It is an old political truism that the best, long-lasting solutions to a contentious problem come from a compromise between adversarial parties. But there is no voice for compromise on the Key West City Commission. 

Striving for compromise requires political courage, open-mindedness and firm leadership by the mayor and commissioners.  It mostly calls for respect for others’ opinions. Our mayor has shown none of those qualities with regard to the cruise ship debate. Unable or unwilling to oversee a civil, respectful public meeting on July 12, she made it clear she is firmly behind shutting down our historic seaport to cruise ships. More alarming, she has allowed the Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships (SCS) to become the actual Port Authority. Apparently, all city port decisions must be approved by them. Regardless of their politics, do Key West voters want a mayor who routinely assigns authority to an unelected group of political activists?

The mayor’s coaches at Safer Cleaner Ships had no intention to compromise as they wrote the infamous referenda with the goal of prompting “the ending of cruise ships in Key West as we know it.”  Some of the SCS speakers said the referenda actually were a compromise, allowing a few small ships to dock.  But reneging on 95% of ship berth reservations, approved by the port director and on the books, is no compromise. 

If ever there was an opportunity to set up a path to compromise by forming a Citizens’ Working Group, last Monday night’s meeting was it. Instead, the mayor ignored the city attorney’s dire warnings and publicly directed him to seek ways to breach the city’s contract with Pier B. Such an act will trigger a massive lawsuit that will almost certainly bankrupt the city. It was a reckless move by a person charged with overseeing the public well-being.  

If anyone doubts the mayor’s unseemly devotion to the anti-cruise misleaders, they need only look at her bizarre request to have attorneys from SCS draft ordinances that will apply the referenda restrictions to all cruise piers in Key West. She clearly has more regard for and allegiance to that group, than to the city attorney and the Key West taxpayers.

The mayor will say she only wants to protect Keys waters and the reef while upholding voters’ wishes. In reply, I challenge her and all commissioners to read the report summary of the 30-year reef study by FAU, the FIU report on turbidity, and best of all – the 2020 NOAA Status Report on Reef Condition. None of them attribute reef and coral decline to ships. Also, the commission should have the port director send over the Mallory underwater survey with all the photos of the thriving corals there.

But such things require paradigm changes. And those require introspection and courage.

Sincerely,

John E. Wells

Ships’ Agent

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