Key West Wants To Stay Safe, Florida Lawmakers Say: "No"
Have you ever been to Key West? It's delightful. It's the type of place I'd love to retire in. Beautiful weather, small little island town (just over 7 sq miles), amazing fishing and food. It's all the good of Miami without the peacocks. Except for the beaches, Key West's are nothing to write home about. Plenty of nightlife minus the tiki-tiki club music and Molly. It's a little slice of heaven.
Being the southernmost point of the continental United States means that tourism is the biggest employer in Monroe County by far (44% of all jobs). So it might surprise you to learn that back in November Key West voted to cap the number of cruise ship passengers who could disembark to visit their paradise. They also voted to give "docking priorities to cruise lines with the best health and environmental records."
So why would a town whose primary source of income is tourism want to do all that?
Although cruise ships bring 50 percent of all tourists to Key West, they bring only 6 percent of tourist spending
Arlo Haskell, Committe organizer, 2/16/21
The tourist who stays overnight is obviously going to spend more, but they also are much less likely to bring the disease with them and spread it to the community than a tourist visiting off a cruise ship. They just aren't worth the trouble.
I happened to have been in Key West a couple of months ago and it was perfect. No cruise ships, of course, so no cruise-ship-tourist, but I didn't get that eerie ghost-town-mid-pandemic feeling. Quite the opposite actually, there were tons of tourists, mostly in-state from what I could tell. Businesses were open and booming - shops, art galleries, restaurants, bars, drag shows, you name it.
The city simply does not need cruise ship tourism right now. Not at the risk of public safety and health. So that's how Key West residents voted. That should be the end of that, right? Nope!
Yesterday I wrote about a Florida bill being proposed by some square named Spencer Roach (R-North Ft. Myers) that wants to put more restrictions on a cannabis industry that is already handcuffed. Well, this same motherfucker is supporting a "preemption bill" that "would retroactively bar local governments from regulating seaport business, including restricting a vessel’s type or size."
So what they are trying to do is take the control out of the hands of the people who will be directly impacted. Both in their finances and, more importantly, their health. The people voted on the issue, and lawmakers are trying to change the outcome retroactively. That is not democracy.
Speaking of that vote back in November. In the months leading up to the vote, cruise companies did some seriously shady shit to try to swing the minds of voters. I recommend reading the whole article but basically, they used a legal, but ethically shaky, mailing campaign to spread misleading and ominous information meant to scare Key West residents into voting their way.
Right now no cruise ships are operating, so the issue is in limbo. But when they do, Key West voters should be the ones to decide on how to proceed.
Not lawmakers like Spencer Roach.
Key West: "We want to more safety, health and welfare."
Florida lawmakers: "Tough shit."