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Margaritaville - sometimes

April 13, 2009 - John Stack

Key West

            In the land of the perfect sunsets, of beautiful days year round, the tourist Mecca of the Florida keys seems like paradise on earth. For many it surely is. But, get away from Duval Street, Hemingway’s house, and drag yourself from Captain Tony’s Saloon, and you’ll find bickering and problems on the scale of New York’s Assembly and Senate.

            First, the Monroe County school board decided to have a banquet in March of which about $6,000 was put onto a school credit card (that of the outgoing superintendent) of which nearly $600 was for a ticket each to the cash bar. The schools claim no district money was spent (although it was paid for on a school credit card, and was tax exempt). They claim it was money given to the school by a contractor. But, when the supplier was contacted, they said the money sent back was a refund for work not done. This is being looked into still.

            The wife of the current elected superintendent recently resigned. She had been an adult education teacher at the school for many years. But, she seems to have a problem with shopping sprees. With a district credit card, she charged over $95,000 on such things as pink silk ties, bar stools, spear gun accessories, a chandelier and a complete DVD box set of Six Feet Under. Many of these items were then blatantly sent to her own home! Her husband admits that about 18 months ago, he found out she had spent $300 on sunglasses and 4 plane tickets for a family vacation. He had her reimburse the district then, and told her not to do it again. Unfortunately, superintendent Acevedo also allowed many district employees to use the school credit card, of which they supposedly paid back. Moonique is also supsepected of taking over $25,000 from cash from the cosmetology department, and absconded with the money form 3 fundraisers for the Freshman class. The case is still open, and at least seven, yes SEVEN agencies are looking into this situation, including the State attorney’s office and the FBI.

            The county commissioners have a plan that  would make the republican Senators in New York who are trying to split New York in 2 (so that republicans can regain some control) swoon. During November, when 2 new county commissioners were voted into office, two other Planning Commissioners were reappointed by the outgoing members. Now, the new members believe they should change the county charter, so that they can choose their own Planning Commissioners. They now want the planning commissioners to start AFTER the elections. The planning commissioners serve terms that are not concurrent with the commission members, for just this reason – so that politics aren’t put into the equation as much.

            How about the smiling faces at the front desk and at the Tiki bar at my time share? This must be one area of refuge. But, just days before I left NY for Key West, I get a letter in the mail, where the 5 board members are asking the time share owners to ‘recall’ the director of the time share association. The 5 person board voted unanimously to ask that he be removed.  Also, last fall after elections votes were counted, the board let the owners association know of an inadvertent email sent to the current general manager. 2 men running for the board exchanged emails where they spoke of their plan to keep on the current general manager as long as she was needed and then to dump her when she was no longer of use to them. The board chose to keep this quiet, so as to not affect the outcome of the election. As it were, the 2 ended up coming in 3rd and 4th, and not being elected to the board.

            Finally, in what can only be seen as another example of political correctness gone awry, the county administrator has told the Building and Growth management office they are under ‘a customer service watch’. The county administrator wants to make sure a customer service survey is included with every building permit and code violation. The administrator says ‘its all about compliance, and its all on about customer service’. He even wants to change the name of the agency from Code Enforcement to Code Compliance, to give it a happier, friendlier tone. Now, I believe customer service is important in the public sector, as it is in the private sector. But, your code enforcers are the good guys. They are the ones making sure the homes are up to spec and are not dangerous. They didn’t make the rules, they are legally responsible to enforce them. Its like getting mad at the cop for pulling you over for driving drunk and doing 50 on Broadway. Personally, if I had my choice between an honest and fair, but grouchy codes enforcement officer and a cheerful happy one who lets violations go, I go for the grumpy guy every time.

            One last note – for a city where the highest elevation is all of 10 feet above sea level, there is a ridiculous amount of locals who drive Nissan Xterras.


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