letter to the editor

TO OFFICIALS ABOUT CRUISE SHIPS: “IT IS TOO LATE for you to enter this discussion.”

letter to the editor

An Open Letter to Commissioner Sam Kaufman and other City of Key West Elected Officials:

by Christine Russel:

The City of Key West has had what seems a lifetime to manage the cruise ship industry and create/implement a plan to manage tourism in general. With the channel widening issue we suggested that sustainable tourism be promoted. What has the TDC, Chamber, or City done?! NOTHING!

And now IT IS TOO LATE for you to enter this discussion. We citizens/voters are about to democratically vote on the referendums we felt we needed to put on the ballot. WE ARE YOUR PRIMARY STAKEHOLDERS. This is our community and cruise ships slowly over the years have ruined the character & ambiance of KW. Our quality of life has changed so dramatically with the increase of these ships and the resulting conch trains/trolleys clogging our streets and adding unwanted additional noise (noise leads to stress).

But this is about so much more than just our quality of life and the environment – it is about our safety. Our lives. Health, safety and welfare – those are your primary obligations to the citizens you represent and time has proven these ships are not only dangerous but deadly.

Business has the Chamber and TDC to promote their interests. You had your chance over many years to manage the cruise ship industry in KW – you did not.

Commissioner Sam, we have been friends for many years. I have always had a great deal of respect for you as a voice of reason, an alternative legal opinion and a representative of the people. And for those reasons, I and others were shocked to learn you sponsored this Item #11 on Tuesday’s upcoming Commission meeting:

*Directing the City Manager to obtain input from community stakeholders to develop policies regarding cruise ships in the City of Key West; Directing the City Manager to report findings at the Commission meeting scheduled for September 1, 2020. Sponsors: Vice Mayor Kaufman

The actual Resolution [is below]. Personally, I find it totally unacceptable at this very late date before OUR CITIZENS VOTE.

I agree with you that there should have been (past tense) a dialog. Tony Yaniz called for this many times. He was ignored for too long. With the citizens having talked about the cruise ship problem for YEARS and the city ignoring us and doing nothing – UNTIL NOW!, frankly it is just too late.

With our citizens Referendum items pending WE EXPECT TO VOTE. You, the other commissioners and the Mayor should be REPRESENTING THE CITIZENS, NOT THE CRUISE SHIP INDUSTRY.

I ask for 3 actions:

  1. KEY WEST CITIZENS/VOTERS: It is very important that you comment at keywestcity.granicusideas.com Right under “Meetings” click on City Commission 2020-7-21 then scroll down to item #11 and click on ‘comment’. [Here is one comment that has already been made]: “If this resolution passes, the Bar Pilots will be given an official city platform to lobby against the referendum, even as they are suing to block people from voting on it,” [Arlo Haskell of the Committee for Safer Cleaner Ships.]
  2. MAYOR AND COMMISSIONERS: We expect you to again take no action and make no stand on this cruise ship resolution at this meeting. Sadly we could not depend on our Commission (including many before you) to represent our best interests. We have now taken matters into our own hands.
  3. COMMISSIONER SAM KAUFMAN: Allow the democratic process to proceed. WITHDRAW YOUR RESOLUTION.


Watch this very carefully Key West!

Christine Russell

Key West


RESOLUTION NO. ____________


WHEREAS, the City Commission finds that cruise ships have significant impacts on the quality of life, environment and the economy of the City of Key West; and

WHEREAS, the City Commission finds it would be useful to develop policies, taking into consideration the concerns of all relevant stakeholders including but not limited to old town residents, merchants from the Duval Street commercial corridor, charter boat fishing associations, Chamber of Commerce, environmental groups, Harbor Pilots Association, tour operators and more; and

WHEREAS, coherent local policies embraced by the cruise ship industry would enhance the health, welfare and safety of residents of the City of Key West; and


Section 1: That the City Manager is hereby directed to solicit and accept input from community stakeholders including but not limited to old town residents, merchants from the Duval Street commercial corridor, charter boat fishing association, Chamber of Commerce, environmental groups, Harbor Pilots Association, tour operators and more with regard to policies to govern cruise ships calling on the City of Key West.

Section 2: That the City Manager and other concerned parties should consider proposed policies that may include, but are not limited to:

(1) The City will develop a plan to reduce congestion caused by cruise ship disembarkations in the Old Town area by limiting the number of passengers (inclusive of the potential limitation of number of ships that can be docked at any one time). This can be accomplished by directly negotiating with individual cruise lines that are willing and able to accomplish this goal. The number of passenger disembarkations should be reasonable for the Old Town area concerned and the cruise ships that are in the Caribbean market and available to dock in Key West.

(2) The City will develop a plan by negotiating directly with cruise lines to extend the length of stay in port. This will allow for greater opportunity for passengers to enjoy other areas of the City outside of Old Town such as the beaches, fishing charters and more.

(3) The City shall develop a plan to expand the docking opportunities for cruise ship lines with the best environmental and health records. The City should look at other ports within and outside the U.S. for examples to potentially follow.

Section 3: That the City Manager is directed to report his cruise ship findings and recommendations to the City Commission at its regular meeting of September 1, 2020.

Section 4: That this Resolution shall go into effect immediately upon its passage and adoption and authentication by the signature of the Presiding Officer and the Clerk of the Commission.

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4 thoughts on “TO OFFICIALS ABOUT CRUISE SHIPS: “IT IS TOO LATE for you to enter this discussion.”

  1. Part of the problem with the referenda is that it goes from one extreme to another: 418 cruise ship visits down to 25 visits. Maybe there are too many visits now but the alternative, especially in this pandemic business climate, is way too harsh with no logical compromise. Seems like a compromise would be to cut the number of visits down to 350 or 300 a year. Plus is there any guarantee that even 25 visits can be arranged with smaller cruise lines? What about the original claim, and later dispute about the number of 833 jobs would be lost? If 833 is not correct, then how many jobs will be lost? Too many question marks for me.

    1. Regards reducing the number of cruise passengers being disgorged into Key West — the Pandemic has solved that problem until a vaccine occurs. Among the almost certain planks of cruises returning to the seas, is they will will reduce occupancy onboard by 25 to 50%, to allow for adequate spacing aboard ship. Which means, of course, once cruising resumes, which will not be until 2021 in US waters most likely, that many fewer guests will arrive in Key West.

  2. When the first cruise ships came to Key West they were welcomed, but they were completely different from those that come now, or rather did come, pre-pandemic. In the 1970’s they were small ocean liners, some of the last of their breed. They came only occasionally, with relatively few, and relatively well-to-do, passengers. They had no real negative effects on downtown Key West, since their economic impact was small and intermittent.

    However, the cruise ships as they are now, monstrous behemoths that arrive many times per week, disgorging several thousands of passengers a day, have had a profound negative impact on downtown Key West. Much of that whole end of town has been turned into a cesspool of cheap Chinese trinkets, outrageously prices cosmetics, vulgar t-shirts, and a nightly generic circus. The giant water-borne hotels regularly block the view of the sunset, which the agreement allowing them to come to port expressly forbids. They foul the air with the smoke from their funnels, and cloud the water with the silt churned up by their giant screws and maneuvering thrusters.

    They are health and environmental hazards in the best of times. In the current pandemic, they are clearly out of the question for health reasons. At any time they pose a serious threat to what is left of our fragile marine environment. Can you say “Costa Concordia?” How about “Exxon Valdez?” Yes, I thought you could. A grounding of one of these giants, for whatever reason, be it mechanical failure, weather related, or human error, could easily be a disaster of unprecedented proportions for the Keys.

    Sure, a few people make bank on the daily throngs. But we should all take this opportunity during the absence of the cruise ships to ask ourselves if they are worth the costs, and the risks. I think that they are not.

    1. Contra Puncto, You make some very good points in a respectful and thoughtful manner, and I am fully aware of environmental issues as I have previously proposed making the Truman Waterfront Park a World Wide Focal Point to bring attention to the cleaning up of plastics and other debris from our reefs and oceans.

      I am just weighing the pros and cons and have heard both sides of the argument. The question of ‘exactly’ how many jobs would be lost if all three of the referenda is passed still seems up-in-the-air, and then what happens to those people who might lose their jobs.

      All in all considered, I still say that the difference between 418 cruise ship visits down to 25 visits is too drastic with one choice too much and the other not enough. The decision on this issue would also be much easier if small cruise lines had already been contacted, and they in turn gave us their projected plans in detail.

      Thanks for your input.

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