Key West officials on Tuesday denounced multiple proposals by Tallahassee politicians, who convened this week for the legislative session.
The city commission threw the challenge flag at House Bill 1011, which, if passed, will make the Conch Republic flag and the rainbow flag illegal at Key West government buildings.
Proposed by Republican State Rep. David Borrero of the Miami-Dade area, HB 1011 would allow government buildings to display only the American flag, the Florida flag, the POW/MIA flag and the Firefighter Memorial flag.
Key West business owner Jim Gilleran, who owns a gay bar and produces the city’s annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration, urged Key West lawmakers at their March 7 city commission meeting to voice their opposition to Republican State Rep. Jim Mooney, who represents the Florida Keys.
“Gainesville and Tallahassee buildings couldn’t display the UF and FSU flags,” Gilleran said. “It’s onerous, ridiculous and would take away a community’s right to display flags that reflect those communities.”
Key West Commissioner Jimmy Weekley spoke vehemently against the flag bill and others being proposed in Tallahassee.
“So many of our rights are being taken away, and we must speak out,” Weekley said. “If this passes, I’d like to give direction to our city not to remove those flags. We have a governor running around the country, saying Florida is a free state — unless you disagree with him. We cannot let this man become the leader of this country. This is a fascist movement and it scares me.”
Commissioner Sam Kaufman noted that the bill “would seem to be a violation of our First Amendment rights.”
City Attorney Ron Ramsingh acknowledged that the bill is currently being reviewed by a state constitutional committee, which could come to the same conclusion, though that remains to be seen.
(Although Florida Statutes protect and prohibit the mutilation of the Confederate flag, its display would also be prohibited at government buildings under House Bill 1011. “No person shall publicly mutilate, deface, defile, defy, trample upon, or by word or act cast contempt upon the flags of the Confederacy, or replicas thereof, for crass or commercial purposes; provided however nothing contained herein shall be construed to prevent or prohibit the use of such flags for decorative or patriotic purposes,” states Florida Statute 256.10.)
The Key West commission also voted to oppose the state Department of Education’s decision to prohibit advanced placement courses about African-American Studies.
Commissioner Clayton Lopez spoke passionately about the importance of American history — all facets of American history.
Finally, the Key West commission passed a resolution opposing House Bill 807, which, if passed, would allow any driver with a taxi or vehicle-for-hire license from one county or city to operate a vehicle-for-hire in any other county or city without being subject to additional licensing or permitting requirements.
“Anyone could come here, from anywhere else in Florida, and operate as a taxi or vehicle for hire on a busy weekend,” Weekley said. “This is deregulation without an ordinance.”
Ramsingh agreed, saying, “They could come and operate in Monroe County as long as their license is in good standing wherever it originated.”
Key West and other cities have long regulated and restricted the issuance of taxi and vehicle-for-hire licenses to prohibit price gouging, unlicensed “gypsy” cabs, traffic congestion posed by loitering cabs and other difficulties in the industry.