You know times are tough all over when the first line of the story goes like this: “KEY LARGO—Merchants at Plaza 101 learned last week that the state wants them to pay about $300,000 for the parking lot they’ve used for decades at no cost.” –

We have learned throughout the years that the Department (of Transportation) giveth, and the Department taketh away. We have also learned that the Department is a multifaceted and somewhat underfunded agency with occasionally contradictory goals. One part of the Department deserves our sincere thanks for helping the Keys earn the All-American Road designation for the Overseas Highway. Another part tries their hardest to secure the necessary funding to maintain our system of roadways and bridges – not an easy task in these days of decreasing revenues.

But there is another part of the Department that seems never to have heard of the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This part is comprised mainly of traffic engineers who believe that the only purpose of a road is to get traffic from Point A to Point Z in the shortest amount of time, Points B through Y be damned. That’s why some of those engineers made a case to raise the speed limit to 45 mph on a narrow and challenging four-lane stretch of highway through Old Town Marathon several years ago. Another frustrating aspect of this part of the Department is that they all of a sudden, without any warning whatsoever, arbitrarily change the rules and procedures. Rights-of-way that the DOT ignores for decades suddenly become sacrosanct parcels of hallowed ground that can’t be used by anyone… unless they’re willing to cough up $300K for the privilege.

I’m not sure if these people in the Department have heard, but THE ECONOMY SUCKS! Local businesses like the merchants at Plaza 101 likely don’t have an extra 300 large lying around to pay what some see as legal governmental extortion. I’ll be the first to admit that the DOT has every right to do what they will with their right-of-way. It seems, however, that the public good would be just as well served by allowing the parking to continue at Plaza 101 and not “fixing” what isn’t broken.

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Our recent record-breaking cold snap was too much for a lot of our local plants and animals to bear. Witness the recent fish kills and lifelike actual size iguana statues. This past week, when driving through the sewer construction zone between Vaca Cut and Coco Plum, I watched the workers lay sod in the median of the highway. Brown sod. Sod with nary a blade of green grass to be seen, pallet after pallet. Dead brown sod.

Perhaps the sod is like the iguanas. Warm it up, water it, and fresh green grass will grow from among the dead blades. Hope springs eternal, and I hope that one day we will see the green, green grass of the median growing again.

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Please don’t forget that tonight, Saturday, January 23, the City of Marathon’s Relay for Life team will host the second annual Dancing With The Stars event at 6:30 p.m. at the Key Colony Inn. The beautiful Pavilion at the Key Colony Inn is the venue for what’s become a very popular fund-raiser. Yours truly will be the MC for the event, and my band Storm Watch will provide the beats to which one can boogie. The Weekly’s own Jason Koler will be one of our dancing stars, and that right there should be enough to pique your curiosity.

There will be prizes for the best dancing couples in the categories of Twist, Swing, and Freestyle, and the winning Star will also get a special prize. Please remember that you don’t have to dance in order to help out. It might be very fun to come out, make a donation, and just watch our local Stars dance! We’ll see you tonight at the Key Colony Inn as we dance the night away… with the Stars!

You can make donations in advance to your favorite dancing Star, or to Connie and Clara with the City Relay Team. For more information, call Clara at 743-5266, or Connie at 289-4116.



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