an aerial view of a highway running through the water

The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday decided to drop their push to persuade voters to adopt a charter county form of government, essentially creating a Keyswide constitution that would give the BOCC the power to seek a new tax for infrastructure repairs.

After checking in with County Attorney Bob Shillinger at their meeting Wednesday in Marathon, the five-member commission agreed to pack it in, at least for 2024. There was no vote but a clear consensus.

“We hit the pause button,” County Mayor Holly Raschein told Keys Weekly. “The other business before us, the hurricane evacuation model work, supersedes this. The timing is not right.”

Given the weight of the charter county issue, commissioners had a relatively brief discussion before abandoning it, at least for now.

If voters approved turning the Keys into a charter county, the BOCC would then have an opportunity to ask voters to approve an infrastructure tax aimed at raising the money to pay the exponentially rising costs of repairing bridges and roads throughout the Keys.

The BOCC and county staff have enough on their plate right now without the added work of making a Keyswide campaign for a charter county that is ultimately up to voters to approve, Raschein said.

Shillinger has spent time traveling the Keys to make presentations to municipal leaders, including the Marathon City Council and the Key West City Commission, about the history and impacts of installing a charter form of government.

A new tax was attached to the BOCC’s charter county campaign. They couldn’t give their pitch without addressing the tax as the chief motive.

Raschein, who represents the Upper Keys, said in her opinion the charter idea isn’t the only way for the county to raise the exponential amount of money to pay for extensive repairs to Keys bridges and roads. County staff is gifted in landing grants for projects, she said.

“The more I learned about it, the more I feel like we’re trying to fix something that’s not broken,” said Raschein, who represents the Upper Keys and previously served eight years in the Florida State House. “We haven’t taken the proper amount of time to educate our voters, whether they want it or don’t want it.”

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly described how a new tax could be enacted under a county charter. Voters would have had to approve any new tax, after first approving the charter.

Gwen Filosa
Gwen Filosa is The Keys Weekly’s Digital Editor, and has covered Key West news, culture and assorted oddities since she moved to the island in 2011. She was previously a reporter for the Miami Herald and WLRN public radio. Before moving to the Keys, Gwen was in New Orleans for a decade, covering criminal courts for The Times-Picayune. In 2006, the paper’s staff won the Pulitzer Prizes for breaking news and the Public Service Medal for their coverage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. She remains a devout Saints fan. She has a side hustle as a standup comedian, and has been a regular at Comedy Key West since 2017. She is also an acclaimed dogsitter, professional Bingo caller and a dedicated Wilco fan.