The race to represent District 1 on the Monroe County Commission pits incumbent appointee Crag Cates against Annalise Mannix, a professional engineer who has worked to lower escalating windstorm insurance rates in the island chain.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in December appointed Cates, also a Republican, to fulfill the term of former Commissioner Danny Kolhage, who retired before his term ended.
Cates is now running to keep the seat in District 1, which includes the east side of Key West, as well as Stock Island and Key Haven.
Cates was a powerboat racer in his younger days, then owned an auto parts store in Key West and served as mayor of the Southernmost City from October 2009 until November 2018.
Mannix was formerly the city engineer for the city of Key West, then owned her own engineering firm and worked for Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe (FIRM) to fight rising windstorm policy costs.
The Keys Weekly asked Mannix and Cates to answer the following questions in 100 words or less (answers are as submitted, edited for length):
1.Coronavirus is expected to impact travel through 2021. What changes would you suggest for Tourist Development Council spending? Is now the time to increase advertising, maintain its current level or divert funds to brick and mortar projects? Why or why not?
2.The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a preliminary $3.1 billion plan to address sea level rise in the Keys, 35% of which would be covered by local governments. Is this right for the Keys? How concerned are you about sea level rise?
Current job: Engineer
1.Our tourism economy requires a high-quality environment. If we as a destination want to maintain a tourism base that cares for the environment and wants a quality stay, then we need to search for that clientele, and be prepared to provide the destination they expect. The Keys are arguably the premier eco-tourism and watersports destination in the United States, and it will take great effort to maintain our environment over time. We have allowed our ecosystem to deteriorate for years. It is time for the TDC to spend more funds on maintenance of environmental areas, including the shorelines and mangroves, and spend more money on community bricks and mortar and arts projects.
2.Having worked on sea level rise since the 1990s, I am very concerned with its impact on the Keys. Not only will “sunny day” flooding become worse, but when it rains at high tide, our homes, vehicles, sewer systems and roadways are horribly impacted. Dealing with this issue will take much more than what the Army Corps will be able to deliver in time to save some of our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the creation of federal “Projects” does not provide “funding.” so we cannot count on it. This is a big-ticket item requiring multiple funding sources, including federal funds, South Florida Water Management District funds, state transportation and environmental protection funds and with dedicated local skin in the game.
CRAIG C. CATES
Current job: Retired local business owner, full-time commissioner
1. As a former representative on the TDC advisory board I am very familiar with the budget and will use this experience to benefit the citizens of Monroe County. Our primary focus right now must be to keep our residents safe and protect our quality of life in the Florida Keys. Refocusing our advertising dollars to reflect this mission is important and is something I will support as your county commissioner. Of course it makes sense to direct our spending towards domestic travelers as international travel is likely to be impacted for some time, and we must make sure that we educate our visitors on the importance of social distancing and proper protective protocol.
2. While the Army Corps of Engineers’ preliminary plan does address sea level rise in the Keys and offers several different plans, I am not certain the plan “tentatively selected” by the Army Corps of Engineers is proven to be cost effective for the County and the municipalities. Before any decisions are made on such a significant issue throughout the Florida Keys, a breakdown of the economic analysis should be presented to not only the County but also the municipalities as well as completion of the remaining studies that have yet to be done, such as evaluation of vehicle traffic benefits.