DEMOCRACY ON SHOW: CANDIDATE FORUM FILLS MARATHON GOVERNMENT. CENTER
The evening of October 4 found the Marathon Government Center filled with candidates for the U.S. Congress, the Florida State Representative, and the Marathon City Council answering questions about the most pressing issues facing the Florida Keys and the city of Marathon today. Presented by the Keys Weekly Newspapers and the Grand Marathon Chamber of Commerce, the evening saw the 12 contestants in attendance answer more than 30 questions throughout the two-hour recorded forum.
Although the forum must be watched to be fully appreciated, below is a sampling of the most poignant responses from the contestants. Some responses have been condensed due to lack of space. For more voter information, including mail-in and early voting requirements, see Keys Weekly’s 2022 decision guide or visit keyselections.org.
Do you think the city acted appropriately in distributing the 300 affordable housing units currently in dispute with the 3rd District Court of Appeals?
I don’t know the exact timelines for granting these permits, whether the appeal has been filed or not. I’ve asked this question, and haven’t seen a detailed analysis of it. But if we were on appeal and did not issue a waiver when awarding these permits to transfer some responsibility to the beneficiaries and perhaps seek compensation for the city, we could be exposed here. So I will definitely look at the timelines for those. If it was indeed on appeal, it shows a lot of institutional arrogance that we issued these permits, thinking that we are always right because you never know when you are going to court.
To my knowledge, from what I saw, the city knew that these permits were not 100% solidified. So yeah, I think it was, to be quite frank, a stupid decision to distribute them. And now, as you said, we are responsible for prosecution. So no, I don’t think it’s smart.
The first thing I ask is, “Show me the disclaimer.” And I haven’t seen the warning yet. I agree with Jeff 100%. These lawsuits are extremely serious. Frankly, the lawsuits could create huge financial problems for Marathon if we don’t get that result. This is a serious matter that should be taken seriously by everyone.
Controversial items usually land on the council’s consent agenda, which means there is little or no discussion of important issues. What do you think is the area that most needs transparency and how would you provide it to the public?
Before the items are removed from the consent, we are not allowed to speak as council members due to Sunshine Law. The only time we can talk about articles is in front of the public. As for transparency on other issues, my desire for transparency is to let the public know how things work. If you file a code complaint, what are the next steps for someone to receive a citation for it? What are the steps to obtain a building permit? What are the steps to get inspections? This is my push for transparency, but when it comes to the elements of consent as a board member, I can’t discuss it with my fellow board members or I’m violating the Sunshine Law.
The council’s hands are tied because they can’t talk to each other. So the only thing we can do is talk to our residents, and we don’t have a good way to do that either. They don’t know what’s going on, the board finds out, they really don’t know what’s going on. It’s a dilemma, so I don’t really have an answer to that.
I think Robin touched on something very important involved in this. I think education goes hand in hand with transparency on this. People can’t be aware of something they haven’t been told about. So it’s about educating people about exactly what’s going on, the issues that are happening on a day-to-day basis. We have the resources to do that; it’s 2022. We have the Internet, we have ways to get information to people more efficiently than they do now. I think education is a great way to solve this problem, and many others.
What can the city do to ensure that we have high quality coastal waters?
I think the first thing we need to do is follow some of the rules that we already have. I know they are developing a new plan for our coastal waters. We have to take care of all our channels. We each go out in our channels and look and for the most part they are all dead and not growing so they need to be refurbished. That would probably be the most we can do to make that difference.
The city has already moved forward with our sewer project to improve water quality near the shore. There is a lawsuit going on that is very much involved with the injection wells in our sewer systems. Research has been done on this, and time will tell whether or not these injection wells actually affect the water quality near the shore.
Personal conversations I’ve had with the city’s sewage manager, Dan Saus, and Weiler Engineering have left me quite confident that the city is following the law and is below the system’s capability to sewers. Some leaching occurs on both the ocean and bay side. This is normal, and stormwater runoff is nearly impossible to manage. We’re also facing this FOLKS lawsuit, and it’s going to be interesting to see because deep wells are going to cost the city a lot of money for us to invest in them.
Other questions asked include:
- Do you think the city acted appropriately in creating a special tax district for the hospital, and should that continue?
- How do you feel about vacation rentals affecting our economy and the quality of life for Marathon residents?
- Do you believe the city has a responsibility to protect, subsidize or provide housing for the workforce?
- How should the city’s budget balance its construction of reserves, ease tax burdens on residents, and allow the city to provide additional services?
- How to restore the ability of Marathon’s construction department to issue permits?
- What would you do to increase interaction between the public and our City Council?
- Do you feel the city is doing a good job enforcing its own code?
- What infrastructure upgrades or improvements would you like to see prioritized?
- Name an ordinance you would like to repeal, eliminate or revise, or one you would propose or sponsor.
- As commercial development continues on US 1, do you think there should be architectural standards that homeowners must follow?
- How do you think the City of Marathon has acted as an intermediary between its citizens and matters involving the state government?
- In 2016, Marathon voters passed a non-binding referendum for city staff to explore the viability of a community pool. Nothing has happened since. Is this a worthwhile business to pursue?
- The city has a long history of creating task forces to tackle specific issues such as architectural standards, beautification, workforce housing, and charter review boards. However, the work done by these task forces rarely translates into action by the board. How would you resolve this disconnect?
HOW TO WATCH
Replays of the recorded forum are scheduled for October 7, 14, 21, 28 and November 4, all at 5:30 p.m. on Monroe County TV. MCTV streams on Comcast Channel 76, AT&T UVerse Channel 99, Hotwire Fision TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and the MCTV app on iOS and Android. Scan the attached QR code to watch an online recording on demand.