Welcome to Fantasy Island, The Village of Key Biscayne, where we live willfully oblivious to current fiscal threats and only worry about what may happen a century or two from now. Let’s explore what fantasies our leadership have embraced:
Fantasy #1. ALL IS WELL ON OUR ISLAND
The value of property on Key Biscayne has been declining for the past three years while values in every other municipality in Miami-Dade County have been rising. Even corrupt, leaderless, bankrupt and dangerous Opa Locka has seen properties increase while the value of real estate on Key Biscayne has been decreasing. Our government has done nothing to address this issue even knowing that lower property values become lower assessed values, which then lowers tax revenues that funds everything.
Fantasy #2. OUR WEALTHY MUNICIPALITY CAN AFFORD ALMOST ANYTHING
In the past year, the sales value of properties on the key have been reduced by 5-10% with one prime home selling for 40%. At this time, while our tax base is depleted and COVID-19 threatens our retail, the village council openly considered two bond proposals that would require increasing expenditures, leading either to decreased services or tax increases, but with no effort to solve our immediate problem.
Fantasy #3. EVERYONE KNOWS KEY BISCAYNE AND WANTS TO COME HERE
Most northerners I speak to don’t know where Key Biscayne is and ask how close we are to Key West. Maybe there are those in Latin America who know the key, but they are no longer flocking here with excess cash to spend. Most northeasterners come to places they know, such as Miami Beach, Palm Beach or Boca Raton, and they never find their way to Key Biscayne because they don’t know about the amenities the island has to offer.
Fantasy #4. THE KEY IS ABOUT TO GO THE WAY OF ATLANTIS ANY TIME NOW
Yes, we must prepare for sea level rise and an active hurricane season. However, prioritizing sea level rise over getting our fiscal house in order is more destructive than the ocean will be. Our village cannot afford the huge costs needed to fight sea level rise without first fixing our financial issues. The money needed for infrastructure improvements must be financed through bonds. Key Biscayne may have a AAA bond rating now, but if property values decline our top rating will be lost.Then the improvements will cost more or have to be cut back. We can’t expect to sell “underwater properties” in a municipality that is underwater both physically and fiscally. Why divert funds that can better be used to reverse the depletion of property values today because of the possibility our island may be threatened decades or centuries from now?
Fantasy #5. KEY BISCAYNE NEEDS ITS OWN RESILIENCY DEPARTMENT
NOAA, located on Virginia Key, has extensively studied sea level rise and created a model using Key Biscayne and Virginia Key as their example. The county and state offices of resiliency have voluminous data plus mitigation recommendations on the subject, as does the South Florida Water Management District, plus Miami-Dade County’s Department of Environmental Management Resources, Planning and Economic Development and numerous other agencies. All the information is there. So why does our 12,000-person village need to pay for another department? What we need are engineers to deal with the problem, not somebody to tell us we have a problem.
Fantasy #6. NO NEED TO LEAVE THE ISLAND SINCE EVERYTHING IS HERE
Not for long because of the impending collapse of the retail component after the COVID-19 forced closures. Only the E2 businesses may survive, denying our village a variety of retail and dining choices. The now plentiful real estate offices will wither. Banks that are already eliminating physical branches will continue to shrink. This will leave the commercial landlords and survivors in condo shopping centers to absorb more operating costs, which will further depress property value and property tax revenue. Besides, how attractive would the key be to potential residents with so many vacant stores and very little attractive retail choices.
Fantasy #7. THE CHAMBER IS EFFECTIVE IN ATTRACTING PEOPLE TO THE KEY.
That is their purpose, isn’t it? In my opinion they have failed to do so and are either out of touch or they forgot what their job description should be. Here are examples:
The Chamber of Commerce is more interested in entertaining themselves and current residents than attracting new customers for our restaurant and stores from the outside.
They have not focused on the problems we face and have not presented a program to effectively publicize the fact that our island has so many superior amenities.
No budget emphasis has been placed on attracting new people who don’t know Key Biscayne even exists and has so much to offer.
An example I experienced, which showed how out of touch the chamber is, was the absence of a desire to publicize Key Biscayne when the Superbowl was scheduled to come to town. The chamber was oblivious to the importance of doing so. It was focused on a winter festival because it happens every year.
The Key Biscayne Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Village, purchased a full-page ad in the official Super Bowl Host Committee magazine. The ad, titled “DISCOVER KEY BISCAYNE Island Paradise” promoted the island’ way of life. To see the magazine and Chamber ad in the magazine’s e-edition, click here.