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At the recent Hometown! PAC forum at Tropic Cinema, once again, John Dolan-Heitlinger held himself out as representing a seaport alliance PAC, which I understand is him and one other person, and once again he did not say he worked for Ed Swift. I told two of the inquisitors ahead of time, US 1 Radio’s Bill Becker and former radio show host Richard Grussin, that they needed to get John to say who he really was speaking for, but they didn’t go into that during the forum.
I wrote a question from the audience on one of my goodmorningkeywest.com business cards, “John, How many people are in your PAC? Do you work for Ed Swift?” and handed it to Sheldon Davidson of Hometown! PAC, to give to the panelists. I did not see Sheldon give it to them. My questions were not asked.
Yet, during the earlier mayor race part of the forum, the panelists were given Mike Mongo’s written question: Did the candidates believe Key West should make gay marriages legal, even if such were illegal in Florida? That question was given to Margaret Romero to answer. She said no. Florida law should be obeyed, regardless of how she, or anyone else, felt about it.
When asked if the newer, longer cruise ships were more powerful than the current cruise ships, thus would stir up more silt?, Dolan-Heitlinger, for Ed Swift, said no. Several people around me chuckled, look askance. I said pretty loud, “Are you serious?” Dolan-Heitlinter dead-panned it. And, again he preached the silt created by cruise ships is no different than silt created by Mother Nature. Lots of incredulous noises, shrugs, in the audience.
When the pro-dredging/bigger cruise ships side was asked by Bill Becker about Chamber of Commerce President Robin Lockwood, M.D. saying at a previous forum, that the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships were calling on Key West, Dolan-Heitlinger, for Ed Swift, said, Dr. Lockwood got a little carried away at that forum.
At the following forum, I asked Lookwood about what he had said, and he said he had not said it. Jolly Benson, speaking for against the dredging and more and bigger cruise ships study, said Lockwood had said it, and Jolly asked for a show of hands of people in the audience who had heard Lockwood say it. Quite a few hands went up. That was the last forum at which Lockwood represented the Chamber’s PAC.
City Commissioner Tony Yaniz, above, sat directly in front of me at Hometown!’s forum. Quite a few times during the channel-widening part of the forum, he nodded, shook his head, in ways suggesting he is not in favor of the channel dredging. At the next previous forum, which he had hosted at Key West High School, Tony said at the end, if the referendum does not pass, he will not look kindly on future attempts to get the channel dredged wider.
I later heard from someone that Tony was very upset with how Jennifer Hulse, the Chamber PAC’s lawyer, had behaved at his forum, interrupting Jolly Benson, talking over him, confronting the audience. Hulse was not allowed any wiggle room to do that at Hometown!’s forum.
Questions were put to either side, and the other side was not given a chance to rebut. Jennifer squirmed and scowled the whole time Jolly Benson and Mark Songer, of Last Stand, were answering questions from the panel.
When Hulse took questions, she mostly did not answer them and wandered off into whatever she wanted to say. Hulse probably spent as much time talking as Dolan-Heitlinger and Jolly Benson and Mark Songer combined. Hulse was rough with the audience. The pro-dredgers/bigger cruise ships side continued to maintain that the clean and green Army Corps of Engineers love the environment and would never do anything to hurt it.
Jolly Benson, above, said again, the Army Corps of Engineers built the canal across southern Florida (which diminished the water flowing through the Everglades and led to the Everglades’ going dryer and the Bay of Florida becoming more saline). The Corps did Port Everglades. The Corps built the GO (Gulf Outlet) Canal near New Orleans (which, Jolly told me yesterday, no ships used, because it was not easy to enter, but Hurricane Katrina used it to push her storm surge up it, which led to the levies breaking and the massive havoc that ensued in New Orleans. Then, when the Dutch, who know something about levies, offered to come over and fix the levies, the Corps said it had it under control. The Dutch came over anyway, and they fix the levies in 4 days, and could have done it faster, if the Corps had stayed out of the way.)
Jolly said at several candidate forums that he will never trust an environmental impact study done by the Army Corps of Engineers, because their environmental history is not good, they are in the business of building things, they are not in the business of protecting the environment, and they have a conflict of interest.
The Corps’ conflict of interest is so blatantly obvious, that alone is reason to vote no against a “study” to dredge the channel wider, so bigger, more powerful, and more populated cruise ships will be able to get into Key West.
Oh, did I forget to say that Hulse/Dolan-Heitlinger said at Hometown!’s forum that the bigger cruise ships will not carry more passengers than the current cruise ships calling on Key West? More askance looks and shrugs in the audience.
It was obvious from his questions to the different sides at Hometown!’s forum, that Key West Citizen Publisher Paul Clarin is for bigger, more powerful, more populated cruise ships calling on Key West.
While I could say Clarin’s bias should have precluded him from being on the panel, I also could say I’m glad he was on it, because it has seemed to me for some time that his newspaper is pro-dredging and pro-bigger cruise ships calling on Key West, and the public needed to see that.
So far, Clarin’s newspaper has not reported anything about the cruise ship part of Hometown!’s forum, which was one-half of the forum.
Also, Clarin’s newspaper has stopped publishing letters to the editor about the referendum, and has discontinued the Citizens Blog, in which both sides of the referendum were weighing in. It was obvious the pros represented local big business, while just as obvious the nays did not.
Along the same line, someone in Key West told me the other day, that while he doesn’t care for conspiracy theories, he can’t help but marvel at how this referendum came to be on the ballot this particular year, which is a very off year, only two Key West races (one city commission seat, the mayor’s seat, and the channel-widening referendum) are on the ballot.
This fellow said he had not realized, until Jolly Benson kept saying it at forums, that several efforts already had been made by the pro-cruise ship interests to get the channel dredged wider so bigger cruise ships could call on Key West. And, each time, the City Commission had voted not to go there. Until this year, and the Commission voted to put it on the ballot, when voter turnout normally would be very low.
This fellow said the pro-bigger cruise ship interests were clever. With just 500 pre-committed yes votes for the referendum, they might well win with a light voter turn out. He said he wondered what had gone on behind the scenes, to bring us to this point?
I agreed, and I still wonder why the City Commission voted to put it on the ballot, instead of leaving it to the pro-bigger cruise ship interests to use a petition drive to try to put it on the ballot?
At Hometown!’s forum, Mayor Craig Cates, a Conch (born in Key West), said he is for the study, although he has not made up his mind yet if he is for dredging the channel wider. His opponent, Margaret Romero, also a Conch, she had studied the available information and had voted early and had voted no for the referendum, but she remains open to any new information that might change her mind.
When the Hometown! audience was polled about how many of them had not already made up their minds?, 3 hands, as I recall, went up.
For me, it is so drop dead obvious that there is nothing whatsoever environmentally good about cruise ships, that I don’t see how anyone who cares about Mother Nature can vote for the channel to be dredged wider, so bigger, more powerful, more populated “floating cities”, as Jolly Benson describes cruise ships at candidate forums, can call on Key West.