When it comes to swatting the big issues of the day, there's a small insect that rises above all other threats in the Florida Keys: the mighty mosquito.
The issue is so important in the Keys, there's a special board elected to control the flying bloodsuckers. Mosquitoes are linked to many diseases, including Dengue fever, which recently showed up in Key West. According to David Goodhue of the Florida Keys Keynoter, "It's the one office that people don't mind paying taxes for. It's a big deal because without it, the Keys would largely be uninhabitable."
Goodhue says tourists often wonder why helicopters are constantly strafing the Overseas Highway. It's Monroe County Mosquito Control taking care of business. The board has control of a multi-million dollar budget, a fleet of trucks and even has it's own little fleet of planes and choppers constantly spraying pesticides along the roadway.
That's why when you visit the Keys during election season, you see signs bearing the infamous mosquitoes, advertising candidates running for the five-member commission.
In addition to mosquitoes, Keys residents are also worried about sewer systems. Leaky cesspits discharging waste in to the seawater has been a major environmental concern. The runoff problem may be contributing to the destruction of the near-shore reefs that provide the Keys with its crucial fishing industry. Goodhue said there are new rules in place. "Since the Keys are an area of critical state concern, everyone must connect to a centralized advanced sewer system by 2015." Most municipalities are on track for the changes, with the exception of the village of Islamorada.
Listen to the full conversation above.