The two plain white sheets of paper were folded in half and stapled at the center before being stamped with Permit #178 and delivered to my mail box. The outside sheet was three-quarters empty and served as a cover for the sheet inside. The austere blankness of this cover gave a rather sad and shoddy appearance, like someone had hastily thrown the mailing together and did not really care what feeling it conveyed. Obviously, the person mailing the piece was not concerned with cost or the grotesque waste of paper involved. The mailing was from the city of Key West.
Unbelievably, the first line of the letter read: "As you may know, the City of Key West is currently going through an economic and environmental crisis . . . " Isn't it just like Big Brother to waste taxpayer money for materials, printing and mailing to let us know there is an environmental crisis here in Key West.
The insensitivity to the real issue of waste, the apparent hastiness, carelessness, and insensitivity of the entire mailing package, made me wary of what message Big Brother was trying to send.
Even more infuriating was the fact that City officials were spending tax dollars to produce written materials to support a Sewer Bond Referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot. In other words, the City of Key West was producing political materials to influence how people would vote on the specific issue of raising Sewer Utility Rate charges. The materials were presented more like a direct threat, a brutal piece of propaganda, than a non-biased and educational mailing piece.
The most important line in the entire communication read: "A `no' vote will require the City to increase the rates to pay cash. Monthly rates will rise to as much as $64.84 for two years to accomplish the (Sewer) protection program."
It is incomprehensible that honest citizens of any persuasion would allow such a threat to be produced by City officials a few short days before the election. A "no" vote did not require the City to increase Sewer Utility Rates to $64.84! That statement is an absolute lie that purposely hid the fact that other options were open to the City of Key West.
No where in this extraordinary mailing did it mention the exact projects for which the Sewer Bond Referendum funds would be spent. It did not say if the funds would be spent fixing old problems or putting in new infrastructure so that more development can occur. No where did it say if the City would be taking millions of dollars out of the fund as administrative charges for covering general fund deficits like they do now.
No where does it say that the City cannot borrow Sewer Bond Funds and loan them for new development projects like they did at the Key West Bight while sewer lines all over the City were collapsing. No where did they ask or answer the real questions that the citizens of this town are concerned about.
It is a very simple thing to vote our responsibilities away. Everyone felt good trying to clean up the waste water mess. But there are other important economic, social and environmental responsibilities involved.
Why should it matter if our children and their children have to pay Sewer Bond Fees for the next "20 or 30 years"? What does it matter that we are already paying super exorbitant monthly Sewer Utility Rates that are being wasted to keep City Hall floating? Who cares that millions of dollars of real infrastructure money is being wasted on sand at Smathers Beach while you are paying $35.99 per month to make sure raw sewage isn't floating ashore?
What about all the other projects for affordable housing, playing fields for kids, and the recreational opportunities on the Navy property? Whose responsibility is it to make sure money is available for all of these important projects?
NOTE: Joe Pais is a former Key West City Commissioner.