Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Key West Tale

Last Monday, Janet and I went out to Roosevelt Boulevard to do some shopping. When we arrived back home and pulled up in front of the house, there was a City worker from the Public Works Department prying the bicycle rack on Thomas Street out of the ground. My bicycle, which I leave parked there all the time was lying on the ground still attached by its security lock to the rack.

We yelled over to him to ask what the hell he was doing, and why was my bicycle on the ground. He said that he was just doing what he was told to do, and that he had been ordered to remove the rack. Janet was pretty hot under the collar over it, but I stayed calm and questioned him. He didn't know why the rack was being removed, only that he had been told to do it. I asked him who gave the order and he told me that it was his boss, Gil Suarez, Superintendent of General Services. I asked why he taking the rack with my back still attached, and he gave the same answer: he was told to take the bike along with the rack. I had him contact Suarez on his Nextel walkie-talkie phone to find out what was going on. The answer came back that the Assistant City Manager, John Jones, gave the orders for removal because the church across the street was going to open up a driveway beside the church, and that the Electric Company was coming to plan the relocation of a pole and transformer that now sit where the driveway is going.

I got Jones on the phone, told him that I was upset that they were going to simply take my bike away without ever trying to contact me or to try to find out who the bike belonged to. He promised to come over right away, and I said that I wanted to see him when he did. I told the worker, who I hold mostly blameless, to go ahead and finish his job, that I'd remove the bike and park it somewhere else for the time being.

Jones arrived about a half hour later, with Director of General Services, Roland Flowers. I said to Jones that there were two things wrong with the way the whole matter was handled. First, they should never have scheduled the removal of the rack without first notifying the immediate neighbors and without finding out who the bike attached thereto belonged to. (He said that he assumed it was a tourist's bike, as though that made any difference.) Second, to simply drop my bicycle on the ground as the worker did, and to plan to throw it onto the back of a truck and take it away was wrong in the second degree.

I felt that Jones treated the whole thing dismissively, like it was no big deal. Well, maybe to him, but not to me. I extracted a promise that they -- the City -- would install a new bike rack in approximately the same spot, just north of the previous spot, in a parking space that was previously not marked for resident parking. I'll hold them to that commitment, and I won't wait a long time for it to happen.

We then got into a discussion about Truman Avenue. Jones told me that they would soon be removing all of the parking spots on Truman to accommodate the new traffic flow into and out of the Truman Waterfront. I suggested that he consult with Carmen Turner, our District Commissioner, before making and carrying out any firm plans as she had some different ideas about the traffic flow. I told them of my idea to use the City's powers of eminent domain to reclaim Southard Street as it passes through Truman Annex. Jones said that the City's Attorney said that such a move would never happen. Flowers admitted that he had raised that possibility some time ago.

We shall see what we shall see.

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