Islamorada residents are just as passionate about Upper Keys issues as the five candidates vying to represent them in two seats on the village council.
The Islamorada Chamber of Commerce had a chance to showcase candidate views at its Oct. 11 forum at Founders Park Community Center.
Peter Bacheler, Cheryl Meads and Dave Purdo are running for seat 2 on the five-member council, while Eric Carlson and Ken Davis are running for seat 4 in the nonpartisan, at-large election. Voters had the chance to hear where the candidates stand on issues like housing, bed tax funding, election restructuring, and other current issues like the plastic straw ban and FDOT’s plans for a pedestrian bridge.
All candidates stressed the need for more workforce housing, with Purdo suggesting the village invest in property to build it. Bacheler said he wants to provide incentives to build affordable housing, and eliminate application fees and building permit fees for contractors. Carlson agreed with Bacheler, while incumbent Meads said, “We’re doing everything we can, and have a great affordable housing committee working to fix it.” Davis said he’s been talking to the U.S. Coast Guard about a housing study, and he’d like to see resorts get more involved in providing housing for employees.
Last year, the village supported Monroe County Commissioners when they restricted unused bed tax funds from being used for advertising. When candidates were asked whether they would support reversing the measure and increasing advertising, especially post-Hurricane Irma, Davis, Bacheler and Meads said yes, they’d like to see Islamorada advertised more. Carlson and Purdo said Islamorada is not ready for an influx of visitors. “Until the village is completed, I don’t see advertising something that’s half-finished,” Carlson said. “Until we get back on our feet from Irma, I’m not in favor of that,” Purdo said.
Candidates were asked a two-part question about proposed changes to the way council members are elected, and creating districts to be represented. Meads said she’s up for any changes the community wants, while Bacheler said he’s in favor of the system in place. Purdo suggested staggered terms with the top vote-getters winning. Carlson said he would not object to longer terms, and agreed with Davis, who said there is no need for geographic districts in Islamorada. “I think we should stagger the terms,” Davis said. “Catastrophic would be replacing five people in one year.” All except Meads said they support a referendum on the November ballot to stagger terms. “And I don’t mind running every two years,” she said.
Bridge & straws
Next year, FDOT will fund the construction of a $3 million pedestrian bridge at Founders Park. Plastic straws have also been a hot topic, since the council proposed banning them this summer. Carlson, Davis and Meads said they support the bridge, while Bacheler and Purdo said they do not. “I’m totally against it. I think it’s a waste of money,” Purdo said. “I don’t think the bridge has been vetted enough. I think we need to hear more,” Bacheler said.
Carlson said he approves of a village program not allowing straws at Founders Park to see if it works in the rest of the village; Davis said recycling needs to be “attacked at a greater level than plastic straws”; Bacheler and Meads did not elaborate on how they feel about a straw ban; and Purdo said recycling needs to go beyond plastic straws. “If we’re going to introduce something, let’s make all the stores start using paper bags instead of plastic,” Purdo said.
A full video of the forum can be viewed at islamorada.fl.us.