Sunday, December 3, 2017

Final 4 bedlam, Trump's "Deep Russian Throat?", why the 5 Monroe County Commissioners should resign, and Florida Keys politicians' most terrifying, ignored word

12-1 Oklahoma beat 10-3 TCU 41-17 in the Big 12 Conference playoff yesterday.

12-1 Clemson beat 11-2 Miami 38-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference playoff yesterday.

12-1 Georgia beat 9-3 Auburn 28-7 in the Southeastern Conference playoff yesterday .

11-2 Ohio State beat 12-1 Wisconsin 27- 21 in yesterday's Big 10 (or Big Whatever) Conference playoff yesterday.

13-0 Central Florida beat 11-2 Memphis, 62-55 in overtime, in the American Athletic Conference Playoff yesterday.

11-1 Alabama was idle yesterday, after losing 24-14 to Auburn the week before.

I turned in last night ass-u-me-ing that either Alabama or Ohio State would be the 4th team in the 2018 BSC play-off.

Would the BSC Committee pick Ohio State, who lost 31-16 to Oklahoma, and then lost 55-24 to 7-5 Iowa? That's right, 55-24.

Or would the BSC Committee pick Alabama, who lost 14-26 to Auburn, who had beaten Georgia 40-17 in a regular season game?

Also, the morning after Auburn beat Alabama, I published that, if Wisconsin and Central Florida won the rest of their games, they should be in the BSC final 4 playoff, and, based on then undefeated Alabama's narrow win over Mississippi State the week before, and then Alabama's awful play against Auburn, I did not think Alabama deserved to be in the final 4. I had a nap dream later that day, which left me thinking I might be wrong about that.

I turned in last night wondering if subtle karma, which only I could imagine, explained why Wisconsin played so poorly yesterday against Ohio State? Wondering so far out, that if I tell it here, no one will believe it and plenty of people will think I am way beyond batshit crazy.

I read online earlier this morning that the BSC Committee's decision on the final 7 would be made by noon today. So I waited for that news before publishing this post today.



That article reported the BSC Committee said winning conference championships is not an important factor in deciding the Final 4, unless it is a close decision, and picking Alabama over Ohio State, who won its conference title yesterday, was not a close decision.

Read all about it by opening that link.

In one semi final, #1-ranked Clemson will play #4-ranked Alabama. 

Alabama beat Clemson for the national title in 2015, just barely, and Clemson beat Alabama for the national title in 2016, just barely. Two of the best, most exciting college football games ever played, which, and a tie-breaker, also might have influenced the BSC Committee?

#2-ranked Oklahoma and #3-ranked Georgia will square off in the other semi-final. That might be exciting, too.
In a very different kind of intrigue with slightly more serious ramifications, this incredibly interesting, complex August 3, 2017 New York magazine article was brought to my attention this morning:


Down here in paradise pretend (the Florida Keys and Key West), things ain't so great.
Yesterday morning, an old member of the local The Resistance sent me links to the two Keynoter articles below, to which I replied:

Thanks for the two Keynoter articles, wonder why no photos of lower keys miles and miles of trash, especially in the neighborhoods?

Lower Keys still trashed with debris
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219
BY KATIE ATKINS
DECEMBER 02, 2017 09:03 AM
Monroe County commissioners were met Wednesday with gripes about tons of debris throughout the Lower Keys and a lack of preparedness for Hurricane Irma.
The commission met in special session in Marathon to discuss the county’s housing crisis, the debris removal and possible solutions, and took the wrath from residents. One said Big Pine Key is a “cesspool of pollution” almost three months out from the Sept. 10 storm.
“I have to express my frustration,” Commissioner George Neugent told the room of about 70 people. “All five commissioners have no frickin’ authority to get anything done. We depend on staff, and [residents] have legitimate bitches about the lack of stuff we’ve accomplished in the Lower Keys.”

You depend on staff? You fucking kidding me, George?!?! You and the other 4 members of the Gang of 5 (county commission) can collectively fire County Administrator Roman Gastesi, if he and "his" staff" have dropped the ball with post-Irma cleanup. You can "sua sponte", on your own motion, take over control of managing the county government and the Irma clean up. And, yeah, you 5 should have done that already. And, yeah, since you 5 did not do that already, you 5 should fire yourselves (resign). Yeah, yesterday.
During the hours-long meeting, commissioners approved the county seeking a $40 million line of credit to pay for hurricane costs, like the roughly $25 million it owes to debris hauler AshBritt Inc.
A feud over debris removal erupted after the storm when the Florida Department of Transportation authorized emergency contracts for other waste-hauling firms besides AshBritt to remove trash and vegetation and reportedly paid them much higher rates than AshBritt’s deal with the county.
As a result, many of AshBritt’s subcontractors reportedly jumped ship to work in the Keys at the higher rates. Replacement trucks were hard to find because of Hurricane Harvey and other storms, the company says. Then, in October, the DOT said it was ending its emergency contracts in the Keys effective Oct. 27.

DOT and its poached (by paying them much more money) debris-hauling contractors, only dealt with Irma debris on US 1. They were not tasked to deal with the far greater Irma debris along side county roads and neighborhood streets.
To date, stretches of U.S. 1 are still littered with debris piles. Wednesday, the commission said DOT will perform one last sweep on U.S. 1 but did not say when. The county is still responsible for county roads, while municipalities are responsible for their own.

It's the massive Irma debris on neighborhood streetsides, especially in your lower keys voting district, George, that lowers keys residents are furious about you and the other 4 gang members doing zip about.
It is now illegal to dump hurricane debris anywhere along U.S. 1 in Monroe County and anyone found doing so will be arrested on a felony charge, Sheriff Rick Ramsay said.

So, Sheriff Ramsay, they just dump Irma debris on county roadsides and neighborhood streetsides, and you do not arrest them for that?

Housing

As a possible way to increase affordable housing, the county is going to look into building tiny homes on scattered sites throughout the Keys. They’ll put out a request for proposals in the coming months from developers who can build small homes that meet wind and flood regulations.
It’s a matter of finding the least environmentally sensitive properties to put them on, Neugent told the Keynoter.
“We’re going to be focused on acquiring these properties from willing sellers,” he said.
Neugent did not say how many will be built, but that they will be one- and two-bedroom affordable units. Commissioners also directed staff to pursue available state and federal grant opportunities for housing and infrastructure.

If the Housing Authority partners with the County Commission (Monroe County Government) and builds those little "houses", to rent out at actually affordable rates, on land the County already owns, that will cut out private developers and the tidy profits they hope to gain by building those little "houses" to sell a market rate$$$. The affordable rents would be collateral for repayment of the mortgage, the proceeds from which pay off the "take out"construction loan. After the mortgage is paid off, the County owns the little "houses" free and clear, and can use the profits to build more little "houses", or to reduce rents.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219
Nearly three months after Irma, still in tents
BY KATIE ATKINS

DECEMBER 02, 2017 08:19 AM
UPDATED 3 HOURS 1 MINUTES AGO
It looks like the makings of a fun weekend camping outside with friends — there are tents and coolers, and somewhat of a gathering place underneath a larger tent.
But it’s not for fun at all. It’s become a way of life for a number of people on Big Pine Key who are still without homes almost three months after the Sept. 10 landfall of Category 4 Hurricane Irma. On several streets, particularly in the Avenues area, debris piles still line the road and fill empty properties.
Scott Seaver has been living in a tent on his friend’s Edward Road property for more than two months.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “For one, you don’t want to be stuck in it all the time, and weather plays a factor.”
Seaver said that after his apartment was destroyed in the storm, his then-landlord “found someone else that would pay him good money” for the room and repair it in the meantime. Seaver had a week to get out.
“The landlord bought the tent and it was like ‘Here ya go — see ya later,’ ” Seaver said, adding he lost his photo ID in the storm and that has not helped his case with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Inside the tent, he sleeps on an air mattress on top of a cot. He has a box of clothes and a small radio. When it rains, he takes shelter under a larger tent outside and said he just hopes water doesn’t leak into the tent where he sleeps.
His friends, a couple who were also living in a tent on the property at the time because they could not live inside the house, provide Seaver with a shower and restroom. The couple is now living inside the house and renovating it while Seaver and another woman live in the yard.
A few streets away on Avenue C is another tent where Lori Jones has been living with her boyfriend since the storm.
“It’s awful. It’s really awful,” she said, pointing to the trailer where the retired couple used to live. Their tent sits next to it, and all of their belongings are in the yard covered in tarps. A few weeks after the storm, someone stole their generator in the middle of the night.
“We’re living out of coolers and going through ice like crazy every day. It’s not cheap,” she said.
Across the street, debris is piled high.
“I don’t understand. They’re not cleaning up,” Jones said. “I haven’t seen anybody.”

For God's sake, Keynoter, why no photos of the debris in which these unfortunate people live, because the Gang of 5 sat, and still sit, on their perches, jerking off?
For laundry, the couple has been going to a laundromat. For food, they cook on a small camp stove, “which is really hard because you have to really think about what you’re making,” Jones said. There is a bathroom on the property with a shower.
Meanwhile, the couple is waiting to hear back from the Small Business Administration about a possible loan. It’s a waiting game to see whether the trailer can be fixed or eventually disposed of.
After seeing a clip of a “Good Morning America” segment filmed in Key West recently, Jones said, “They were all laughing and joking like, ‘Oh yeah, Key West is fine’ but once you step outside Key West, there are 90 miles of trash.”

Key West got hit the lightest, it had far less hurricane debris, and it had a separate debris-hauling contractor, is my understanding. Key West also stood to loose most of the Florida Keys tourist $$$, if it did not get cleaned up pronto.
In yesterday’s:

Editorial
I f you read any of the Harry Potter books or saw the movies, you know that the villain was mentioned only as “he who must not be named” for much of the series. Just speaking his name would expose them to his evil. Of course, as soon as Harry and his friends became more confident in their powers and faced Voldemort head on, the power of saying his name became diminished until his ultimate defeat. 

Today, in ALL of Monroe County, there is also a word that is anathema to those who dare speak of it, primarily politicians and government employees. It is a cursed word as it conjures up feelings of anger, despair and helplessness to those who dare speak it at county and city commission meetings. It’s a word that is often said during campaigns, but rarely spoken of after elections without a tremendous amount of defensiveness as even mentioning it can apparently reduce their powers. 

Unlike comedian George Carlin’s “7 Dirty Words,” this word is not profane, and is used daily by ordinary people who seek it out but are beyond frustrated at the lack of it. Numerous citizens have been lost due to its scarcity and the Keys are suffering beyond measure, especially after Hurricane Irma this year created a far greater need.

Unfortunately, although the word has been bandied about numerous times in dozens of committees formed to study it, none of the suggestions have ever been implemented. None of those who have sought permission for it have been approved for many years. Those who dare bring up the word in conjunction with a proposal are frequently shouted down by those who fear it, especially if it might appear in their own backyards. 

Tragically, those who campaigned on the promise of addressing the word have failed miserably – not just those in office today, but those who came before them over the last decade. It’s a kick-the-can-down-the-road mentality widely pervasive in today’s (lack of) leadership: simply keep delaying and stonewalling until your term is over. 

Those whose job it is to tackle the word have never appeared to suffer any repercussions for enabling the political football that this word has become. As long as they are looking into it and studying it, it doesn’t seem to matter that they aren’t actually doing anything about it. 

So here’s a radical idea. Tackle it head on. Yes, that’s right — actually do something instead of nothing. It may cause some fallout and anger, but in the end, doing what’s best for the common good is what government is supposed to be all about. 

Perhaps if all Keys’ governments — every city and county commission — listened to those who elected them, rather than just their inner circle of friends, they would realize that many are trying to help, have good ideas and can implement them if they are allowed. This would diminish the power of the word, but we would all be better off in the end. 

The word? Housing, of course. Not just affordable, not just workforce, but HOUSING. Places where citizens can safely live while earning a living, or even retire after years of service to the community. Somewhere to call home for the thousands – yes, thousands – who are in far less than desirable living conditions after Irma, and those who have been competing for the small number of available units that are rented for absurd amounts. 

So, you finally circled around and told the truth: the mysterious word is not Housing, but AFFORDABLE. There is lots of housing, but very little is AFFORDABLE. A fellow from Ft. Myers, in Key West for a wedding, told me yesterday afternoon in Jack Flats sports bar on Duval Street, that he could not believe 2-bedroom apartments in Key West go for $2,400 a month, plus utilities, nor that I pay $1,000 month, with utilities included, for a small efficiency in the home of friends, which they could rent out to one of a thousand people at that rent.

Our advice? Just do it. John Padget and Ed Swift have gifted the city with plans they paid for to help eliminate the crisis. For more than a decade, they’ve been trying to get someone at City Hall and the School Board to take them seriously, provide the very realistic waivers, so that hundreds of units can be built on a piece of property the taxpayers already own. Revisit all of the proposed housing plans that have been presented in recent years and approve them.

If you truly feel that way, Editorial Board, how come you have not been preaching unceasing for the voters to fire the city and county and commissioners. 

The Toppino project on Rockland Key, the Shrimp Farm proposal and the Key Largo proposal- get them done already. Unless there is an environmental danger or a legitimate impediment, let the developers build. Neighbors will complain, but far more citizens will be eternally grateful. 

Commissioners, don’t form any more study committees, and don’t let the staff hold up approvals. Make them accountable for their work, and replace them if they aren’t performing. Create a list of non-negotiables for developers and then fast-track any proposal that meets the criteria. Stop approving new hotels anywhere in the Keys and use any and all ROGOs available for the projects. 

And finally, realize that your income has been severely impacted by Irma, and next year’s tax rolls won’t be so rosy. You’re already in debt until FEMA comes through with reimbursements, you already have far too much staff, and you cannot afford to lose any more residents. 

The Keys is in imminent danger of becoming nothing more than a tacky tourist trap run by entities that are only interested in making money from afar, and losing entire generations along with the unique culture that has identified this delightful string of islands for centuries. 

The Keys was a tacky tourist trap run by entities that are only interested in making money from afar long before I arrived in Key West in late 2000, and you should have preached that all along.

Stop being afraid of the word “housing” and allow it to be built. Unlike in the movies, the people don’t need to come- they’re already here- and they’re suffering. It is within your powers to banish the curse once and for all. 

— The Citizen
Citizens back housing proposal
By Mandy Miles
Florida Keys workforce were working on Wednesday, when the County Commission spent the day discussing the two-decade old, and increasingly dire, housing shortage for working residents who cannot afford to buy a home. 

One such resident, Juan Carlos Espinoza, told the commissioners on Wednesday he had to leave to return to work after offering his comments, and he asked the commissioners, all of whom own at least one home in Monroe County, to hold such housing meetings in the evening so the people most affected can attend.

Juan, this former residential real estate closing attorney, who got on the TODAY show, with Jane Pauley, in New York City, in early 1985, because of an "insider" pro consumer book he had written about buying homes, knows just how big a dream it is to own your own home. Alas, that dream is far harder to realize in the most expensive place to live in America, where what is more needed than affordable homes to buy is affordable homes (either efficiencies, apartment, or houses) to rent.

Resident Steve Miller implored the commissioners to stand up to the secondand third-home owners, retirees and other NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) critics who oppose any increases to allowed density or building height that would make it more financially feasible to build neighborhoods for working residents. 

John Padget, a Key West philanthropist, businessman and problem-solver, calls such height limits and density rules that limit the number of people or living units allowed per acre “bureaucratic obstacles,” and he has challenged elected officials to overcome them quickly, or risk losing the workforce that sustains the county’s only industry — tourism. 

On Nov. 15, Padget, a former Monroe County Schools Superintendent who was appointed to fulfill the term of his ousted predecessor Randy Acevedo in the wake of a financial scandal, released a one-page proposal for approximately 480 rental units to be built at the Trumbo Road headquarters of the Monroe County School District. 

The school district has been planning for more than a decade to vacate its downtown property and is set to buy property on Stock Island that can accommodate its transportation department and school bus fleet currently located on Trumbo Road. 

Planning? When I ran for school board in 2012, there were no such plans. I promoted moving the entire school district administrative operation to Marathon, because that was the middle of the school district, which stretches from Key Largo to Key West. School Board had no interest in doing that, evidenced by they didn't do it. Instead, the School Board wanted, and still wants, to relocate the school district administrative offices in Key West. 

The district still needs to find additional space to house its administrative offices, which are also currently on Trumbo Road, Superintendent Mark Porter said on Wednesday, after a meeting at Sugarloaf School about housing options there.

Back in 2012, Marathon High School, were the School Board met ever third meeting, had enough extra space for the school district administrative offices. Then, there was Marathon Manor next door, an old folks housing complex, which a prior School Board had bought and had done nothing with except shut down.

“There’s a lot of contingencies on Mr. Padget’s proposal,” Porter said. “I don’t know if there’s any specific action required on our part except to vacate the property. That’s what we have to focus on.” 

You, Mark, and the 5 school board members, as Padget's contingencies. Get off your do-nothing asses and eliminate his contingencies.

Board member Mindy Conn said last month that she wants to expedite discussions about relocating the offices so decisions can finally be made, bureaucratic obstacles can be overcome and action finally can be taken.

Padget’s proposal, called The Porches due to its inclusion of front porches on every apartment, calls for the abandonment of Trumbo Road, an access road that runs alongside the city’s ferry terminal to the Coast Guard base. The road would be replaced with a beach and public park, while White Street would be extended to provide access to the Coast Guard base. 

The proposed units would be based on European models, which are known for their compactness and efficiency, particularly those in the Netherlands, where Padget spends part of each year. 

The proposal requires government agencies to waive height and density limits and parking requirements, though Padget emphasized that no building at The Porches would be taller than the existing luxury Steam Plant Condominiums. 

“All I’ve read for years is the refrain about how badly we need housing in the Keys,” he said on Nov. 15 upon releasing his proposal to elected officials.

Anticipating resistance from the usual opponents of worker housing proposals, Padget said the closest neighbors would be the owners of the units at the Steam Plant Condominiums. “The only neighbors who would be likely to object would be those at the Steam Plant condominiums, and frankly, no one gave a small group of millionaires veto power over their neighbors,” said Padget. 

“But it’s going to take commitment on the part of the government agencies involved. The point of this exercise is to find out if this community is prepared to grant the four waivers needed to move forward, or if they’re going to keep talking about this problem, not acting on it. This is the last big piece of viable land [in Key West] on which to do this.” 

I think one acre of that land belongs to the City of Key West.

The response to The Porches proposal, at least from working residents, has been overwhelmingly supportive, Padget said of the proposal that includes 480 apartments: 240 studios and 240 one-bedroom units that would house up to 720 local, full-time workers. 

Rental rates and income limits would make the apartments accessible, while providing a place people are proud to call home, he said. 

Single people earning between $51,000 and $77,000 would be eligible for The Porches and would pay between $1,286 and $1,932 per month. A two-person household earning $58,800 to $88,320 would pay between $1,470 and $2,208 per month. 

“Many citizens have asked me, ‘What is the next step?’” Padget wrote in an email to the same officials this week after releasing his proposal. 

“My reply to them and to you is that I intend to await positive concrete action by the relevant boards and commissions to create a favorable situation for the development. If there is solid interest by our voters and citizens, then it is up to our elected and appointed officials to deal with whatever bureaucratic obstacles may exist. I’m confident the post-hurricane environment is favorable for overcoming these obstacles.”

 “That land belongs to the taxpayers and if government officials are not willing or able to make a decision on this, then I’m not going to keep spending my time on it,” he told The Citizen on Nov. 15.

The School Board and the Key West City Commission should partner with the Housing Authority, cut out the developers, and build what Padget has proposed, and pay Padget a handsome fee for coming up with the idea and staying on, if he wishes, as an adviser during the construction process. The rents would be collateral for the permanent mortgage, which would pay off the "take out" construction loan. After the mortgage is paid off, the School District owns the little "houses" free and clear, and can use the profits to build more little "houses", or to reduce rents.
mmiles@keysnews.com
sloanbashinsky@outlook.com
https://www.paypal.me/sloanbashinsky

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