The Spin Machine – Under the Hood


County spin – both more and less complicated than it seems.

Monroe County contributed a couple of items to the Blue Paper about capital projects in the Upper Keys.  This appears to be an offshoot of the county’s “Craptacular” spreadsheet deception strategy.  The idea is to hyper-focus attention on Upper Keys projects in order to delude people into believing that the Upper Keys receives some out-sized benefit from the infrastructure sales tax.  In fact, the “Craptacular” spreadsheet only lists Upper Keys projects and fails to provide any basis of comparison to other areas of the Keys.  

The county’s project history report, which lists all projects, demonstrates that far more money is spent in the Lower Keys.  A summary table derived from that spreadsheet is provided below.  (Please excuse the ugly formatting.)  About $61 million has been spent in the Upper Keys compared with almost $192 million in the Lower Keys.  When all the facts are on the table, it’s hard for the county to justify its policy of requiring Key Largo citizens to pay more for needed government services than their counterparts elsewhere in the Keys.


In keeping with the “Craptacular” strategy, the county only submits news items about Upper Keys projects.  The idea is to hide some very inconvenient truths.  Such as…

  1.  Unlike their counterparts in the other unincorporated areas, Key Largo taxpayers have been denied county funding for emergency vehicle replacements.  Folks in Key Largo may be obligated to pay for replacements out of increased property taxes collected locally rather than out of the infrastructure sales tax collected county-wide, including Key Largo.
  2. Key Largo taxpayers have also been denied fair wastewater funding, and as a result they pay more for a sewer project that actually cost far less than wastewater projects in the other unincorporated areas.  The list goes on and on.  The “Craptacular” spreadsheet is a transparent attempt to justify this negligent unfairness so that Key Largo can continue to be subjected to double taxation.

The sad fact is that if the county wants positive coverage of its miserably failing capital projects program, their best bet is to generate their own.  Here’s a link to a story about a nuisance flood remediation project in Key Largo written by a local homeowner who benefits from that particular project.  And here’s another link to a story about the recently completed pedestrian walkway over Adams Cut written by the county’s public misinformation officer, Cammy Clark.  And, of course, the iPhone Bandit wrote a propaganda piece about the county’s “achievements”, which was easily debunked.

There’s also this very strange story in the Citizen about the canal restoration projects.  As we know, county staff is anxious to squander $700 million on these projects even though it is unclear what exactly they are supposed to accomplish.  What’s so strange is that county commissioner Danny Kolhage, of all people, seems to be emerging as a voice of reason.  Remember that Danny Kolhage has long been an advocate for reckless spending on capital projects.  He aggressively pushed spending on the Cudjoe Regional project, which now stands at an astonishing $49 million over budget.  He was also a cheerleader for the Bernstein Park bait and switch.  Some how that project went from $3 million to $8 million.  On Kolhage’s watch, the county’s long-term debt has skyrocketed by $165 million dollars.

Now Kolhage is demanding a water quality study before any more taxpayer money is spent on the canal restoration projects.  I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I believe the water quality study should be expanded to examine the impacts of all water quality projects, especially the wastewater projects.  As we know, the county’s “partner” in its wastewater projects, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA), has repeatedly failed to meet effluent quality requirements in two locations – Big Coppitt and Duck Key.

Better make that three.  It looks like the Key Haven plant is failing as well.  Here’s a link to November’s Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) showing several exceedances on total nitrogen and total phosphorus.  There’s a note at the bottom saying that an administrative order from FDEP is expected.  To make matters worse, the FKAA is now failing to honor the settlement agreement with local citizens groups regarding the shallow wells at Cudjoe Regional.

There’s no question that the wastewater projects should have a very positive effect on water quality, but only if they’re working properly.  The “partnership’s” wastewater projects need to be fixed before the county runs off half-cocked on the poorly conceived and hyper-expensive canal restoration projects in those areas.

As I mentioned above, Kolhage has never been a supporter of financial restraint.  Nor has he ever been supportive of funding equity.  So I’m sure he’s got some angle here.  Perhaps the study will be conducted before the failing wastewater projects are fixed, giving the false impression that canal projects are more “necessary” in those areas.  Even so, I still think water quality monitoring is a good next step.  It will be up to us, the taxpayers and citizens, to make sure the study is properly conducted and that the results are not presented in a deceptive way to justify more inequitable run-away spending.

This entry was posted in Bubba System, Canal Restoration, Cudjoe Regional, Financial Condition, Fire and Ambulance, Monroe County, Wastewater. Bookmark the permalink.

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