show and tell – Reef Relief, Cruise Ship relief, money talks, bull shit walks

queen conchwild queen conch

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Then, grab your best hold, or your bippies, or your whatever.

Re this photo I have been posting a lot,

cruise ship leaves Outer Mole

I reported in yesterday’s wakes, ripples and waves: Sanford, Key West, work mule lore post a conversation with a naval officer who was stationed at Naval Air Station Key West for many years.

  • Jim Brooks Sloan, that’s one old photo in your blog. It was taken before the harbor was dredged in 2004-2005. Do you know if cruise ships are still kicking up that much sand and dirt?
  • Sloan Bashinsky Do you know the photo’s date? The Citizen used it on the front page maybe 2 months ago. I have used it for maybe 2 years? I can’t answer your question, but will send it to someone who might be able to do that.
  • Jim Brooks It’s gotta be before 1998 because the old buildings on Truman Annex haven’t been raised yet. Back then, the channel depth was a few feet shallower (or more) than what it was post 2004-2005 dredge.
  • Sloan Bashinsky Do you know how deep the 2004-2005 dredge was? Do you know where they deposited what they dredged up? Do you know how long it takes for the dredged part to fill back in?
  • Jim Brooks All the documents were on file at the library. Ask Tom Hambright. The harbor was restored to a uniform depth if 36 feet. Dredge materials were deposited in an EPA permitted disposal site about 13 miles fm Key West AND at Trumbo Point near the Army Dive School (Fleming Key).
    Sloan Bashinsky Thanks. I found myself thinking yesterday, if cruise ships are not still tearing up the channel bottom, surely the pro-channel widening folks would have produced photograph proof after that photo was on the front page of the Key West Citizen?

As if a prayer was answered, Jolly and Will Benson’s father William emailed me yesterday afternoon.


Thanks for your advocacy on this matter.

I expect that you have gone on the website. On it is a video by my son, Willy, “Silver Lining.” He shot the picture of the cruise ships a few months ago. There is great, if depressing, shot of a huge plume of silt trailing one of cruise ships as it leaves the port. This happens every time a cruise ship enters and leaves. Anyone who claims that the maintenance dredging alleviated the problem of situation is not being truthful, obviously.

William Benson, President
Benson Green Technologies
175 Overseas Highway
Key West, FL 33040
(305) 296 3940

So, I went to that website and watched the “Silver Lining” video, and at the 10 min 42 sec part a lovely upchuck showed up, proving once again, there are no fig leaves in paradise, nor any secrets.

I had to get IT help from Matt Gardi and Elliot Barron with the photo below, which is good enough, as you will see if you watch the video. Great tarpon fly-fishing and reef scenes and information in the video.

cruise ship truth

Looks to me the channel pillage maybe got worse since the first photo was taken. And, is that the same cruise ship in both photos? Or two similar cruise ships?

I thought what wonderful NO CHANNEL WIDENING posters those two photos would make.

With that sweet dream in my thoughts, I drove down to Key West yesterday evening to attend Reef Relief’s annual meeting at Casa Marina.

Out front, I was handed a one-page statement from co-founder of Reef Relief, DeeVon Quirolo, dated July 14, 2013, blasting channel widening. However, I was unable to find it on on her and Craig Quirolo’s website:

The food was great, all the seats seemed to end up being filled. Later, Peter Anderson, Chairman of the Reef Relief Board would say all the food had been donated by various restaurants and Casa Marina had donated the meeting room, so the annual meeting had not cost Reef Relief anything.

Peter Anderson 2

Just before the formal meeting began, Peter came over to where I was talking with Joel Biddle about, well, Peter, who told me he had heard I had accused him of taking money out of Reef Relief. I said I had asked what his salary and benefits were? (in the growing greener every day Peter Anderson responds to allegations Reef Relief is trading with the enemy in Key West, and the reef’s rebuttal post of two days ago) Peter said he took no money out of Reef Relief, it was the founders who had done that. He turned and left to get ready to bring the meeting to order. I thought, darn, he only objected to one thing I wrote about him; all the rest must be true.

I have to say, Peter did a bang-up job with the meeting. The speakers persuaded me Reef Relief is doing great work trying to stem the unfavorable tide of pollution that unceasingly floats down from Tallahassee through south Florida big sugar and other farm areas into the Everglades, into the Bay of Florida, into the Keys. The speakers persuaded me Reef Relief is doing good work on other fronts, too. One speaker talked of recent impressive developments in planting coral where coral had died or was having a rough go, and in that way restoring what once had needed no restoration. I wondered if that was a sly way of saying it is okay to gouge out enough native seabed to cover the length of Duval Street fifteen feet deep? They would grow the coral back, or they would try to do it. The next paragraph explains how I came up with that.

Jolly Benson

Before the coral-regenerating expert spoke, Jolly Benson spoke against the channel-widening “study”. He said he was born and raised in Key West. He said the referendum is a step in the  formal federal process of moving toward dredging the channel. He said, if the referendum is approved, the voters will not get another say, and the federal process will proceed up the ladder toward widening the channel. Joel did not say the channel would be widened, but he did say that is the direction the process will go if the referendum passes. He said, if the dredging occurs, the native coral and sea bed dug up will fill Duval Street from one in to the other, fifteen feet high.


Joel asked the gathering why Reef Relief is not totally opposed to widening the channel? He said opposing widening the channel is not  political, it is saving the reef which is what Reef Relief is all about. He said the referendum is the next step to removing part of the reef. He got a really loud round of applause after he was done speaking.

I was not convinced the sea bed will only be dredged fifteen feet deep. Jim Brooks wrote to me that the harbor was restored to a uniform depth of 36 feet in the 2004-2005 dredging. I doubt any cruise ship calling on Key West will be happy navigating a channel only 15 feet deep cut out of solid rock.

sunk cruise ship

Peter Anderson had gotten the audience’s agreement that there would be no interrupting or cheering or booing of Jolly or Jennifer Hulse,

Jennifer Hulse

who then spoke in favor of the channel widening “study”. Jennifer is the lawyer for the Chamber of Commerce’s PAC, which wants the channel-widening “study”referendum to pass. Jennifer got to go second as the result of a coin toss. She said she liked to dive, and she liked to fish. She did not say she had only lived in Key West three years. Jennifer came across out of sorts. Emotionally disturbed. Her presentation was lifeless. Someone said, as if she was representing a guilty client. She said, it’s just a study, it’s not about digging up the reef and covering the length of Duval Street fifteen feet with its dead remains. I’m telling this my way, but that’s the effect of what Jennifer said. When she finished speaking, the audience’s response was subdued.

During the meeting, Peter Anderson thanked all financial supporters of Reef Relief, naming them all. It was a long list. An impressive list. I thought, darn, Reef Relief and its financial supporters did such a good job trying to protect and restore the reef, but when it came to cruise ships, well, how many of those financial contributors, like Peter, make money off of cruise ships? How can Reef Relief serve two masters, I wondered? How can Peter serve as Reef Relief’s Chairman of the Board, if he is making many doubloons from sales of his Conch Republic products to cruise ship passengers? All laid out in Sunday’s growing greener every day Peter Anderson responds to allegations Reef Relief is trading with the enemy in Key West, and the reef’s rebuttal post.

I told someone after the meeting that Peter should resign from Reef Relief’s Board because of his cruise ship conflict of interest. Peter should have told himself that already, and done it. He was reelected last night to another term. All the candidates on the slate were elected. There was space for write-in candidates, I wrote in Will and Jolly Benson for new Directors, Reef Relief Director Emeritus (granted by the founders) Joel Biddle for President, Erika Biddle for Vice-President, and Matt Gardi for Treasurer. That was not mentioned when Peter announced the results of the ballot. I voted because I had joined Reef Relief when I came through the door, before heading to the scrumpcious (spelling?) buffet.

I said at a table with Joel Benson, Mark Songer, Past-President of Last Stand, and several women, who, it turned out, were several-generation Conchs. They were, to put it fairly, rabid against widening the channel. The youngest lady Conch, Kelly Friend, a fifth-generation Conch, she said, raised her hand at the end of the meeting and told the coral regeneration specialist it was great to hear coral could be replanted and grown to replace coral we destroy – subtext, to replace coral widening the channel will destroy and cover the length of Duval Street fifteen feet deep. I’m telling this my way, but that’s the substance. The coral regeneration specialist said it was better not to cut down the forest, amen, than to cut it down and then try to re-grow it. I went over to   Kelly and asked what in the fuck standing did she, a fifth-generation Conch, have to say that to the audience? She burst out laughing, as did others she was talking with.

I told Kelly to look for today’s post, I might have a beautiful cruise ship channel-gouging pic that paled the one I have been publishing for months. She said she would look for it. I asked if she had read my growing greener every day Peter Anderson responds to allegations Reef Relief is trading with the enemy in Key West, and the reef’s rebuttal post this past Sunday? No, but she would.

Before I left, Erika Biddle showed me this from DeVon Quirolo, which I asked Erika to email to me:


From: DeeVon Quirolo
Date: July 15, 2013, 10:13:38 AM EDT
To: Jolly Benson
Cc: joel biddle, Erika Biddle,
Subject: Re:

Thanks so much Jolly—it is reprehensible to me that this illegitimate board is squandering our good name at a time when Key West needs a strong coral reef conservation leader.  Good luck tonite.  All the best, DV

Remember;  the feasibility study is an engineering assessment of how to proceed with the dredging—-not whether to dredge-–that is up to the stakeholders and the permitting agencies.  So if Reef Relief proposes to do their own feasibility study, they should be honestly confronted with the question of WHY WOULD YOU FACILITATE SUCH AN ECOLOGICALLY DESTRUCTIVE ACTIVITY?   Even condoning, much less actively supporting or launching such an activity utilizing nonprofit tax deductible donations directly contradicts the mission of Reef Relief.  The board that approved such an action should be removed immediately for malfeasance and the worst sort of greenwashing.  They should be representing their constituents who still believe that Reef Relief is dedicated to coral reef protection.  You can quote me on that!  Plus I seriously doubt that Reef Relief has the internal capacity or knowledge or professional ability to assess such an engineering challenge nor the savvy to even know how to hire the right people to do it.

All the best, DV


These two photos are study enough, don’t you think?

cruise ship truth

cruise ship leaves Outer Mole

In the Key West Citizen today –

Reef Relief founder blasts channel study
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
The couple who founded the nonprofit Reef Relief is urging Key West voters to defeat the Oct. 1 ballot question on whether the city should order a study on the impacts of channel widening.

“It is incredulous to me that anyone associated with protecting coral reefs would dispute this elementary fact of coral ecology,” DeeVon Quirolo wrote in a lengthy statement on the cruise ship-related ballot question released Sunday.

DeeVon Quirolo and her husband Craig retired from Reef Relief in 2009 and moved to Brooksville, Fla.

They have weighed in before on the dredging question, in 2011, but chose the eve of Reef Relief’s 26th annual membership meeting to release a fresh public statement on the matter, although none of the speakers Monday night mentioned the Quirolos’ recent statement,.

But a few Reef Relief members left a stack of copies at the registration desk that greeted about 100 guests, as a show of protest against the nonprofit board’s refusal to take a stance on the Oct. 1 ballot question.

“I joined tonight so I could do it,” said Alex Symington, as he peeled off his name tag sticker and wadded it up.

Symington, who paid the $15 to become a Reef Relief member for one year, wore his Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism T-shirt to the dinner, which the Casa Marina hosted for free.

Reef Relief included the cruise ship issue on its program, inviting a speaker from two opposing political action committees formed in advance of the general election to give five-minute statements.

But the nonprofit itself, which receives donations from a host of local businesses that range from Fury Water Adventures and Historic Tours of America to the smaller shops on Duval Street, has refused to take any position on the question.

“We are not in a popularity contest and we are not ‘political,’” Reef Relief President and CEO Peter Anderson wrote in a statement Thursday that Benson’s PAC widely distributed on Saturday.

Anderson dismissed the ballot question as “purely political in nature,” and said that Reef Relief is “literally appalled at the amount of money, time and energy that is ripping apart the fabric of our community over the issue of a study – a study that may or may not result in a dredge operation 10 to 15 years from now.”

Jolly Benson, a Key West native from the anti-study PAC, and attorney Jennifer Hulse from the pro-study movement that sprouted from the Key West Chamber of Commerce, took turns at the microphone.

The audience, however, was first asked not to boo or “make demonstrations” on either side of the argument and simply let the speakers have their time.

“I’m going to ask for some discipline from you guys,” said Anderson, who was reelected Monday night with no opposition. “No questions, please. Please just sit and listen respectfully.”

Benson, representing the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism, drew a louder round of applause and a couple of cheers after speaking, but Hulse was given a kind welcome and response as well.

On the ballot this fall is a referendum asking voters if Key West should ask the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a feasibility study documenting the various impacts from dredging part of the city’s main ship channel to better accommodate “modern, longer cruise ships.”

A majority vote is needed for the question to pass.

Anderson accidentally introduced Benson as the speaker for “Support the Study,” the promotional campaign tag that the Key West Chamber of Commerce PAC is touting, along with a website named after the phrase.

Benson, a playwright whose brother Will Benson is a flats fishing guide, shook it off with a smile before launching into his brief speech.

The ballot question isn’t just about a study, Benson promised, quoting the Corps of Engineers’ website that says such a study is one progressive step in a formula that results in dredging.

“It’s not a study on whether it’s a good idea, it’s a study on how to go about dredging the channel in a national marine sanctuary,” said Benson.

He politely addressed Reef Relief’s neutral stance on the Oct. 1 question.

“This is an environmental issue, as far as Reef Relief is concerned,” Benson said. “We say, stand up against dredging. This is not a political issue.”

Hulse, who contends that the ballot question is about Key West’s economic future and not a debate over environmental protection, veered from her usual stump speech to stand up for local businesses.

“This label that if you’re in favor of business you’re against the environment is a complete falsehood,” said Hulse, who introduced herself as an attorney who is also a diver, a sailor and a fisher. “I enjoy the reef as much as anyone. It’s why I live here. I imagine it’s why most of you live here.”

Hulse noted the long list of Key West businesses that support Reef Relief through donations and said cruise ship passengers bring at least $87 million a year to the local economy from their spending along the Duval Street commercial corridor. She also disputed Benson’s argument that the ballot question goes far beyond a study.

“No dredging will result from this referendum,” Hulse said. “Of course the city will make that decision. This is a very strategic process we have to go through to even consider the possibility.”

The Quirolos’ statement asks Key West to be content with its “thriving hotel, tourism and real estate industry,” and says the “hordes of cruise ship visitors denigrates the downtown section to the exclusive benefit of a few businesses.”

Then, she asks on behalf of her husband and herself for the city to vote ‘No’ come Oct. 1.


I wonder if Gwen would have found comic relief in the conversation I had with a man I picked up at a bus stop on Big Coppit Key on my drive down to the Reef Relief meeting?

The fellow said he worked at the Bull & Whistle on Duval Street.

Bull & Whistle

I asked if they got much cruise ship business? Yeah, lots. He said he was the bouncer. Actually, he worked at the Garden of Eden on the roof above the Bull & Whistle. The Garden of Eden is a clothing-optional bar.

Garden of Eden

He said they didn’t get much cruise ship business up there, but down in the Bull & Whistle.

I said last time I was at the Garden of Eden was when I was running for mayor in 2009. The local nude beach advocates met there as part of their effort to get Key West a nude beach, which was a big part of my campaign platform that year. I told my rider, if the city had turned half of Smathers Beach on the Atlantic side of the island into a nude beach, that would have attracted hordes of new tourists who spent lots of money in Key West, unlike cruise ship tourists. My rider agreed.

About that time, City Commissioner Mark Rossi drove by on a motor scooter, headed away from Old Town.

Mark Rossi

Mark was squeamish back in 2009 about putting a nude beach in Key West. Many people would be offended. There was discussion at a city commission meeting of putting a nude beach out to referendum. I told them that was not the way to do it, they were elected to make the tough decisions, not to pass the buck to the voters. Key West didn’t get a nude beach.

I asked my rider how the Garden of Eden’s business was going? Great. Did they get competition from Mark Rossi’s nearby ground level bar-restaurant and strip joint, which cruise ship passengers patronize? No, Rossi’s girls come up to the Garden of Eden after they get off work, with men who have paid them $200 to spend the evening with them. Escorts. No sex. I said, yeah, no sex. My rider said not at the Garden of Eden.

I said as I let him off that I knew I had picked him up for a reason, but I did not elaborate.

Rossi voted to put the channel-widening “study” on the ballot.

Mayor Craig Cates voted to put the channel-widening “study” on the ballot.

Craig Cates

According to the City Clerk’s office this a.m., the City Commission vote for putting the channel-widening “study” on the ballot, a binding referendum, was  7-0, all commissioners and the mayor in attendance and voting, 7 May 2013.

Money talks, bull shit walks.

bovine excrement

Sloan Bashinsky

About Sloan

That's what this website is about, also and If you can't get a publisher to take on your wacky musing, you do it yourself.
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