Saturday, October 22, 2005

Key West City Commission Race

Key West is a small island--Captain Tony, a local saloon owner and celebrity (and former mayor) likes to remind people that the island is about the same size as Miami International Airport. [I checked; it's true.]

The island is known for its tolerant attitude. You can really be whatever you want to be, and because of that, Key West has a higher per capita eccentricity ratio than most places. It compares to Venice Beach or the West Village or the French Quarter. But unlike all those places, it is not near a large city (Havana is the nearest city, but with the travel restrictions, for practical purposes the nearest metropolitan area is Miami, 160 miles away.)

The exigencies of business have long clashed with the quirky character of the Conch Republic, and free enterprise being what it is, greed gradually gains ground at the expense of the unique ambiance that has been so treasured by visitors and residents through the years.

Some good news: George Halloran is running for City Commissioner, in a race to be decided November 1. George has been working for over thirty years to moderate the forces of greed in the island city. He was instrumental in saving public access to the beach at the foot of Simonton Street ("Save Our Shores") some 25 years ago (that was a fight that has been renewed several times, but today the public access is maintained) and has been involved in every major struggle since, most recently working with "Last Stand", fighting illegal development and corrupt politicians and businessmen.

George came to Key West 33 years ago, on a sailboat he bought and rehabilitated in Toronto and sailed to Florida with his wife and two children. He has worked as a carpenter/builder and community activist in Key West, but he has a degree in English and actually started out as a newspaper reporter in upstate New York. He and his wife Marcia are very special people and Key West is unbelievably lucky to have them. George served in the City Commission once before, years ago when I lived there. He was a shining light, a ray of hope. The Key West City Commission is in some ways a typical small town body, but they deal with much larger budgets and issues than most small towns. When George was a commissioner, he did a lot to facilitate the building of a sewage treatment plant--before his tenure, the city was dumping all the raw sewage into the ocean. That's just one example.

The fact that someone is clearly the most and best qualified candidate is no guarantee of success in politics; in fact integrity can be a real obstacle to getting elected. George's opponent, Mark Rossi, is the owner of several businesses, including Rick's Bar, so it's easy to see him as the personification of business interests, and of course Rossi has lots more money than George.

Key West is a small town that faces some big challenges--this election is important.

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

I hope things get better there, it still a fancy of mine to buy a sailboat of my own some time and move down to Key West. I've loved it the few times I've been there.