Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Clean Key West

One of the hallmarks of Mayor Jimmy Weekley's first campaigns was his commitment to make Key West "the cleanest little City in America". I remember him discussing that in the garden of the Oldest House during his 1999 campaign to step up from Commissioner to Mayor, and thinking at the time what a good idea it was. We were then operating the store on Duval Street. I made it my own personal objective to keep the sidewalk in front of our store and the block of stores we were in "the cleanest sidewalk" in the City.

I usually arrived at the store between 8:30 and 9:00 AM for our 10 AM opening, and I'd sweep the steps up to the stores, the sidewalk, and the gutter. It remained clean for a couple of hours, then began to litter up as they day progressed. By the following morning, there was a brand new sweeping job facing me. I'd try to get the sweeping done before the street sweeper passed by so I could get it to pick up things from the gutter.

Janet, and our neighboring shop owners, wondered why I wanted to put so much effort into a task that would never be completed. I rationalized it to myself as my morning Zen exercise, a chance to spend twenty minutes in a form of mind-freeing meditation, to think of the day ahead, and to observe the early morning street action, such as it was.

So how has the Mayor's campaign worked out? I think that Key West would find it very hard indeed to claim the title that Weekley promised he would achieve. As I walk or bicycle around town, I can see dozens and dozens of Waste Management trash receptacles that remain on the sidewalks, many with their lids broken or missing, with trash overflowing onto the street. Dumpsters at the Key West Housing Authority's apartments are also overflowing, and trash and garbage are on the ground all around. Gutters on residential streets are rarely cleaned, because the City could never enforce the ordinance that banned on-street parking for just the little time that it took once a week to run the sweeper on those streets. Derelict vehicles get red-tagged, with a 5-day warning to be towed away, then sit broken on the street with the tag still attached for months.

So, Mr. Mayor, nice try, but effective action takes more than promises, and City summits, and glitzy PR. That's why I intend to vote only for non-incumbents this year. The incumbents had their chances and proved not up to the task. The same holds true for those to whom the politicians have given power and responsibility for carrying out their policies. If we continue elect those who fail over and over again, who carry out the bidding of their financial backers at the expense of average citizens, who promise and don't deliver, then we get the government we deserve. I say we deserve better, and maybe we'll get it from new faces and fresh ideas.

Registration for the upcoming City elections is now closed. Early and absentee voting are open, leading up to the October 4 elections themselves. Candidates will be stepping up their campaigning now that Labor Day is past. Make sure that you know who you are able to vote for, and be sure that they are most likely to represent YOU, and not those who would continue to destroy what we love about Key West.

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