This time of year its possible to be on Duval Street and still be distanced from people but I was wearing a mask anyway. I thought it worth a try to see if I could snag some pictures.
You could blame the virus but September and October are low season, the time of year special events are created to lure people to hotel rooms. Plus those pesky cruise ship day trippers. This summer the fur is flying in Key West over whether or not allow cruise ships back after they start sailing at the end of the month with anyone brave enough to stew in close confinement with several hundred potential carriers.
City voters face three different questions on cruise ships which in essence of approved would drastically reduce the size and frequency of the ships in Key West. I expect that even if the voters approve the suggested changes there will be lawsuits aplenty for the foreseeable future before anything changes.
The idea is to reduce the size of ships and require them to meet anti-pollution standards rather than the pre-pandemic free for all with up to three shups a day and thousands of people wandering Lower Duval in search of the elusive essence of Key West.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Key West has been awash in competing claims over this cruise ship referendum. Supports say they have never seen coastal waters so clean after a six month coronavirus embargo. They say it will be easier to entice high dollar visitors to view marine wildlife in rejuvenated coral reefs not subjected to stress by cruise ships stirring up silt and muddying the waters.
The pilots who make a lot of money guiding the ships into Key West argue that effectively banning big ships will cost the city so much money 911 will not be answered promptly and taxes will go up and Armageddon will follow. I made this point to a well connected friend of mine who sniffed and said the city may lose a hundred thousand a year in ship fees. I was surprised as I thought the city made 2.5 million from fees paid to dock in Key West. Not so i was assured.
And so it goes on. I don't live in Key West so I don't vote on the issue and I haven't bestirred myself to get in the middle of the competing claims. I have a suspicion that if the vote does pass there will be some unintended and therefore unexpected consequences from any reduction in cruise ship dockings, but like Brexit and other momentous requests of citizens to decide complex questions the die is cast and the result will reflect on Key West one way or another. Consequences be damned.
Its the curse of every tourist town, you want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg because it makes noise and a mess and it annoys. The problem is you need the eggs so how do you kill the goose? The mayor ran on a platform of less mass tourism and more wealthy thoughtful tourists. Well, here we go.
She got 60% of the vote and though she won so handily, the paradox is that by re-electing the mayor the city has chosen the path of change. Mark Rossi the bar owner was the candidate of no change but his haphazard campaign and rather down at heel style only persuaded twenty percent of voters he was the stability they wanted. So now Key West faces a push to make Duval Street a pedestrian zone and the cruise ships to be limited to small eco boats with passengers fll to the brim with curiosity and the intention of spending money in town.
I can't wait for the pandemic to be over. People will come out of their caves, mask-less and ready to take on the issues of the new day. That will mean lots of meetings, tons of discussion and feelings running high was everything as usual will be at stake. And the city will abide anyway.