Thursday, October 22, 2009

Key West Condo Falls from $294,000 to $77,500 - Still Unsold!

The carnage continues in the Key West condo market.
Take the small condo in Key West that sold in September 2004 for $720 per square foot. Must be luxurious you say?
Located at 3312 Northside Drive, unit 301 is a studio - meaning no bedroom - and offers 408 square feet of living space. Here is a photo of the building:

Last sale was $294,000.
Today, this condo is offered for $77,500.
And with today's 5% mortgage rate, you could finance this entire purchase for $416 month.
But at $190 per square foot, is it worth it yet?
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Luxury" Key West Condo Drops $716,000

At the peak of the real estate bubble in Key West, properties sold for over $1000 per square foot. It was astounding.

During that time, the Santa Maria Motel turned into the Santa Maria Resort - offering 35 "luxury" condominiums.

Unit 20 was one unit. It boasted 907 square feet, 2 bedrooms, and 2 bathrooms.  Pictured is the living room.  Looks luxurious - right? 

According to online records of the Monroe County Property Appraiser, on February 23, 2007 the property sold for $1,195,000.

Today that same unit is being offered, as a short sale, for $479,000, a drop of $716,000 from the previous sale.

For those who miss this one, they probably need not worry.  The Monroe County Property Appraiser's online records show 13 of the 35 residential units are owned by Santa Maria Inc c/o Meisel Capital Partners.
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Want to Travel to Cuba?

If you want to travel to Cuba, today is the day to make your voice heard.

The Latin American Working Group - one of the nation's longest standing coalitions dedicated to foreign policy - has organized a CubaGO! campaign for today, September 30.

Call your representitive and let them know that you support the Freedom to Travel to Cuba legislation currently in committee.

People supportive of allowing travel to Cuba for all US citizens are asked to call their representitive's office and deliver the following message:

Co-Sponsor and support the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act” HR 874.

As a constituent I believe that:

  • All Americans should have the RIGHT to travel to Cuba
  • A MAJORITY of Americans, a majority of Cuban Americans, and Cuban political dissidents want the travel ban to end
  • Major religious and human rights groups say ending the travel ban will help the Cuban people
  • After 50 years, it is time to CHANGE our policy toward Cuba – starting with ending the travel ban for all Americans
Key West is the closest point in the United States to Cuba - a mere 90 miles.

Key West's representitive in Congress is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Unfortunately she continues to support the Cuba travel ban.

If you want to see an end to the travel ban, call her offices at the following:

Washington, DC Office
Telephone: 202-225-3931

Miami, Florida Office
Telephone: 305-668-2285
Next, call your senators. You can reach Florida's senators at:

Nelson, Bill - (D - FL)
(202) 224-5274


LeMieux, George S. - (R - FL)
(202) 224-3041
And help spread the word. Tell your friends, family, and associates about today's CubaGO! campaign.

Danny Glover can't do it alone:

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Time for Change: Key West Needs a New Mayor

Morgan McPherson has had 4 years as mayor of Key West.

Thank you for your service.

But now, it is time for change.

Key West needs a change in leadership.  Key West needs a mayor with no special interests, is open to discussion and compromise, and has intelligent ideas for the future of Key West.

The island needs a mayor who will listen to the people - not just the developers.  The Bahama Village lease at the Truman Waterfront was voted on by the citizens.  Years later, the mayor continues to assail the BCCLT.  It would be better to have a mayor that could help and encourage the BCCLT's and Bahama Village's efforts.

Key West needs a mayor with new ideas.  During his tenure, McPherson has put forth very few.  One was his "Big Idea" for affordable housing.  Another, his vision for a "world class" waterpark at the Truman Annex.  The Big Idea has had little discussion in years.  If it is still on the table, why isn't it mentioned on McPherson's campaign website?  Truman Annex waterpark idea seemed out of touch with reality.  Does an island surrounded by warm, beautiful water really need a "water park". Most residents think not.

And too often the Mayor either doesn't articulate his idea clearly or is deliberately trying to be vague.  Recent statements about Key West needing another industry remind this writer of his devotion to real estate and development.

Lately the Mayor has been mentioning making Key West a carbon neutral city.  Sounds like a bunch of election year jawboning.  Regardless, experts in the eco field have dismissed this notion - saying it would be impossible for Key West to be carbon neutral due to the high number of planes, boats, and cruise ships versus its very small amount of land.

Key West is a wonderful place.  Anyone who lives here or visits will tell you.

Thank you Morgan for your service.  But now it is time for change.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flying to Key West About to Get Cheaper

Flying in and out of Key West, while convenient, usually comes with a high price.

The Key West leg of a flight often doubles the price of air travel.

For example, the best price for flying from Key West to Miami in January 2010 will cost you at least $258 round trip + taxes & fees. And that's for a 35 minute American Airlines flight.

And yet during busy season, most flights to and from Key West are sold out well in advance.

Thankfully, things are about to change with AirTran's announcement that they will provide service to Key West starting on December 17, 2009.

AirTran will fly one of their modern 737s - part of AirTran's all-Boeing fleet of planes - to Key West via Orlando.

Here is a picture of the AirTran 737:

AirTran prides itself on providing discount air travel, inflight ammenities including WIFI and XM Satellite radio, and its young fleet of planes.

AirTran has begun taking reservations for Key West. Already their regular prices are lower than the competition. Future sales may provide even greater savings.

Here is a sample of AirTran flight prices versus the competition (competition fares were provided by Orbitz):

Key West to Orlando – December 17-20, 2009, roundtrip, taxes & fees additional
American Air
US Air
Key West to Orlando – January 17-20, 2010, roundtrip, taxes & fees additional
American Air
US Air
Key West to San Francisco, December 17-20, 2009, roundtrip, taxes & fees additional
American Air
US Air
Key West to San Francisco, January 17-20, 2010, roundtrip, taxes & fees additional
American Air
US Air
Key West to New York City (Laguardia) – December 17-20, 2009, roundtrip, taxes & fees additional
American Air
US Air
Key West to New York City (Laguardia) – January 17-20, 2010, roundtrip, taxes & fees additional
American Air
US Air

This looks good for travelers to the Key West Airport.  Future sales will likely bring even more savings.
And with AirTran's extensive route map, you'll have many destinations to fly to.  Here is their latest route map, with Key West now included:
Good luck AirTran.  Welcome to the party.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

WOO HOO! Huge Sale On My Favorite Flip Flops - 80% Off w/ FREE SHIPPING

When it comes to footwear, Key West is definitely a flip flop town.

I pretty much live in mine.

My favorite flip flops are made by Simple (sorry Reef sandals).

Simple flip flops are super durable, have a firmer sole than Reef's, and don't succumb to the dreaded flip flop funk (imagine if you kept your kitchen sponge for a year...that's what happens to the squishy reef soles). My first pair of Simple flip flops lasted nearly a year and my feet were super happy.

The only negative is price. You pay for the quality. Simple flip flops are usually around $50 a pair.

But right now, Simple is offering a HUGE sale. I just purchased two pairs of flip flops for 80% off retail price. And the shipping is FREE!

You can check out the sale at:
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Key West to Cuba Race Planned

A sailboat race from Key West to Cuba (& back) is planned for November of next year.

Small & fast catamarans (18-24 feet) will begin racing at the White Street Pier, covering 95 miles to Marina Hemingway, Cuba. Racers will spend a couple days in Cuba on a mission of cultural exchange focused on sailing. The return trip to Key West is another 95 mile race.

Race organizers have set up a Google groups site at: . You can read more about it there.

I swear, if you listen hard enough, you can hear the Cuban travel embargo leaning over, creaking past the tipping point, ready to fall at any momemt. A political Leaning Tower of Piza if you will. (Yes, I'm aware the Piza Tower has been stabilized).

One has to wonder if the travel ban has in effect been left to expire.

If nothing else, the government no longer wants to defend it.

Take a look at this story about Mytchell Mora - an American who traveled illegally to Cuba and announced that fact upon his return at U.S. Customs. He's hoping to challenge the travel ban in court. Instead, Customs sent him home - without punishment, and with his Cuban souveneirs.

Meanwhile, OFAC, the branch of government in charge of enforcement of Cuba travel rules, is losing funding in a move to quietly deflate the policy.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Better Way to Fight Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes. No other insect is as deservedly loathed. Worldwide, mosquitoes are responsible for more suffering, disease, and death than any other insect.

Here in Monroe County, the Mosquito Control Board has an annual budget of over $20 million dollars. Much of that money is spent on spraying chemicals from planes, helicopters, and trucks.

Mosquito Control states that:

"The insecticides used by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District are among the insecticides least hazardous to humans"
But I can't help but wish for another solution. One not involving the spraying of so much pesticide.

A paper published two weeks ago by Rothamsted Research may have identified a better solution - one that makes the mosquitoes do the hard work.

In the experiment adult mosquitoes unwittingly delivered insecticide to their breeding pools - killing nearly all the larvae.

Here is how its done:

Mosquitoes, after they have bitten you, look for a damp place to rest waiting for their eggs to develop.

Researchers poured pyriproxyfen in cups stuffed with dark-colored fabric, creating the damp place mosquitoes prefer. Pyriproxyfen is a pesticide sold under the name Nylar and is not harmful to adult mosquitoes. These cups where placed throughout a particularly buggy Peruvian cemetery. Blood engourged-mosquitoes landed on the fabric and contaminated their legs with pyriproxyfen. When those mosquitoes went to lay their eggs they transfered the pesticide to their breeding pools. As a result, 98% of the mosquito larvae died.

Here is an illustration of the process:

According to the research paper:

"The use of the adult mosquito as the transfer vehicle ensures that the larvicides are very accurately targeted: the more popular the breeding site, the greater the transfer of insecticide and the more effective the control. "
As for the safety of pyriproxyfen, Rothamsted Research notes:

"Pyriproxyfen, the insecticide used, is a juvenile hormone analogue. It is already registered for public health use. It has drinking water approval from the WHO of 300 ppb which is 1000 times the dose needed to control [the mosquito species] Aedes aegypti."
Let's try this method in the the Florida Keys. Make the mosquitoes kill the mosquitoes.
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Monday, June 01, 2009

Has the Key West Real Estate Market Hit Bottom?

Has the Key West real estate market hit bottom?

There are a couple reasons to believe it has.

First, inventory of Key West homes is finally dropping. The combination of bargain prices, bank owned liquidations, panicking sellers, low interest rates, and an $8000 tax credit for first time buyers have gotten buyers off the fence.

Currently, the Key West MLS is showing 808 properties for sale in Key West (that includes everything in the residential category including: single family, condo, multi unit, and more). At one point, there were well over 1400 properties in residential.

Even toxic banks have less property on hand. Take a look at this chart of Countrywide's "real estate owned":

This counts the number of properties Countrywide owns. The number is dropping rapidly - a key to the recovery of the banking sector.

Another clue that Key West real estate has bottomed is the Zillow 10-year price chart. Finally, prices have reached the long term trend line.

Don't get me wrong - there are still plenty of unrealistic sellers out there. For them, the market is still falling.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

May 5 Jimmy Buffett Concert Cancelled

NBC has cancelled the May 5 broadcast of the Today show in Key West.

The network wants to keep the morning show anchors in New York to better cover the swine flu story. (Ironically, Jimmy Buffett's latest novel is called Swine Not?)

Personally, I think the coverage is already way over the line. I've barely calmed down over their panicking me about Mad Cow Disease. I had just gotten over deer concerns - Lyme disease and all. Oh - and what about equine encyphalitis? Egad! The horses are going to kill us all!! Then chickens & birds freaked me out (remember how they got rid of the post office chickens? At least one commissioner cited bird the new post office chickens have been innoculated.) The news seems to have cried wolf once too many times.

Mostly I'm afraid of wolf. Wolf Blitzer that is.

Anyway, Jimmy Buffett will not be playing 8:30 am on May 5 at the Westin Resort.

The Today show plans on doing a Key West broadcast at a later date - but as of now, none is scheduled.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jimmy Buffett to Play Live in Key West

Despite what many tourists believe, Jimmy Buffett rarely plays live in Key West. And when he does, there is never any advance notice - meaning you never get to see him.

Funny - you live in Key West and you never get to see Jimmy Buffett. Everywhere else, he comes around every summer.

Until now.

The Today Show is promoting Key West as an American vacation destination and will be filming an entire 4-hour morning show on our little tropical island.

As part of the production, Jimmy Buffett will play a live 30-minute concert on May 5, 2009 starting at 8:30 am.

The mini concert will be at either the Westin Resort or Mallory Square.
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Photos of Vandenberg in Key West

USS Vandenberg in Key West - dockside at the Truman WaterfrontThe USS Vandenberg has arrived in Key West and is now snugly berthed at the Truman Waterfront.

The ship was welcomed into port by the Conch Republic army, with many locals watching as tugs maneuvered the 520-foot ship into its temporary dockside home.

People watching the arrival of the USS Vandenberg in Key West

Final preperations to prepare the Vandenberg for sinking will begin immediately.

The ship is expected to be sunk in 140 feet of water south of Key West sometime in May 2009. (I hear May 15 is the tentative date).

Another picture of the USS Vandenberg in Key West
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Monday, April 20, 2009

Vandenberg - The Sinking of a Movie Star in Key West

The USS Vandenberg should arrive in Key West by Wednesday - if forecasts are correct.

Here is the latest update from the organizers and the National Weather Service:

This will no doubt be a spectacular site docked on the Outer Mole - 520 ft long and 71.5 feet wide - rusting and looking ready for the sea floor.

Interesting fact: The 1999 movie Virus, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, was filmed aboard the Vandenberg.

If you want to see the Vandenberg in the movie but don't really want to sit through the whole movie, see USS Vandenberg sinking - Key West. It contains a video of every Vandenberg appearance in Virus - both above and below deck. You can almost follow the plot.

Seeing actors running around the gigantic ship gives a sense of the incredible scale of this vessel.

When this ship is sunk, it will be a sight to see.

I'm guessing you'll be able to walk across the water with all the boats and spectators.

I know I won't miss it.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Smoking Getting More Expensive in Florida - Cigar Industry Fumes

This week, the Florida Senate unanimously passed a $1 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

A local Key West convenience store predicted $7 per pack cigarettes soon. A friend mentioned he purchased an $8 pack at a dockside bar/restaurant on Stock Island.

Cigar smokers will also see a tax increase - as much as $1 per cigar (tax depends on weight - tax is $1 on 1 oz. of tobacco).

Key West once was the epi-center of the US cigar industry. Today there is nearly no cigar manufacturing in Key West.

The State of Florida, however, has more cigar companies than any other state - and they are fuming over the new tax - predicting sales declines, employee firings, and companies relocating out of state. Florida makes approximately 90% of all domestic cigars.

Imagine Cuba is opened and the world's finest cigars are widely available in the US. Will the Florida cigar manufacturing industry survive, especially given the added burden of the new tobacco tax?
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Obama's Writes Column Pointing to a New Cuba Dialogue

An op-ed column written by President Barrack Obama appeared in newspapers across the Carribean, Latin American, and the US. "Choosing a Better Future in the Americas", reaches out to regional nations - suggesting the upcoming Summit of the Americas is a new beginning.

In reality, the US embargo of Cuba could disappear with the slightest action by Raul Castro & his brother. Just free "some" political prisoners and the gate opens.

I don't expect the full embargo to be lifted at the Summit of the Americas. Instead, as a first step, the US will allow travel for cultural exchanges. And what better way to exchange culture than with a sailboat?

Following is President Obama's op-ed column:

As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice. We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future.

Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.
In advance of the Summit, we have begun to move in a new direction. This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. In particular, the refusal to allow Cuban Americans to visit or provide resources to their families on the island made no sense - particularly after years of economic hardship in Cuba, and the devastating hurricanes that took place last year. Now, that policy has changed.

The U.S.-Cuba relationship is one example of a debate in the Americas that is too often dragged back to the 20th century. To confront our economic crisis, we don't need a debate about whether to have a rigid, state-run economy or unbridled and unregulated capitalism - we need pragmatic and responsible action that advances our common prosperity. To combat lawlessness and violence, we don't need a debate about whether to blame right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents - we need practical cooperation to expand our common security.

We must choose the future over the past, because we know that the future holds enormous opportunities if we work together. That is why leaders from Santiago to Brasilia to Mexico City are focused on a renewed partnership of the Americas that makes progress on fundamental issues like economic recovery, energy, and security.

There is no time to lose. The global economic crisis has hit the Americas hard, particularly our most vulnerable populations. Years of progress in combating poverty and inequality hangs in the balance. The United States is working to advance prosperity in the hemisphere by jumpstarting our own recovery. In doing so, we will help spur trade, investment, remittances, and tourism that provides a broader base for prosperity in the hemisphere.

We also need collective action. At the recent G-20 Summit, the United States pledged to seek nearly half a billion dollars in immediate assistance for vulnerable populations, while working with our G-20 partners to set aside substantial resources to help countries through difficult times. We have called upon the Inter-American Development Bank to maximize lending to restart the flow of credit, and stand ready to examine the needs and capacity of the IDB going forward. And we are working to put in place tough, clear 21st century rules of the road to prevent the abuses that caused the current crisis.

While we confront this crisis, we must build a new foundation for long-term prosperity. One area that holds out enormous promise is energy. Our hemisphere has bountiful natural resources that could make renewable energy plentiful and sustainable, while creating jobs for our people. In the process, we can confront climate change that threatens rising sea levels in the Caribbean, diminishing glaciers in the Andes, and powerful storms on the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Together, we have both the responsibility to act, and the opportunity to leave behind a legacy of greater prosperity and security. That is why I look forward to pursuing a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that will help us learn from one another, share technologies, leverage investment, and maximize our comparative advantage.
Just as we advance our common prosperity, we must advance our common security. Too many in our hemisphere are forced to live in fear. That is why the United States will strongly support respect for the rule of law, better law enforcement, and stronger judicial institutions.

Security for our citizens must be advanced through our commitment to partner with those who are courageously battling drug cartels, gangs and other criminal networks throughout the Americas. Our efforts start at home. By reducing demand for drugs and curtailing the illegal flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our border, we can advance security in the United States and beyond. And going forward, we will sustain a lasting dialogue in the hemisphere to ensure that we are building on best practices, adapting to new threats, and coordinating our efforts.

Finally, the Summit gives every democratically-elected leader in the Americas the opportunity to reaffirm our shared values. Each of our countries has pursued its own democratic journey, but we must be joined together in our commitment to liberty, equality, and human rights. That is why I look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere can take its seat at the table consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And just as the United States seeks that goal in reaching out to the Cuban people, we expect all of our friends in the hemisphere to join together in supporting liberty, equality, and human rights for all Cubans.

This Summit offers the opportunity of a new beginning. Advancing prosperity, security and liberty for the people of the Americas depends upon 21st century partnerships, freed from the posturing of the past. That is the leadership and partnership that the United States stands ready to provide.

Tomorrow the much anticipated Summit of the Americas gets underway. Much more Cuba talk should dominate the media manana and over the weekend.

(Now that Cuban-Americans have unlimited travel rights to Cuba, it is only a matter of time before all US citizens have equality and can freely travel.)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

USS Vandenberg Forecast to Encounter Gale Force Winds

The USS Vandenberg is underway and on its way to Key West. Hooray!

NOAA is providing daily updates of the ships progress, route, and weather conditions.
According to the video weather forecast, the ship will encounter a developing low pressure system that will create gale force winds today and tonight, with 25-35 knot winds and seas building to 8-15 feet.

Here is the latest NOAA briefing, published yesterday (a new one will be released later today):

With building winds and seas, one has to wonder about that one tug, named Elsbeth III, towing the massive 524' former U.S. Air Force missile tracking ship.
Here is a photo of the Elsbeth III:
And here are her impressive specs:
  • Built 1998 by Captain Latham Smith, Green Cove Springs, FL
  • 5000 HP Ocean Tug
  • L.O.A.: 90 ft.; Beam: 40 ft.; Molded Depth: 16 ft. with extreme sheer; 98 GRT
  • Three 1986 Model KTA-50 Cummins engines, rebuilt & rated 1450 hp each @ 1800 RPM continuous. Complete spare engine available.
  • Three ZF Gears fitted with trolling valves for continuous shaft rpm control from 0-260 rpm
  • Three Bird-Johnson propellers @ 87" x 83" in 82" type 37 Nozzles. Propellers turn 260 RPM on 8" shaft with John Crane seals
  • Bow Thruster: 100 hp
  • Tow winch: Almon Johnson, holding 2000' of 2 1/4" wire. Secondary winch for anchor handling or tandem tows with 1800' of 2" wire. Heavy stern roller, 6' diameter by 10' long & able to deck a 15 ton anchor
  • Three Gensets @ 150 kW, 80 kW & 60 kW
  • Hull: Heavily reinforced 1/2" plate with 15 integral tanks
  • Two 3000 lb. anchors each with six shots of 1 1/4" chain; windlass with capstans
  • One HIAB 1 ton Marine Crane
  • Tugger: One Gearmatic, 10 ton, 1 ton air tugger
  • Berthing: Eight crew
  • Towing range: 30 days; 60 days utility work
  • All vital systems in triplicate for enhanced reliability

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm Sure Its All a Big Misunderstanding - right?

Nearly every day another aspect of the Monique Acevedo scandal is revealed. You can't help but think of Blagojovitch - the disgraced impeached senator from Ilinois, indicted for abusing nearly every aspect of his high office.

With each new allegation, it becomes harder and harder to believe her husband knew nothing. The latest allegations involve his campaign finances.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent Randy Acevedo, Monique's husband, has chosen to remain silent until the investigation is complete.

According to the Miami Herald, "In less than two years, she has spent more than $95,000 on pink silk ties, bar stools and spear-gun accessories. The eclectic list of purchases goes on: a table saw, a chandelier and the complete DVD box set of Six Feet Under."

The list of questionable purchases is long. Here are a few more:
  • several men's suits, all size 54L. Her husband recently weighed in at 317 pounds
    ''I have suits, but where she got them I don't know,'' Randy Acevedo said. ``I assumed she paid for them with her own credit card. I don't keep track of our finances.''
  • DVDs of Knocked Up and Good Luck Chuck
  • two $19 payments for traffic school
  • a Jesus bandage purchased at Fast Buck Freddie's department store.
  • Furniture, Pottery Barn $2,714.93
  • Two-piece bed set, Bed & Chair Depot $1,826.43
  • Four-person stay, Courtyard Key West Waterfront $771.90
  • Home furnishings, JC Penney $563.21
  • Four big and tall dress shirts, Jos. A. Bank $256.30
  • Folding chairs, Office Max $239.94
  • Garment and carry-on bags, Samsonite $189.98
  • Harmony 720 Universal remote, Logitech $179.99
  • Unknown, Subtropic Dive Center $166.34
  • Nutra-trim, Jolt gum, etc., GNC Nutrition Center $140
  • Sports equipment, Divers Direct $138.95
  • Coffee table, Kmart $129
  • 10 gift cards, T.G.I. Friday's $100
  • Farouk flat-iron hair straightener, unknown $93.30
  • Chris Rock DVD
  • Oprah Winfrey's magazine
  • two pairs of Oakley sunglasses.
As for Key West - the citizens are rightly upset over this. Schools are struggling with budget cuts. Every dollar really counts.

One commenter to the Citizen website wrote:
The sad thing is we have children in our classrooms without books and supplies and she's out spending. Teachers are having to buy [supplies] for [their] classrooms. I know teachers who have been told [there isn't anymore] copy paper. So if you want your children to learn and practice what they learn it won't be in this school district. There's no more money for anything including supplies, subsitutes, and there's a hiring freeze but we have people out [wasting] money. Extremely frustrating. Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, the city mayor had a strange response to Bill Becker's question on the radio about the scandal. The mayor, straining and stammering, only said he hoped it would be handled in the spirit of Key West's "motto" - One Human Family. I have no idea what that means. But it certainly didn't show a hint of outrage over the corruption and fraud that is alleged.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Philly versus Key West? Yeah, right.

Philadepia Daily news writer Patty-Pat Kozlowski recently published an opinion column titled "10 reasons Philly tops Key West".

While the writer is obviously a fan of Key West, mentioning she visits twice a year, she managed to amusingly list ten reasons Philadelphia is better then Key West.

In response, here are 10 reasons that Key West actually tops Philly:

1) Its 72 degrees in Key West today. Philadelphia is 33 degrees. Where would you rather get a tan? (I should just end the list there, but I promised nine more reasons).

2) Yellowtail snapper, grouper, stone crab claws, lobster, and other fresh seafood are on the menu in Key West. Hey Philly: you sure about that pork roll?

3) In 2005, Philadelphia was ranked as the sixth-most dangerous among 32 American cities with populations over 500,000. The murder rate in Philadelphia is 1 per day. Key West, on the other hand, is quite safe. Most crimes involve a bottle of booze, two bleary-eyed men, and a woman that should only dance with her insane husband.

4) Key West has free cats! Well, not really. But in Key West, if you want a pet, you only have to put a bowl of water on your porch. A cat, is bound to show up at your door looking for a better deal out of life. (just don't consider yourself its owner).

5) Ever notice that everything tastes better when eaten outdoors? Its easy in Key West. That's probably why we don't mind lousy soft-pretzels.

6) Key Westers don't worry too much about the price of gasoline. I, for one, only fill up the car once a month. Key West is 2 miles by 4 miles - many locals get around on bicycles. Or walking (imagine that Philly!).

7) Key West is always ready for a party - every night of the week. Heck, Key West is so party ready, it even celebrates the sun setting each day.

8) Warm beaches are the norm in Key West. And with water temperatures typically between 70-80 degrees, you can leave that woolen bathing suit in Pennsylvania.

9) Traffic jams, a daily occurrence in Philly, are non-existent in Key West. However, you may have to wait a few minutes for that daiquiri during happy hour.

10) In Key West, you can go to work with a big hangover and no one thinks you have a drinking problem.

Agree? Don't agree? Feel free to add your reasons why one is better than the other.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

The Opposite of Key West...on Earth

What is the opposite of Key West? Turns out it isn't China - at least not geographically.

When I was a kid, for whatever the reason, I thought that you'd reach China if you dug far enough into the ground.

Turns out I was wrong. Instead, my digging would have led me to the Indian Ocean. 

I'm disappointed. I was hoping for land - a place where people lived.  And as a result of their geography, were similar or the opposite of Key Westers.  Then again - water is the opposite of land.

Here is a mapping tool showing where on the other side of the planet you'll end up if you dig straight through the earth's center.  Happy traveling:
View Larger Map
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Freedom to Travel To Cuba Act in Congress!

Less than two weeks after my prediction that the Cuba Embargo Ends This Year a bill was introduced by Rep. William Delahunt [D-MA] into Congress calling for the end of travel restrictions to or from Cuba.

Titled "Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act", H.R. 874 will allow US Citizens and legal residents to travel to and from Cuba.

Here is a copy of the current text of the bill:

This Act may be cited as the ‘Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act’.

On and after the date of the enactment of this Act, and subject to section 3-- (1) the President may not regulate or prohibit, directly or indirectly, travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents, or any of the transactions incident to such
travel; and(2) any regulation in effect on such date of enactment that regulates or prohibits travel to or from Cuba by United States citizens or legal residents or transactions incident to such travel shall cease to ave any force or effect.

Section 2 shall not apply in a case in which the United States is at war with Cuba, armed hostilities between the two countries are in progress, or there is imminent danger to the public health or the physical safety of United States travelers.

This Act applies to actions taken by the President before the date of the enactment of
this Act that are in effect on such date of enactment, and to actions taken on or after such date.

The provisions of this Act apply notwithstanding section 102(h) of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (22 U.S.C. 6032(h)) and section
910(b) of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7210(b)).

Currently H.R. 874 has been referred to the House Foriegn Affairs committee.

Meanwhile, another bill currently in the House Agriculture committee, H.R. 188, introduced by Rep. José Serrano [D-NY] and titled the "Cuba Reconciliation Act", goes much further than lifting travel restrictions. The Cuba Reconciliation Act:

- Removes restrictions of trade and other relations with Cuba, including the repeal the embargo act of 1961, ending the Trading With the Enemy Act with respect to Cuba, allowing for exports to Cuba, repeals the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and the removal of other acts and provisions that restricted trade and relations with Cuba.

-Allows telecommunications carriers to install, maintain, and repair telecommunications equipment in Cuba, and provide telecommunications services between the United States and Cuba.

-Removes travel restrictions to and from Cuba - including allowing transactions incidental to travel.

-Instructs the US Postal Service to begin direct mail service to and from Cuba.

Similar bills have been introduced to Congress during the past 5 years - all of them "died" in committee.

The Cuba embargo has been an injustice to the citizens of Cuba and the United States. It is time for this counter-productive policy to end. Call, write, or email your Congressional representitive and let them know you support this bill. (Click here to find your representitive)

To keep track of the progress of this bill in Congress, below is the bill's status (which will be automatically updated):

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Langerado Cancelled: Blame the Venue and Lineup

The Langerado Music Festival, the largest music festival in South Florida, has been cancelled.

The promoters have blamed poor ticket sales due to the sluggish economy. But in reality, it was the abandoning of the majority of its audience that caused the festival's demise.

I went to last year's festival, held in the Big Cypress Reserve and had a great time - along with 25,000 other people. Headliners included Phil Lesh & Friends, The Meters, and many other top-notch jam bands.

But when I saw this years lineup, I knew I'd skip the festival. No offense Snoop Dogg - but I wasn't about to shell out $75 per day for a lame lineup.

On top of the poor lineup, the promoters made another bad decision - moving the festival from the camping-friendly Big Cypress Reserve to a definitely-not-camper-friendly Downtown Miami.

On the Rolling Stone website , people are commenting on the cancelled event. Feller sums it up with:

It’s not the economy - this was a piss poor excuse for a show attempting to draw the masses. Look at last year’s lineup - REM, Beastie Boys, The Roots, Phil Lesh… - does it even compare? I mean, I’m a fan of a lot of the bands that were supposed to play this year, but they keep moving the show every year and, well, is Death Cab really headliner worthy? Snoop is still awesome but, uh, seriously?
A sluggish economy means people won’t spend money on something they’re lukewarm on. Sometimes a mediocre (or at least disappointing) product is the reason people won’t pay.

For those looking for satisfy their jammy festival inner soul, Bonnaroo has put together an amazing lineup. This festival, despite the economy, will sell out quickly - proving that Langerado's main problem wasn't the economy, it was a poorly put together festival.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Predicition: Cuba Embargo Ends This Year

You've heard it here first: Cuba will open in 2009. Raul seems willing to change. And Obama is the perfect president to begin a new policy.

The embargo of Cuba should end as soon as possible. It is ineffective and is only hurting the people of Cuba is preventing Americans from exercising their constitutional right to travel freely. We are friends with far worse regimes, and an embargo-free Cuba will see changes that can be only brought about by an inundation of free culture.

It is my hope that in April 2009, at the Summit of the Americas, Obama will begin to change US policy towards Cuba.

Cuba's revolution is over. It happened. Live with it. For the most part, the Cuban people cheered and saluted as Castro seized power. The Cuban property that the Miami exile community thinks they'll regain is gone. It surely is not the United States responsibility to reclaim it for them.

Calls for a change to US policy to Cuba are growing louder, especially since the Miami exile community did nothing to help Obama get elected. Finally, the end-the-embargo voice is being heard.

Obama's inauguration address had a line tailored for Cuba: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist. "

Today it was reported that Fidel Castro had positive words for Obama, calling him honest.
This month's Cigar Aficionado magazine has a lead story calling for Obama to end the travel ban. (here is a link to their previously published editorial titled: Editor's Note: Time to Change our Cuba Policy)

More notably, a widely read and highly respected report was released December 2008 titled "The Case For a New Cuba Policy", by Jake Colvin, offering advice to the new president:

In the following months, as the administration approaches the next Summit of the Americas in April 2009, the president should follow up on these initial signals by constructively engaging the Cuban American community, Congress, U.S. allies, and the Cuban government in the following

  1. Change the tone. If the United States wishes to make a serious effort to engage Cuba and
    U.S. allies on issues such as human rights and economic development, it will have to change its rhetorical approach. The United States should raise important issues, including human rights, in a more constructive and direct way than has been tried in the past with Cuba.
  2. Depoliticize the Cuba portfolio. The U.S. approach to Cuba has been too special, which has been reflected in the way policymaking has been politicized within the bureaucracy.
    Depoliticizing the portfolio and returning Cuba to its normal place within the State Department bureaucracy would facilitate diplomacy.
  3. Advance U.S. interests through principled diplomacy. The next president should engage
    Cuba diplomatically and place the burden on the Castro government to act constructively.
    Reestablishing regular, lower-level contacts, which have been curtailed by the Bush administration, would set the stage for higher-level discussions down the road.
  4. Stop harassing U.S. allies. The next administration must stop harassing U.S. allies about their contacts with the Cuban government and attempt to find ways to work cooperatively to support human rights, civil society and economic development in Cuba. The United States should also eliminate the extraterritorial application of U.S. sanctions on Cuba and facilitate license exceptions where necessary.
  5. End the travel ban. Complete repeal of travel restrictions would allow Americans to promote freedom and democracy in Cuba and would remove a burden from the Departments of Treasury and Homeland Security. The next president will have the support of moderate Cuban American groups, business interests, and other nongovernmental organizations to make a strong case for repeal.
  6. Promote cultural exchanges and dialogue with the Cuban people. The next president should actively encourage people-to-people exchanges by streamlining the licensing process for Cuban musician, artist, athlete, and scholar access to the United States and by actively promoting dialogue and regular contact with the Cuban people. The U.S. government should also work with the private sector to encourage the establishment of a regular dialogue between Cuban economic officials and U.S. businesses. Facilitating sector-specific briefings—even in the face of continued trade restrictions—would establish important new channels of communication.
  7. Prioritize sanctions administration and enforcement on the basis of national security
    risk. The next administration should call for a comprehensive reevaluation of the priority given to administering and enforcing all U.S. sanctions programs. This reevaluation, which could be done through a new quadrennial review at Homeland Security, should prioritize administration and enforcement of sanctions programs based on their relative importance to U.S. national security and the risk posed by lax enforcement. U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Office of Foreign Assets Control in particular should be given clear guidance to prioritize high- risk threats.
  8. Address broader impediments to normal relations. The Cuba Adjustment Act, Cuba’s
    place on the State Department’s list of countries that sponsor terrorism, property claims, trademark and other trade issues and the status of the Guantanamo Bay naval base will continue to be impediments to long term normalization of relations. These issues must be addressed either unilaterally or as part of a broader negotiation with Cuba.
As for the impact a embargo-free Cuba will have on Key West - that will be explored in future posts.
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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A More Perfect Union: Thank You Barack Obama & America!

I could not be more proud of America today.

Barack Obama is to be sworn in as our nation's first African-American president.

Just when it seems like no progress is being made as a society, along comes an event so monumental and progressive that it shatters all notion of stagnation.

I look in the face of each African-American person I see and feel a mutual sense of pride - that we truly are moving forward. That despite every setback we encounter, there really is something good happening in our time.

I have always felt that African Americans are owed an unpaid debt, written by the founders of our country - that ALL men are created equal and shall have Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness. (Thank you Martin Luther King for fighting for the benefit of all humanity.)

No man is truly free unless we are all free.

So today, let me just say: Congratulations Barrack, Congratulations America.

For the first time, I feel like we are living in the future.

May we all work together to make this a more perfect union.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Key West's Fantasy Fest 2009 Theme

The theme for this year's Fantasy Fest is:  Villains, Vixens, and Vampires.  (I haven't noticed it mentioned before).

Once again, the organizers of the weeklong party have shown an appreciation for assonance - no pun intended.  Last year, "P" was the repeating consonant - again, no pun intended.

Fantasy Fest is the biggest party of the year for Key West - drawing tens of thousands of people.

This is mostly an adult party.  To make the most of it, leave the kids with their granny - otherwise you risk exposing them to shirtless grannies.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Key West Real Estate Freefall & Opportunity

Prices for Key West residential real estate are falling at an increasing rate. And this may mean we are closer to a bottom than the top of this wild ride. Market price trends often reverse themselves with a sharp spike. When prices are rising, the top is often marked by an even greater run-up of prices. And similarly, when the long-term trend in prices has been falling, look for a sharp spike on the downside to indicate market sentiment is about to improve.

According to the chart (above) from Zillow, prices for Key West houses, condos, and other residential real estate are showing a sharp decline since November 2008. Currently, Zillow shows "market value" for the Key West residential market at $472,000 - a 14% decline since November 2008.

Oversupply, along with a list of other problems, continues to weigh heavily on the Key West market. And much of that oversupply is from distressed sellers. Here is a map from RealtyTrak showing 219 properties that are either pre-foreclosure, bank owned, auction, or govt. owned:

Here is a look at the latest numbers from the MLS:
  • 922 residential (includes single family, mobile home, condo, timeshare, 3-4 units, townhouse, duplex, and other property rights)
  • 417 residential single family
  • 400 residential condo & townhouse
So where is the bottom?
If you take a look at the 10-year Zillow chart for Key West, the long-term uptrend line would be at approximately $350,000. This translates into another 25% decline - if it happened in the short term. It is also possible that prices won't deteriorate to that level if enough time transpires to reach the trend line further to the right.

Here is the 10-year chart with a long-term uptrend line drawn in red.

But there is some good news.

Housing is definitely getting more affordable.

With mortgage rates now at 5% and property starting to sell for "affordable" prices (meaning less than the so-called "affordable housing" that the local developers have put up), it now may make sense to look for a place of your own.

Take a look at these numbers:
  • 165 single family, condo, or townhouse properties priced at $350,000 or less

  • the least expensive is a $128,500 condo at Santa Clara Condominiums (506 square feet). With a 5% mortgage and 10% down, your principle and interest payment would be $618 per month. Add on $300 per month for condo fees, taxes, and insurance and you are buying a condo in Key West for less than $1000 per month.

  • the least expensive single family home is $169,900 at 3210 Eagle Ave (1032 square feet - Bank owned). With a 5% mortgage and 10% down, your principle and interest payment would be $821 per month. Add on $500 per month for taxes and insurance and you are buying a house for the same cost as rent.

Don't have 10% to put down? Call the City of Key West. They are planning to loan up to $20,000 to workers for downpayments (20 people initially).

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