Dear Editor,

Key West and its people have a fierce sense of independence. When the Confederacy overran Florida in the run-up to the Civil War, we sided with the Union and equal rights for all. When the United States supported Spanish rule and enslavement of the Cuban people, we backed José Martí and the revolutionaries that fought for Cuban independence. 

When the Reagan Administration treated Key West as a foreign nation in the 1980s, we staged one of the world’s most elaborate and effective PR stunts, “seceding” from the U.S. and establishing the Conch Republic. This gambit forced the United States government to cave to the demands of tiny Key West.

In 2020, a new chapter is being written in our island’s history books. With the filing of the cruise ship referenda back in June, a small band of brothers and 2,500 fellow citizens challenged some of the most powerful corporations in the world. Now, we are just days away from one of the most consequential decisions in Key West’s proud history.

Who will control Key West after the pandemic has passed? Will the voters claim this right for themselves and approve common-sense regulations that limit the size of cruise ships calling on Key West? Or will we continue to let foreign-owned corporations like Carnival and Royal Caribbean decide what is best for our people and our city?

This election is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take the future of our island out of the hands of foreign corporations and give it back to the citizens.

You can vote yes or no.

Choose yes, and Key West will apply common-sense limits to an unregulated industry. The cruise ships that call here in the future will be smaller than the giants we see today. They’ll have a minimal risk of infectious disease outbreak. They’ll have less impact on our environment. They’ll carry higher-spending passengers. They’ll foster economic growth by protecting the lucrative overnight sector of our tourist industry, strengthening the appeal of our diverse, locally-owned hotels, restaurants, and retail businesses.


Choose no, and large cruise ships will continue to be a drag on our economy, rewarding a handful of businesses with low-cost, high-volume sales models and high employee turnover. The rest of the business community will suffer. Fishermen, divers and others that depend on a healthy ecosystem will lose their livelihoods as our marine environment suffers. Independent, locally owned businesses and young entrepreneurs will continue to struggle in a business environment dominated by deep-pocketed outsiders.

In my view, there are a lot of good reasons to vote yes to safer, cleaner, smaller cruise ships. This is about who we are as Key Westers. It’s about how we take care of our home. We look at the facts. We make our own decisions. We fight for what’s right.

Arlo Haskell 
Key West Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships.

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