We are closing in on election day and personally I can't wait for it to be over. Locally the cruise ship question is exercising local minds over whether to encourage large ships or not. The vote on Tuesday in three parts will keep things as they are, open season for cruise ships, or voters will tell the city to keep larger ships away while encouraging smaller cruises with fewer passengers and a smaller environmental footprint.
I have noticed in my walks downtown, mostly taken before dawn to avoid the unflagging heat and humidity as well as the mask-free daytime crowds, there are many boarded up storefronts. In a town used to frequent turn over it is not entirely odd but the number of them this time is rather startling to me.
I was speaking with a long time business owner downtown about the referendum and he said he voted no as he feels it's not his place to stifle other businesses which seems a reasonable position to take. Even though he doesn't benefit directly he said he does meet a fair number of customers first attracted to the city from the decks of a cruise ship.
I also pointed out the drive a few years ago to spread cruise ship customers further afield down the length of Duval Street to allow others to benefit form their buying power. Which rings rather strange considering how the sentiment put about town now is to get rid of large cruise ships.
The strongest argument against them is to reduce silt covering the reef as coral doesn't do well in silty water but as far as downtown goes not many local venture where cruise ship passengers roam anyway. The debate hasn't been particularly edifying with both sides shouting the usual over the heads of the voters, taxes versus environment, as usual as though the two are incompatible.
The White House overruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has allowed cruise lines to start up again this week provided they achieve the impossible and pack people onto their ships while keeping them socially distanced and so forth. It doesn't sound very sensible to me but no one is asking my opinion.
In a world filled with lawyers it seems unlikely that simple vote will end the controversy over cruise ships but what does seem likely is that this vote will mark a transition for Key West. The mayor has made it known she wants fewer and more upscale visitors and she got reelected in the proverbial landslide so one might assume this cruise ship vote is the first step in that new direction.
Key West has always lived a little bit by its own rules, given the isolation and the climate and the ability of the city to offer a living to all sorts of shady characters over the centuries. However just as electricity has provided all modern conveniences so the Internet and television have worked their magic to break down barriers, first TV and later the Web.
Instant communications and location-free work mean anyone can live and earn a living or monitor others doing work from a small home at the distant end of the road. The unique backwater charm of Key West can only be eroded. And without physical shops low paid work will be even less available. So Key West as funky eccentric destination, always at risk of gentrification seems to be pushing that ideal state nowadays.