there is a run-off between the top two candidates on November 4, which is the general election date.
Last night, the City Commission, by a 3-3 vote, did not pass the new noise ordinance with proposed amendments. The 3 in favor of passage were Commissioners Wardlow, Johnston and Weekley. Weekley had sponsored the item. Opposed were Mayor Cates, co-sponsor of the item, and Commissioners Yaniz and Rossi. Absent, Commissioner Lopez. Mayor Cates said he felt there were too many loose ends and too much not yet ironed out to pass the ordinance at that time; more work needed to be done. I agreed.
Then, in a second vote, the original new ordinance was passed March 18 for further consideration. In that vote, Commissioner Johnston joined Mayor Cates and Commissioners Yaniz and Rossi. Then, Commissioner Johnston recinded her vote and called for another vote to recind the postponement, which vote went 3-3 and left the postment in place.
The Old City Hall chamber was packed last night. Probably 95 percent of the citizen audience was against the ordinance. It was not a barn burner. It was civil. It was sober. And, there was a wide variety of citizen input.
The headquarters Bishop of the local church charged with making too much noise came all the way down from Cleveland, Tennessee, to say the local church will honor the noise ordinance, but it will not give up its constitutional rights to worship. The minister of the local church said about the same. Neighbors of the church said the noise was toned down and they hoped the matter had been resolved. Neighbors said there had been no problem until the church started using amplified music, and then had extended amplified services from Sunday into several weekdays.
Musicians and music lovers said Key West was all about music and it was a really bad idea to tamper with that. Probably 40 citizens spoke. A local musician group played, unamplified, Woodie Guthrie’s “This land is my land”, and recorded it on a noise measuring machine at 96.8 decibels. It would have violated the new proposed noise ordinance with the amendments.
Earlier in the meeting, before citizen comments, a city IT expert had tried to play a CD of different sound readings taken at different locations on Duval Street, with the decible readings, and the CD did not play. But for the local musician group, there would have been no audible demonstration of what actually was being discussed, other than it was said that much of the citizen comments were above the original proposed ordinance’s allowed noise levels.
When I spoke during citizen comments, I said I lived out in the boonies, but I had lived in an apartment in the back of the Wyland Gallery, which fronts Duval Street. No Duval noise got to me but bass, which caused me to want to run and hide from it. A number of citizens had and later would complain about bass.
I said, J Krishmamurti once said, “The solution to every problem lies in the problem.”
I said yet again the City Commission was not ready to act on a new noise ordinance. Evidence, the city’s IT person was unable to get the CD noise demo to play. That was a Divine Intervention saying this was not going right. I felt terrible for the IT fellow, he ahd worked his butt off to get that presentation ready, but it seemed he had been overridden by higher force.
The looks on the commissioners and mayor’s faces was priceless; the audence laughed and clapped.
I said I hoped a new noise ordinance never would be used against street musicians.
I said what the city is trying to stop is egregious noise created by psychopaths, sociopaths, sound terrorists. Lots of laughter and applause. I said that includes street musicians, if they are cyber terrorists.
I gave two examples.
The other day, pedaling my bicycle down Whitehead Street toward the Green Parrot bar, the Parrot’s owner already had spoken about how he tried to work with his neighbors and not torment them, I heard the most awful racket coming out of the Parrot. The Cuban deli across the street was crumbling; people on the sidewalk put their hands over their ears. But as I got nearer to the Parrot, the noise had moved on past the Parrot and was not coming from the Parrot after all, but from an upscale tricycle motorcycle carrying two bikers, a man driving, a woman passenger, having themselves a great time terrorizing everyone they could. I said I wanted to shoot them with a water cannon.
Lots of laughter and applause.
I said a few days before, riding my bicycle toward Duval Street, I’d heard a music racket ahead, and after crossing Duval and reaching the side bar at Cowboy Bill’s, there was a musician with a guitar set up right next to the sidewalk, with the loudspeakers aimed up toward Duval, having himself a fine time blasting away. I said he was not playing to the people in the side bar, because nobody was in there, they would not have been able to stand the volume. Lots of laughter, applause. I said the musician clearly was playing to people on Duval Street and I wanted to use a water cannon on him, too. Lots of laughter and applause. Mayor Cates said my time was up. I said, “Do unto others,” and returned to my seat.
I still liked my idea of instant closing down offenders until the next day, but last night did not seem the time to say it.
After the meeting ended, I was mobbed by thankful citizens. I spoke to several musicians, most, but not all, are street musicians. I said they need to get really involved in the negotiations, because the great white shark
lurking 100 feet deep is the Duval Street merchants, who will use any new noise ordinance as a weapon against street musicians, even though the new noise ordinance was not intended to apply to street musicians playing like they always have on Duval Street.
After Citizen comments, there ensued a great deal of discussion from the mayor and commissioners. It seemed all were in agreement that there is a serious problem being caused by a few Duval area establishments. Mayor Cates said it is not okay for establishments to aim their loud speakers at neighborhoods. They need to aim their loudspeakers at their customers, inside their establishments.
It seemed Mayor Cates and all Commissioners are in agreement that the noise ordinance needs to be tweaked, to allow bars and musicians to play without being penalized. It seemed all were in agreement that offenders need to be dealt with. There was talk by Commissioner Rossi, who owns several Duval bars and clubs, of an establishment getting three warnings (strikes), and then losing its entertainment license. I felt that was substantial, but I also felt it would be litigated, and meanwhile …
There was talk of enforcing the new ordinance against establishment owners and managers and sound managers, and not against musicians.
Cheers and applause.
There was talk of the new ordinance being complaint-driven, and of complaints having to have the complainant’s name attached, no anonymous complaints.
Cheers and applause.
The hang up with the elected officials was, three wanted to pass the amended ordinance at its first reading, understanding there would be further negotiations and modifications, and three did not want to go at it in that patchwork way; they wanted it to be crystal clear, all written down, before they voted on a new noise ordinance.
Today’s Key West Citizen article on the same event.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
City puts off noise decision
Commission to revisit issue on March 18
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
City commissioners postponed taking even a first vote on proposed changes to the noise ordinance after absorbing two hours of citizen comments Tuesday night that overwhelmingly opposed stricter decibel limits on Duval Street.
“All of our jobs are in jeopardy, not just people in bars and restaurants,” said Maureen Johnson, who manages Willie T’s on Duval Street. “Please be careful for what you wish for.”
Commissioners will revisit the issue at their March 18 meeting at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St., when several said they will have fine tooled the language and the laws.
On Tuesday, the city’s top code enforcement official suggested raising the miminum decibel limits for the commercial and residential districts.
From 4 p.m. to 2:59 a.m., volumes must be between 85 and 94, and between 3 a.m. and 3:59 p.m., between 75 and 84 decibels, Jim Young told commissioners.
“Can I live with this? I can’t,” said Commissioner Mark Rossi, who owns a cluster of bars on Duval Street and is a veteran of the noise debate in Key West. “That’s probably how I got into this chair,” Rossi said. “I’ve been battling this battle for 20 years.”
Rossi also took issue with the proposal’s restriction that one warning could result in a penalty.
“Three strikes,” Rossi said. “After the third time that person doesn’t get it, within a year’s period of time, they should lose their license.”
Commissioner Tony Yaniz led the push for postponement, offering a number of changes to the proposal, including the idea of letting officers use their ears to measure noise levels in residential areas.
“I know it’s a pain in the neck but here’s why: We’ve made headway to finding a happy medium,” Yaniz told the crowd. “We’re making headway. I have major issues.”
For starters, Yaniz said, the city should never fine any musician for a noise violation but rather the venue’s management.
Also, there should be no anonymous callers that lead to the city acting as the complaintant, Yaniz said.
“I have got to err on the side of the working people putting roofs over their heads and food on the table,” Yaniz said, drawing cheers from the audience.
“We want to get it right,” said Mayor Craig Cates.
The evening at Old City Hall was a rare sight: Standing room only at a commission meeting with about 150 people crowding in front of their elected officials.
Jesse Wagner and three pals broke into a chorus of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” during their allotted three minutes at the podium.
“You’re trying to fix something that ain’t broke,” said musician Zack Seemiller, who asked if the commissioners could just forget about the proposal so everyone could go home.
Seemiller said before he bought his home on Frances Street, he took stock of the surroundings and levels of volume.
“In short: Buyer beware,” Seemiller said.
Commissioners took three votes that began with a 3-3 tie, meaning a failure, of the proposal with Young’s decibel level alterations.
The vote to postpone was 4-2. But then Teri Johnston rescinded her vote and called for the commission to do so. The other commissioners didn’t, coming up with another 3-3 vote.
Commissioner Clayton Lopez was absent, having had hand surgery that morning, he said in a text message Wednesday evening.
The proposal’s sponsor, Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, was displeased with the series of votes that ultimately postponed the ordinance.
Quality of life matters as much as the tourism industry, Weekley said.
“I have never known of any musicians fired, any employees fired, or any bars closed because of a change to our noise ordinance,” said Weekley, a former mayor with a combined 24 years of experience on the dais. “That’s a false argument.”
In response to Yaniz’s pledge to support “working people,” Weekley said there are plenty of locals who work outside the music and bar industries who need their sleep in order to get up early every morning for the jobs that feed and shelter their families.
Code enforcement supplied commissioners with about three years worth of noise complaints about local businesses.
“Most of you are operating in a respectful manner in this community,” Commissioner Johnston said. “We’re a unique community with lots sized 30 feet wide. We’re on top of each other, and that requires a tremendous amount of respect.”
One contentious piece of the proposed noise ordinance appeared to have been resolved after being aired out publicly.
Residents who live around the Church of God of Prophecy, 815 Elizabeth St., said their complaints about the church’s amplified services that take place throughout the week have been heard by the church. That announcement came after some strong words from church members and leaders.
“When this neighborhood was predominantly black, no one ever complained,” said Glenwood Lopez, 68. “Now that there is gentrification of the neighborhood, there seems to be a problem. You should do your research before you move into a neighborhood.”
The Rev. Jean Jean offered an apology to anyone offended by his congregation’s services.
“If we can’t worship our God, we cannot praise him, we cannot lift up our voice to sing where we are, I would like to know where we can worship him,” said Jean.
There was another item on last night’s agenda, which I stuck around to speak to. Approval of extending the existing lease with the Navy on the outer mole pier, where cruise ships dock, with the city and the Navy both having a right to cancel the lease on short notice.
I was the only citizen speaker, the City Commission chamber now was nearly empty of citizens. I said it’s time the city starts making money on the outer mole, and it’s time the city stops subsidizing the conch train company for bringing cruise ship passengers from the outer mole into the city.
The item passed 6-0. The meeting ended. I went outside and talked with musicians. Then, I had dinner at Jack Flats. Then, I pedaled my bicycle home and read more in a novel. Then, I started dozing off and I turned out the light and went to sleep. Then, I was mangled in a dream, ripped to shreds, for my comments on the outer mole lease. I awoke feeling nearly dead.
I had not checked the city website and the agenda for last night’s meeting. I had thought, as reported in the Citizen, that the meeting was only about the new noise ordinance. I was surprised to see the outer mole lease on the agenda last night. I wondered if it had been properly advertised, and I nearly said something form the audience when the mayor and commissioners approved having it added to the agenda. It seemed like a sneak move to me.
I didn’t say that during my citizen comments. But that was small fry. The big fry was I didn’t say was the city should stop losing money to bring cruise ships into Key West. The city should be trying to stop cruise ships from being brought into Key West. The dirtiest worst possible cruise ships. That’s why I got mangled, torn to shreds, in the dream. I spoke to the pimple on the sperm whale’s butt, instead of to the entire whale – cruise ships.
I had another dream last night, about Todd German and his friend Jim Hendrick. On waking from that dream, I figured it was about what Todd had told me yesterday morning, when I dropped by his office to tell him I had completed the first stage of filing in the mayor’s race. Todd is Chairman of Hometown! PAC, which hosts local calls to candidates and candidate forums, and posts videos of those events and video interviews of candidates on Hometown’s website – www.hometownkeywest.com
Todd was still fretting over the Charles Eimers’ case. The night before, in a Citizen Review Board meeting, Todd and I both attended and spoke to the Board, one of the Board members had said a hostess at the club on South Beach allegedly saw the entire incident and was then swarmed by KWPD officers and was told to keep her mouth shut. Todd was the CRB’s first Chairman. He said yesterday that the CRB’s lawyer told him after the meeting that what those police officers allegedly did to that hostess, if true, was a far more serious case of witness tampering than what Jim Hendrick had been prosecuted for and convicted in Federal Court a few years back. Todd said the CRB lawyer said he was glad I came to the meeting and said what I said. All reported in yesterday’s Am I serious about running for Mayor of Key West? Deadly serious post at this website.
If the police did that to the hostess, it definitely was witness tampering. And more. Obstruction of justice. And conspiracy.
Here’s the article on that CRB meeting in today’s Key West Citizen. The allegations regarding what the officers did to the hostess are not in it. Nor any of my comments to the CRB. Nor a link to the video, click that link to see it, which upended the KWPD’s initial published version what what happened to Charles Eimers that terrible Thanksgiving Day on South Beach.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Police in-custody death troubles panel
No date set for release of FDLE’s report into Eimers incident
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
The volunteer city panel that reviews complaints of police misconduct decided Monday to hold off taking up the case of Charles Eimers, who died in police custody after being held facedown on a local beach by officers who claim he was resisting arrest.
According to officials, the Citizen Review Board hasn’t received a complaint from anyone over the treatment of Eimers, 61, who died at the Lower Keys Medical Center on Dec. 4 — six days after the Michigan man led police on a slow-paced chase through downtown. He was injured while being apprehended by police.
Yet at a meeting Monday evening at Old City Hall, several members voiced concern over the in-custody death given the amount of publicity it has received.
“I would like the board to consider our own investigation,” said member Joe Pais, who brought the issue up as a discussion item.
“I recognize some of these names,” said member Virginia Altobello of the 12 officers involved with the arrest of Eimers. “These names have come up before us maybe more than once. I would like to suggest we look into it.”
Tom Milone said the board, comprised of locals appointed by city commissioners, should begin educating itself on “prone restraint,” a technique to hold someone face down on the ground.
Eimers was handcuffed and put in leg restraints until officers noticed he was turning blue and released him, according to police reports.
Milone described how a suspect could struggle to breathe, only to draw more contact by officers.
“Because you’re gasping for air, you appear to be resisting police, and they impose more force on you,” he said.
A bystander recorded parts of the incident on a smart phone. In that video, Eimers takes some steps on the sand of South Beach, outside the Southernmost Beach Cafe, raises both hands in the air and falls to his knees. Within moments, four officers are seen attempting to restrain him.
However, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement looking into the death, board members decided to table the suggestion to launch their own investigation.
FDLE agents recently interviewed police officers involved in the Eimers arrest. The state agency is keeping any autopsy findings by the county medical examiner confidential until the final state report is finished.
In a preliminary autopsy report released this month, Monroe County Medical Examiner E. Hunt Scheuerman documented Eimers had 10 broken ribs, which he listed under the category of medical treatment applied to Eimers.
Toxicology reports aren’t coming because specimens from Eimers’ body weren’t preserved.
“At that time (when reports are released), we need to look at it as a board,” said Larry Beaver, the panel’s chairman.
The Key West law firm representing the Eimers family, including son Treavor Eimers, a certified registered nurse anesthetist who lives in Michigan, decided not to ask the CRB to look into the matter.
“I haven’t even talked to any of the members,” said attorney David Paul Horan. “We have never made any kind of complaint. I was here when it first started. There was a reason it started.”
Horan’s team is representing the four children of Eimers, who his family said arrived in Key West fewer than 24 hours before he was pinned to the beach.
“We don’t have any firm decision with regard to how we are progressing,” Horan said Tuesday. “We’re looking at all the alternatives. Choices for the family are whether they go into federal court or state court.”
Horan said there are two videos made by bystanders and a third that his firm is trying to hunt down.
A law firm representing the family recently made a public records request to the CRB asking for any complaints or reviews on 12 police officers involved in the Eimers case. The result was about 1,200 pages delivered to the firm, said Sue Srch, executive director of the independent CRB.
“I sent it to them two weeks ago,” Srch said Monday.
When Pais asked if the board members could see the files, Srch said it would amount to a large box filled with papers.
Key West Police Chief Donie Lee has said his department will conduct an internal review of the Eimers case once FDLE has released its report.
Any criminal charges, however, would have to come from the office of State Attorney Catherine Vogel.
“You figure 10 broken ribs and a man who was perfectly O.K. and he ends up dead,” said Horan. “Look at the original report. They said he was homeless and that he was resisting arrest and being belligerent, and that was the story until the video surfaced.”
Created in 2002 when 60 percent of voters approved it, the seven-member CRB originally found itself at odds with a police department recovering from a bad reputation.
“Things were unbelievably contentious back then,” said Todd German, a founding member of the CRB who was at Monday’s meeting to provide some background on the panel. “They tried to have us arrested a couple of times.”
German said the CRB has the right to take up a case without first receiving a complaint, and that its subpoena powers have held up under testing.
Board members Monday candidly talked about being torn over the Eimers case.
“It’s important we don’t stay silent, but also allow the investigation to go through,” said Michael Behrend.
“We have to let people know as a board we are extremely concerned,” Altobello said.
I’m too mangled and shredded to cover any more today. I can’t wait for the next mangling and shredding. I need to be careful it doesn’t cause me to do unto others what is done to me by the angels. The only way I figure I can accept the angels beatings I get nearly every day and night is to keep ever in my thoughts what Erika Biddle sent to me about two years ago.
paid political advertisement, Sloan Bashinsky, candidate for Mayor of Key West