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CRUISE SHIPS, COVID & A HOUSING CRISIS

I’ll admit, I wasn’t overly optimistic at the start of 2022. It’s not as if I expected instant fixes, both locally and nationally, just because the clock struck midnight. But come on.

But the new year wasn’t even four hours old when two criminally stupid tourists set fire to the Southernmost Point using a Christmas tree as tinder. Is that a sign of what’s to come?

But it wasn’t.

Things started looking up — for Key West, not the moron arsonists, who didn’t count on the southernmost webcam capturing their crime and clothing descriptions. As they hadn’t change clothes after leaving Irish Kevins’ Bar a few hours prior, a bartender there remembered the men, found them on the bar’s security footage, then pulled their credit card receipt. Busted. 

OK, cool, so there was hope for 2022 after all. 

True, the year started out much like the one before, with mask mayhem, COVID conspiracies and cruise ship controversies commanding much of Key West’s attention. 

But as I revisited all 51 issues of the Key West Weekly, all papers from the past year, progress became apparent and 2022 — the good, the bad and the ridiculous — was added to the archives.

Here’s how the year looks in hindsight and headlines…

JANUARY

  • KW launches Bicentennial year
  • COVID elsewhere brings crowds, then COVID cases soar in the Keys
  • Vandals set fire to Southernmost Point buoy early New Year’s Day 
  • Wounded Warriors return for Soldier Ride
  • Key West Music Awards launches to recognize local talent
  • Kmart closes in Key Plaza
  • Publix buys Searstown Plaza
  • Candidates launch campaigns for school board and state representative
  • Old Seven Mile Bridge reopens in Marathon to national fanfare
  • Keys Weekly’s Marathon Editor Alex Rickert interviews Candlebox frontman Kevin Martin before Key West concert
  • Florida politicians indulge in dessert debate between key lime pie and strawberry shortcake
  • Tallahassee bill takes aim at local government ordinances
  • School Board tackles new $17 million football stadium for Key West High School
  • New, pro-quality soccer field opens at Truman Waterfront

FEBRUARY

  • Key West music man Lofton “Coffee” Butler dies at 93
  • School Board postpones stadium construction until after 2023 Conch baseball season 
  • Keys Weekly hangs out with Major League pitcher — and surgery namesake — Tommy John
  • Kelly McGillis Classic brings women’s flag football tournament back to Key West
  • Darren Horan and Gabrielle Brown enter school board race
  • Key West’s famous flamingos, Rhett and Scarlet, at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, turn 10 on Valentine’s Day
  • Sheriff Rick Ramsay sends strong message to Pagans MC following drug and gun arrests of members
  • Nick Brownell wins Entertainer of Year at the inaugural Key West Music Awards
  • College of the Florida Keys breaks ground on new charter high school on Key West campus
  • Cruise ship compromise seems likely: Close the city-operated Mallory and Outer Mole piers and send all ships to the privately owned Pier B
  • Opening Day of Conch Baseball
  • Historian Tom Hambright retires after 36 years
  • KW Airport improvement plans continue
  • Headdress Ball returns after 3 COVID postponements
  • Santa Clara makes repair plan
  • Mallory Square makeover talk
  • Former Key West city commissioner Barry Gibson dies after cancer battle

MARCH

  • Keys Weekly’s 4-part series dives into the causes and casualties of the Keys’ housing crisis
  • Cruise ship compromise gets approval — close city piers, leave private Pier B alone
  • Florida pushes back on mask mandates
  • Sheriff Rick Ramsay asks Gov. Ron DeSantis for more state police troopers
  • Florida Keys communities support Ukraine with flags and fundraisers 
  • Wreckers Cay affordable apartments take shape on Stock Island
  • Boat carrying 356 Haitian migrants runs aground off Upper Keys
  • Great Resignation impacts local schools, where teachers are tough to find
  • The Beach Boys play Key West Amphitheater 
  • Parental Rights in Education bill is nicknamed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill
  • Housing at Truman Waterfront makes headway with city-approved ground lease
  • Keys see marked spike in migrant landings
  • Basilica School announces return of Catholic high school to Truman Avenue campus
  • Officials make sidewalk cafe tables — popularized during the pandemic — a permanent option for local restaurants
  • Key West celebrates Bicentennial with time capsule ceremony at Mallory Square

APRIL

  • Cruise controversy continues. SCS opposes Pier B’s voluntarily limits
  • State representative race heats up between Rhonda Rebman Lopez and Jim Mooney
  • Sally O’Brien’s replaces Shanna Key Pub on Flagler Avenue
  • Documentary about Key West’s bicentennial debuts
  • Some officials demand no nudity at Fantasy Fest
  • City approves Frederick Douglass Community Center upgrades in Bahama Village
  • Musician Adam Lambert joins Keys Weekly’s podcast before Key West concert
  • Keys historic fishing bridges are crumbling; 7 of 23 bridges are closed for safety
  • Key West Police Department continues to support Autism Society of the Keys 
  • Shooting threat via text prompts temporary lockdown at Key West High School 
  • Sloppy Joe’s Bar turns 85

MAY

  • City officials blame state legislators for local government’s’ inability to limit vacation rentals
  • Margaret Romero challenges Teri Johnston in Key West mayor’s race
  • Governor Ron DeSantis appoints Jim Scholl to replace Eddie Martinez on county commission
  • Dead 51-foot sperm whale is towed to Robbie’s Marina on Stock Island; plastic and nets contributed to its death
  • Charlie Crist brings his campaign for governor to Key West
  • Conch baseball and softball teams win Districts for Key West High School
  • Bahia Honda Beach reopens 5 years after Hurricane Irma
  • Amateur drag pageant at Key West Theater benefits Samuel’s House
  • Capt. Beth Regoli takes helm at Naval Air Station Key West, inherits housing issues
  • Roy’s Trailer Park residents receive notice of park closure; then owners decide to keep park open
  • Wealthy neighbors offer to build teacher housing on school district’s Trumbo Road property
  • Lady Conchs take Key West softball to first state championship bid
  • Key West port director Doug Bradshaw resigns after 2 years of cruise ship controversy
  • Somerset Island Prep charter high school holds third jet ski graduation
  • School shooting in Uvalde, Texas prompts security reviews at Keys schools
  • Parasail accident in Marathon kills visiting mother; captain faces charges

JUNE

  • Key West shouts gay during Pride amid statewide controversy over Parental Rights in Education bill, nicknamed the Don’t Say Gay bill
  • Hurricane grotto at Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea turns 100
  • Nominations open for 2022 Bubbas: Key West People’s Choice Awards
  • Key West and Naval Air Station eagerly anticipate release of “Maverick: Top Gun 2”
  • Lady Conchs lose in softball semifinals
  • Florida politicians debate official state dessert; strawberry shortcake beats Key lime pie
  • Sheriff Rick Ramsay shares gun control thoughts with Keys Weekly in wake of Uvalde shooting
  • Corey Malcom succeeds Tom Hambright as keeper of the library’s Keys History Department
  • District IV city commission race draws 4 hopefuls
  • AH Monroe says it will pass Fantasy Fest King & Queen fundraising campaign to another nonprofit recipient for 2023
  • Rising gas prices fuel concerns for Keys captains and local water sports companies
  • Keys Energy Services customers face 30% spike in power bills
  • Keys community rallies to replace AHEC funds denied by state legislature 
  • City Attorney Shawn Smith announces plans to stick around for a contract renewal (But that was then; see November headlines.)
  • House fire destroys Laird Street home, leaves owners and tenants homeless and damages neighbors’ home

JULY

  • Key Westers protest Florida’s new 15-week abortion restriction
  • The Lofts affordable housing at Truman Waterfront moves forward
  • City commission talks genitalia and breasts; some officials want nudity ban at Fantasy Fest
  • Marine sanctuary revisits Restoration Blueprint to update management plan
  • Monkeypox reaches the Keys
  • Painted tatas will be allowed at this year’s Fantasy Fest; mayor wants changes in 2023
  • Our own 2022 Bubbas: Key West People’s Choice Awards draw 400,000 votes from every continent except Antarctica
  • Celebrity motorsports stuntman Travis Pastrana speaks with Keys Weekly editors — then jumps Boot Key Bridge 
  • Cow Key Bridge gets new designation: Cheryl Cates Memorial Bridge 
  • Hometown’s first candidate forum gets feisty
  • The Bubbas Awards Gala is a huge and hilarious success at Key West Theater

AUGUST

  • Key West earns distinction as a Coast Guard City; Admiral Linda Fagan, commandant of the U.S Coast Guard, attends ceremony
  • Keys Weekly adds a local sports section, with comprehensive coverage of high school sports and a weekly sports podcast by Tracy and Sean McDonald
  • Governor Ron DeSantis backs Republican school board candidates Darren Horan, who won, and Alexandria Suarez, who didn’t
  • Local Vietnam veteran Alvin Alce receives long-overdue Purple Heart
  • Key West starts search for new city manager
  • Women’s Choice march opposes the Supreme Court decision to overturns Roe v. Wade 
  • Key West voters re-elect Mayor Teri Johnston
  • District 4 city commission race heads to runoff between Lissette Cuervo Carey and Kim Highsmith

SEPTEMBER

  • Keys Weekly dives deep into massive uptick in migrant landings 
  • Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez visits Key West while campaigning for Gov. Ron DeSantis
  • Half Shell Raw Bar celebrates 50 years at Key West Harbor
  • County commissioners make splash at new Pine Channel Park on Big Pine 
  • Short-term rental talk packs city hall; realtors slam proposed restrictions
  • Florida faces unmanageable insurance issues
  • Public housing complex is renamed for Lang Milian
  • British war story has Key West ties; Englishwoman kept photos of Philip Toppino for 80 years
  • Keys Weekly celebrates 19 years of local news — #localmatters
  • Racial tension rattles city hall: Black educators museum wants more donated space, officials want more info
  • Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk comes home to Key West after 3 months in Africa
  • Keys recall Queen Elizabeth II’s 1991 visit to Dry Tortugas following her death on Sept. 8
  • Conch football season starts strong
  • Conch baseball Coach Ralph Henriquez and wife DeeDee Henriquez buy Kilwins Chocolates on Duval Street
  • Key West officials approve floating seaweed barrier at South Beach
  • The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea launches fundraising campaign to bring Catholic high school back to Key West
  • Hurricane Ian floods Key West as it sideswipes the Keys
  • Fire destroys businesses and displaces dozens of residents at Flagler Avenue complex

OCTOBER

  • Key West recovers from Hurricane Ian; awaits FEMA help for flood victims
  • Community comes together with food, donations and support after Hurricane Ian
  • Hometown hosts final candidates forum
  • Congressman Carlos Gimenez visits Key West following Hurricane Ian
  • Key West officials hear post-storm kudos and criticism
  • Key West leaders frustrated by county officials’ reluctance to open shelter for liveaboards and homeless residents
  • Keys Weekly gets 1 on 1 interview with music legend Warren Haynes
  • Warren Haynes & Gov’t Mule rock Key West Amphitheater
  • TDC denies county funding request for bicentennial event; county commission then overrides denial and approves the $150K 
  • City commission still wants use of Admiral’s Cut, despite cruise ship rift with its owners at Pier B
  • Carlos Home and Fran Decker crowned King & Queen of Fantasy Fest
  • Zombie Ride draws 6,500 costumed bicyclists
  • Fantasy Fest 2022 boosts Key West businesses
  • Crowds force African-themed float from Fantasy Fest parade — Black community blames racism, officials blame float’s slow progress that left 2-block gap

NOVEMBER

  • Powerboat races roar back to Key West
  • City Attorney Shawn Smith submits scathing resignation letter; takes job at Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority
  • Key West officials choose Stantec consultants to handle Duval Street revitalization
  • Key West International Airport breaks ground on $100 million upgrade
  • Key West’s new housing director fired after 4 months
  • Lissette Cuervo-Carey defeats Kim Highsmith in District IV city commission race
  • Republican incumbents win big — DeSantis, Rubio, Gimenez, Mooney easily keep seats
  • Bayview Park benches dedicated to suicide prevention; pavilion named for One Human Family
  • Hogfish Bar & Grill celebrates 20 years on Stock Island
  • Former Key West Yacht Club manager arrested for theft and gun threats
  • Keys Weekly scores interview with rock star photographer Danny Clinch
  • ‘The Nutcracker, Key West” returns to the stage at Tennessee Williams Theater
  • Annual hurricane flag-burning ceremony celebrates end of 2022 storm season
  • Former county commissioner Sylvia Murphy dies at 86

DECEMBER

  • Ground-breaking on Trumbo Road celebrates public-private partnership in which wealthy neighbors fund housing for sheriff’s office employees “in their backyard” 
  • City manager job draws 43 applicants; search consultant narrows list to 9 finalists, including 4 locals
  • Key Westers share memories of the late college football Coach Mike Leach, a resident and champion of Key West

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she’s been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. “Local news is crucial,” she says. “It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover – Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time.”
Mandy’s married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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