Power to The People!


There is much controversy surrounding voter rights in Key West with respect to curbing cruise ship traffic right now. Back in November, citizens believed that their vote about the cruise traffic in Key West mattered. There were three referendums on the ballot. The first one limited the amount of people that can disembark from cruise ships to 1500 per day. The second allowed only ships with the capacity of 1300 people or less to dock at any cruise ship dock in Key West. And the final one gave priority to the cruise lines with the best health safety and environmental records. The majority of voters passed all three items.

However, the people’s victory was soon upended. On June 29th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an amendment to the Transportation Bill overriding the Key West Cruise Ship Referendums. As a community rooted in humanity and togetherness, Jolly Benson, the VP of Safer Cleaner Ships, expressed his, and the people of Key West’s efforts to reverse the effect of the new law. He states, “We are using all available tools to say, ok, well, these referenda passed, and now were going to codify them in another language in the city, so they’ll become law, just in another way that will permit us to take action.” He points out that the preemption does not represent the people of Key West, and how citizens are disappointed in the end result of the vote.

When asked about the main argument in favor of the Transportation Bill, Benson says, “It’s stale. Those in power claim that while the cruise industry represents such a huge portion of the state economic landscape, that by removing one port, it would completely destabilize their entire industry and cost the state hundreds of billions of dollars. The reality is, however, that cruise ships will be just fine in the rest of the state, and without cruise ships, Key West’s revenues are up since 2019.” The arguments prove to be weak, as most of them are concerned with the economy, which happens to be doing well at this time. However, as happens in many situations, the reality of who’s going to get the bill passed all depends on who has power, despite the will of the community.

The community is working tirelessly to attempt to adopt the laws in a different way, in order for the locals to be heard. Although it is the community versus a multibillion dollar corporation, the people of Key West have hope and are not going to stop until they achieve justice. When discussing the controversial issue, Mayor Teri Johnston states, “It’s a complex story that distills the Florida experience in politics down into a single bite.” She exposes the truth of the matter, explaining that this is how those that have power are able to get away with so much. The economy is being prioritized, when it should really be highlighted how the environment will be affected. Mayor Johnston expresses her passion for her community and the people who live here. She says, “We should be responsible for representing every single citizen in the community. Hopefully we will be able to work together to craft a legally sensible way to overturn the status of the law.” Stay strong, Key West!

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