Key West needs more and better care facilities for its senior citizens. This blog will discuss ways to do so. The grandiose give-away promoted by the "Florida Keys Assisted Care Coalition" is not the best way. We can do much better.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Request For Proposal (RFP)

Wow, three weeks have past since my last post -- shows how us "woking stiffs" actually have a life to deal with and can't spend all our time pursuing issues like this, despite the importance to the community at large. The FKACC has people who are retired with "disposable time" to spend on it. They have money behind them (witness all of the newspaper and radio ads before the election) to help them push THEIR agenda and to hire people to put together plans that meet THEIR agenda. Those of us who want to see something better than they have offered have very little time and no money behind us.

Thus it's very important that everyone who sees what's happening needs to find ways to do their part to make sure that the big give-away with little benefit that the FKACC is trying to foist onto the community doesn't go uncontested. The election was NOT the final word on this issue. The fight must now move to the City itself.

The next step toward providing more Assisted Living in Key West is the preparation of a "Request For Proposal" ("RFP") asking for outside groups to submit "proposals" for how they would build and run the facilities on the land at the waterfront that has been granted for this purpose. The RFP gives the parameters that the proposals will be designed around. Thus the proposals that are submitted by the outside groups will reflect what "we" ask for.

There are two problems:
  1. The "we" involved is not really US (the citizens of Key West), it's the small private group who make up the FKACC. Nobody elected these people, they selected themselves. They appointed themselves to decide what's best for all of us. And they never showed us any alternatives to select from, just their overblown plan to give away most of their allotted free land as expensive retirment homes that hardly any of us will ever be able to afford.

  2. Unless we do something about it, the RFP will reflect what the FKACC people want, not what's best for the community at large. They are only asking for a measly 20 affordable units for assisted care, barely more than what's already being offered at Bayshore Manor. On all that land. We can do much better than that!

We must give our input on the RFP, to make sure that any proposals that do come in will incorporate more affordable assisted living units. We must insist that the intention of the referendum that was approved by the voters was NOT to build a big expensive retirement community, but to provide average citizens a reasonable chance to get assisted care when their time comes.

If you think the above is hyperbole, read the earlier posts to this blog to get the real story. Regardless of how the FKACC people have tried to disguise it, their plan is to provide a bunch of NON-assisted retirement homes to people of means looking to retire to a nice waterfront area of Key West. Yeah, their plan includes a few affordable assisted living units in the back of the property, but overall the RFP that they want to issue won't reflect what the rest of Key West really wants. Don't let them get away with it.

Follow-up posts here will describe how you can influence the RFP process.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who profits?

A key question about the development proposed by the FKACC is who will profit from it?

When the land was conveyed from the Navy to the City, the desire was that the citizens of Key West would profit, by filling the City's dire need for more and better affordable assisted living for our seniors. The Navy actually required that part of the land be set aside for that purpose, as part of the conveyance agreement.

The FKACC came up with a plan that, when you look solely at the Assisted Living component, sounds pretty reasonable. They offered up 40 assisted living units on about an acre of land (about the size of the adjacent parcel being "donated" by Keys Energy), of which half would be defined as "affordable", and the other half "market rate". The marke rate ones would presumably break even, cost-wise. The affordable ones would require some kind of subsidy.

The problem arises when the plan for that subsidy is examined.

The FKACC came up with a plan that calls for 4+ more acres (provided for free by the City) to be put aside for a large INDEPENDENT living facility. This facility would NOT be used by the seniors requiring assisted living (the ones called for in the conveyance agreement). It would be used by generally healthy older citizens who could still drive, even still have jobs. The people who could afford to pay to move into this facility would be asked to pay EXTRA -- beyond market rate -- to subsidize the much smaller assisted living facility.

The term "Independent Living" was carefully chosen to blur the distinction between the two connected facilities. It's easy to confuse those who don't examine the issue carefully, when "assisted living" and "independent living" are thrown into the discussion. It's even worse when discussion of the overall plan doesn't look at the two seperate components involved. Remember, the overall project dedicates less than 20% of the required land to the sorely needed ASSISTED living, and over 80% to the so-called, not-so-sorely needed "Independent Living".

Basically the Independent Living component of the project is just a bunch of nice condos for retired or semi-retired people, with concierge service available. They would not be sold outright -- complicated financial arrangements would be used to get into one. But the key is that it would take a lot of money. And it would NOT be used by people who require ASSISTED living.

To sweeten the pot, the FKACC proposes to make 8 of the 95 independent units "affordable". (That's less than 10% of them, even though City development standards call for all new developments to include 30% affordable units.) By doing this, the FKACC people were able to make the claim that it would be a "mixed income" development. Ummmmm, maybe. But the "mix" would be over 90% for UPPER income people, and less than 10% for people of less means. Not toooo mixed.....

Anyway, to get back to "who profits": This big non-assisted compoent of the development would also tend to "profit" a fair number of people of signifficant means who want to live at a nice new waterfront park, something that their money wouldn't be able to currently buy them elsewhere in Key West. That "profit" wouldn't be available to very many within our community.

It could be debated whether that's actually "profit", but it is a "value" that some people will get back if the City makes this investment. But let's move beyond this "profit" involved in being able to live in the (planned for) assisted living facilities or in the (added to the plan by the FKACC) independent living facility and examine where actual monetary profit is involved...

It's certain that the actual builder of the project won't work for "cost". The construction work is going to profit somebody. We do know that nobody on the FKACC board is going to be involved in THAT work, since the FKACC charter forbids it (and rightly so). Hopefully the builder who eventually chosen will be a local one, so that the profits involved in the construction will be more likely to be plowed back into our community. It'd be a shame if an outside builder does this work and brings in outside craftsmen and minimizes the economic benefit to our citizenry. Time will tell.

But once construction is completed, who will profit?

During their well-financed "vote for our plan" road show, the FKACC people made a big point how management by a non-profit organization (like a major church) is how this facility will keep costs down for those citizens who have to pay to get into it. And you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who voted in favor of the referendum who did NOT think that this would be a fully non-profit venture. The church and motherhood and apple pie. A nice facility for all our seniors, run by a church at minimal cost. No, those words weren't used -- but that's the message that came across. to so many.

Did you watch the election results coverage last Tuesday night? After the results were in and the referendum had passed, the FKACC reprentatives quickly changed their tune. A couple of times, while congratulating themselves on their victory over the "nay-sayers", they mentioned that the next step was to "look for a non-profit OR FOR-PROFIT group" to actually implement their plan. I'm talking MINUTES after the results were in, they were already starting to do a re-level-set of their expressed intentions, making it clear that this project will NOT necessarily be a non-profit venture.

How soon do you think that we'll be seeing an RFP from Atria?

Where else in America has a big for-profit senior care organization been given free land? Not to mention waterfront land -- in a major city park? Is that what our citizens were voting for?

Be prepared to let your Commissioners know that this is NOT what Key West needs. Those who use these facilities should not have to pay from their collective pockets for outsiders to profit. Even ahead of that, we should not turn over prime free land to a group that will profit from it. We need to make sure that the Commision insists that any RFPs presented to them don't burden our seniors -- and our taxpayers -- with sending profits outside our community.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Looking back, looking forward

Yesterday the Key West referendum authorizing a 99 year free lease on about 4 acres of the Truman Waterfront for a so-called "assisted living facility" passed by a vote of 4,009 to 2,109 (about 65% to 35%). This was a set back in the community's attempts to bring a substantial assisted living facility to Key West -- due to the excessive give-away of most of this land for non-assisted living purposes, and the very small amount of affordable assisted care planned to be provided.

Those of us who understand how little the average Key Wester will get back in exchange for all of this free waterfront land must now move onward to take whatever actions are possible to prevent the FKACC from turning this land over to big for-profit interests who will forever keep it out of reach of so many of us.

For those who only saw the slick, misleading FKACC dog and pony show but didn't get the full story, this blog provides the unmasked facts that the FKACC did not want you to know about their plan. These are not the ramblings of paranoid conspiracy theorists (as the FKACC tries so hard to have you believe). They are just the facts, mam, without the fuzzy "if you question our plan you don't care about seniors" cloud that the FKACC public relations blitz has used.

If you really DO care aboiut our seniors (including YOURSELF one day), you will take the time to understand all of the issues involved, as exposed here. And you will help to make sure that the City will compell those who implement the FKACC plan to do MORE for the seniors than their plan calls for. The FKACC members repeated several times last night that they plan to work hard to implement EXACTLY the plan that they've been pushing. It will take the rest of us to counter their push.

The plan must be changed to one that benefits more average Key Westers.

I have posted in this blog the past letters and other efforts that I have submitted to the local media in an attempt to cut through the haze. With the FKACC's deep-pocketed backers buying many newspaper and radio ads, it was extremely hard to get the real facts to the public. It was amazing how many people thought that the 4+ acres they were giving away were actually planned to hold assisted-living units! (If you thought so, read the older entries in this blog to get the real story.)

As we move forward, this blog will continue with a discussion of what we all must do to take back control of this facility that is so important to us. Before it is truly too late.

At this point, it's not too late, to Do The Right Thing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Election Day

Tonight the people of Key West spoke on the issue of Assisted Living at the Truman Waterfront. Or at least on what they THOUGHT was the issue. Unfortunately a large percentage of them never got the real message on what they were voting for.

FKACC Board member Joan Higgs stated it best during her appearance with Board member Ed Block on the Channel 19 election results show hosted by Bill Becker. When asked by Bill why none of the candidates opposed the referendum, she stated something like "Would you want to vote against your grandmother?" The FKACC had done their job in convincing people that voting FOR this referendum represented a vote FOR seniors, despite the fact that the FKACC plan by design keeps almost all of the average Key West seniors out.

I know for a fact that at least two of the City Commisioners were against this referendum, however neither of them dared speak against it because the FKACC had done such a good job of equating a vote against it to abuse of our poor pitiful grandparents. And their constant repeating of their outright false statement about how this was the ONLY chance for assisted living in Key West obviously was heard by too many people who took it as fact.

And it sure didn't help that the Citizen, which has a member of the FKACC Board on their own Editorial Board, both endorsed it and took extra efforts to quickly publish hazy misleading rebuttals to those who questioned the FKACC plan.

And the fact that the Keynoter would not even publish letters questioning the plan.

And that the local radio news gave the FKACC people the last word, on the day before the election. Without any attempt to question their assertions.

It's actually suprising there were as many "no" votes as ended up being cast. At least one person out of three saw through the FKACC haze. I congratulate them for attempting to give the city a chance for a plan that will actually let more than a few average citizens into the facility.

More tomorrow.....