To the astonishment of most, but not all, a bill is being drafted in Tallahassee to dissolve the entity known as the City of Key West, transferring all assets, liabilities and income to the county. by Monroe. It is the ultimate preemption of the state.

Anyone wondering how this sweeping decision was made need only look at the mayor, city commissioners and some city administrators. Last year, the commission shirked its duty as a port administrator and allowed a group of malicious agitators to dictate port policy. Safer Cleaner Ships (SCS), used subterfuge, disinformation, lies and emotionally charged slurs to trick Key West voters into approving drastic port restrictions. The effectiveness of their propaganda machine would have made Joseph Goebbels blush with admiration. The referendums that were then passed canceled 95% of the cruise ships scheduled for Key West, effectively crippling our port’s marine infrastructure and barring significant revenue from the city’s treasury. Rather than the “will of the people,” the referendum passage was the tyranny of the uninformed majority.

If anyone thinks the state of Florida will allow a virtual shutdown of a commercial deepwater port, they don’t care. This aggression simply will not hold up. As a result, the state passed legislation last summer that abolished referendum vessel restrictions. Obviously, the mayor, the commission and the administrators did not pay attention to it. Last summer, the SCS ‘tactic of drafting orders to reinstate the restrictions was formalized by the commission, in defiance of the state legislature.

More insidious was the fact that Mayor Teri Johnston arrogantly and rudely told the executives of Virgin Voyages that their state-of-the-art ship would not be allowed in Key West because it is larger than the referendum size restrictions. Likewise, in a Zoom meeting, the city manager declined to consider a memorandum of understanding with Carnival Cruise Line that did not include referendum restrictions. Their actions have not gone unnoticed in Tallahassee. Tallahassee officials have either interpreted their actions as misconduct or, at worst, a violation of state law. This is why the abolition legislation was drafted last week. Someday, in a hearing or courtroom, they may have to answer for their behavior.

In the meantime, the commission continues to take the ineffective route of hiring an expensive outside lawyer to draft the restraining orders while simultaneously pursuing a “mediated” deal regarding cruise ship traffic. How can the parties to the mediation have confidence in the process as the city seeks to impose the vessel restrictions by ordinance at the same time? I am one of the parties involved in mediation and I believe the adjudication process is a betrayal of the mediation effort.

There is a very simple solution to the entire cruise ship fiasco, if only the commission fully engages in its port management tasks rather than continuing to bow down to SCS. The people of Key West deserve conscientious representation from their elected officials. It will take courage and it will be interesting to see which Commissioner, if any, takes a leadership role.

Is the state going to dissolve the city of Key West? Quite possible, but unlikely. However, the mayor, commissioners and city manager should take note of the “state shot.” Ignored warnings are often followed by a salvo.

John E. Wells
Ship agent, retired



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