EARLY VOTING. One more time: If you want to consider yourself a good citizen, you need to register to vote and then vote in every election. There is almost no good reason not to do this. Election day this year is November 4– but Early Voting started last Monday. The Key West location for Early Voting is the Supervisor of Elections Office on Whitehead at Southard. The office is open for Early Voting Monday- Saturday, 8;30am- 5pm. Last day to vote early is Saturday, November 1. On the ballot, voters will see choices for governor, U.S. House of Representatives, several other statewide offices, a County Commission seat, two Mosquito Control seats, a circuit judge runoff, as well as several state constitutional amendments and local referenda. For an advance look at the ballot, log onto the Supervisor of Elections website: keyselections.org
IS LEGALIZED MARIJUANA COMING TO TOWN? Maybe, When you go to vote, you will see a proposed state constitutional amendment that would authorize the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions. If approved by a majority of voters, will we soon see a prescription-only pot store on Duval Street?
NEW RESIDENTIAL PARKING LAW. Forget everything you thought you knew about who can legally park in those parking spaces marked “residential parking.” A new law went into effect on October 1. No longer can you legally park there just because you have the word “Monroe” on your license plate (which, actually, allowed commuters from up the Keys to park in those spaces). And any old residential parking sticker you may have stuck on your windshield is now invalid. Now, in order to legally park in marked residential parking spaces in Key West, you need a new parking sticker, which is available to Key West residents only, full-time or part-time. Stickers cost $10 per year and are available at the Tax Collector’s office at the Harvey Government Center, where you renew your vehicle registrations every year. I went in to get my sticker this week and I didn’t really expect the county service reps there to know anything about this new city program. But they did. You will need to show your vehicle registration, driver’s license and proof of residency. They accepted my Key West address on my driver’s license as proof of residency. The purpose of this program is to try to improve the odds that Old Town residents can find a place to park anywhere close to where they live. Among the problems with this program in the past has been a lack of serious enforcement. It remains to be seen if that is going to change.
FANTASY FEST. For many locals, it is considered cool to “hate” Fantasy Fest because, during the last week of October, our town is overrun with rowdy tourists. But if you were here in 1979 when a small group of locals invented the festival, you know that time period was one of the slowest periods of the year here– and that businesses and employees who worked for those businesses were suffering financially. I agree that, as a local, once you’ve celebrated a dozen or so or more Fests, you’ve pretty much done it. But for many or most of the visitors attracted by this bizarre event, this is an unforgettable adventure– and the money they spend here is beneficial to us all.
HAVE WE RUN OUT OF ROADS TO IMPROVE? Key Westers are either very lucky or very unlucky that our various governments have been intent on improving our main roads and streets for us. The very first issue of Key West The Newspaper on January 7, 1994, was headlined “Truman Avenue Widening May Put Businesses Under.” And it did put a number of businesses out of business. But we did– with much teeth-gnashing– get through that project. Then the major reconstruction of South Roosevelt Boulevard began– which jammed up traffic on Flagler and North Roosevelt for more than a year. But we got through that, too. Then, the reconstruction of Flagler Avenue began. And after that, we all had to endure the North Roosevelt Boulevard nightmare. And throughout much of this 20-year period, Key Westers also had to cope with a disruptive city-wide sewer construction project, as well as major government-mandated sidewalk improvements– as well as routine street-blocking utility construction projects. But it has to be pretty much over now, doesn’t it? Haven’t we at least run out of major roads to improve? Having said all of that, however, most of us have to quietly admit that Truman Avenue and South Roosevelt Boulevard and Flagler Avenue and North Roosevelt Boulevard all look great– and our city is much improved because of these projects.
ONE MORE ADVENTURE. Running the Blue Paper here for 18 years was rewarding for me in a number of ways and was one of the great adventures of my life. But now I am anticipating a new adventure. A year or so ago, I volunteered to serve in the Peace Corps. Even though there is no upper age limit to volunteer, most volunteers are just out of college. I have been out of college for a number of decades. And because of my age, it took awhile to finally get preliminary medical approval. I don’t resent that. I certainly understand that the Peace Corps management does not want to send some old guy to the other side of the world just to have him die in the jungle. I finally heard from a manager in the Peace Corp’s placement office and he wanted to know if I would be interested in a two-year assignment in Madagascar. You may know that Madagascar is that big island off the eastern coast of Africa– famous for its rain forest and, of course, the lemurs. Needless to say that I told him that I would be more than interested. Now, that doesn’t mean that is going to happen– but it’s looking good so far.
Dennis Reeves Cooper founded Key West The Newspaper in 1994 and was editor and publisher until he retired in 2012.