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April 5, 2020

City Commissioner Sam Kaufman: Do Good – But Do It Within Budget


sam-kaufmanWe here at The Blue Paper wanted to know what kind of city commissioner newly-elected Sam Kaufman is going to be. So, armed with questions ranging from affordable housing and homelessness to marijuana and the opening of Cuba, I made an appointment with Commissioner Kaufman and drove out to his law office in the Northside Office Center for an early morning meeting. As it turned out, I learned just about everything about what kind of city commissioner Attorney Kaufman is going to be when he answered my first and most mundane question: “Why did you run for city commission?

“I was chairman of the board of the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition for 15 years,” he said. “That’s the organization that had been managing the homeless shelter out on Stock Island for the city for seven years. And we had been asking the city for $20,000 to retrofit a new shower trailer that had been available for donation to the city. The trailer had been in need of replacement for a long time. But we were repeatedly told that the city didn’t have the money. But then I read in the paper that the new City Hall out on White Street was going to exceed the original budget by a couple of million dollars– but that city staff had “found” the money to cover the overrun. And then there was another overrun of a million dollars or so– and city staff found the money to cover that, too. Now, I am perfectly aware that it takes money to run a city,” Kaufman said. “But I also think that it is reasonable to expect the people who run the city to be able to set reasonable budgets and, then, to operate within those budgets.”

At that time, it was common knowledge that then-Commissioner Mark Rossi might not be running for re-election. “So I called him and asked for a meeting,” Kaufman said. “He invited me to meet with him at his bar.”

NOTE: Rightly or wrongly, I have to insert a little Blue Paper history here. After Rossi had first been elected, I called him for an interview. He invited me to meet with him at his bar. I was surprised to see posted on the wall of his office the headline of a story we had published on page one right after the election: “Finally! A City Commissioner Who Owns a Titty Bar!”

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