Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Oct. 1 ballot is now final

Two city commissioners and a veteran Utility Board member were automatically re-elected Friday when no one signed up to oppose them in the Oct. 1 election.

City Commissioners Clayton Lopez and Billy Wardlow will return to the dais at Old City Hall without having to campaign for a new term.

Key West's qualifying period for candidates ended at noon Friday without a challenger showing up for either incumbent.

Lopez and Wardlow won three-year terms instead of the typical four, as the city plans to fall in sync with state elections by trimming commissioners' and the mayor's term.

Utility Board member Peter Batty Sr. also returned to office without having to face any competition.

The city has three contests and a divisive referendum question to hash out at the polls Oct. 1.

A runoff, if needed, is set for Nov. 5.

But this fall, only one contest could force a runoff -- the wide open race for the Utility Board seat left vacant by the retirement of Lou Hernandez.

The Utility Board race has drawn three candidates: Cheryl Cates, a Realtor and the wife of Mayor Craig Cates, contractor and Planning Board member Tim Root and photographer Vidal.

The job pays a monthly salary of $1,575 for board members and $1,875 a month for the chair. Board members receive health insurance coverage as long as they remain in office, but only for themselves. Dependents must pay 100 percent of insurance costs.

Main events

Mayor Cates found himself in a race for a third term this fall, as political critic Margaret Romero qualified as a candidate on Thursday.

The race is for a one-year term this year rather than the typical two.

The pair met in 2001 at the ballot box, when Cates easily coasted to victory by taking 70 percent of the vote over Romero and Carie Noda.

City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, the most senior member of the dais -- with more than 20 years' experience and a former mayor -- is also facing one challenger on the Oct. 1 ballot.

Like Cates, Weekley is facing a familiar opponent he has bested before.

Tom Milone, a dutiful city government meeting attendee and a member of the volunteer Citizen Review Board, which reviews public complaints against police officers, is running against Weekley for a second time.

Milone, a retired clerk for the New York State Supreme Court, is Brooklyn-born, and lived in Buffalo for almost 30 years before moving to Key West in 2001.

Unlike other courts with "supreme" in the name, New York's Supreme Court isn't the highest court in the state, but instead hears criminal prosecutions and civil matters such as divorce.

Big question

Key West voters Oct. 1 will also decide whether the city will request a feasibility study from the Army Corps of Engineers to determine the impacts of dredging a portion of the ship channel to better accommodate modern, longer cruise ships.

A majority vote will decide whether the commission moves forward with the request.

The ballot question has set off a battle across the island, as three political action committees have set up shop over the issue -- the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism opposes the study and calls dredging an environmental nightmare; the Greater Chamber of Commerce PAC wants the study but isn't calling for dredging until the study determines the impacts; and a third, the Key West Seaport Alliance, says the channel must be widened to save the island's economy.

City commissioners punted the decision to voters after an emotional town hall meeting.


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