The Key West Mystique

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Key West confusion: It’s a study, not a decision, on channel widening

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

04/18/2013

It’s a study. Not a decision. Fact-finding for future choices.

Come October, Key West voters will decide if they want the city to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to do a feasibility study on the potential widening of the channel that connects Key West to the Atlantic Ocean — and its cruise ships.

Problem is those who know there’s a referendum on the ballot are confused. Confused because for the past couple years, those opposed to any changes in the channel and the Marine Sanctuary in which it lies have positioned the ballot question as “do you want to widen the channel.” Not, do you want to gather enough facts and figures to decide whether widening the channel is a good idea.

Geesh, widening the channel might be a very bad idea. Or a good one. Or a “who knows” one. That’s the problem. We don’t know. And, for the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone could be against finding out.

I’ve been following this referendum debate for almost three years, longer than I’ve actually lived here. The two sides seem to be talking past each other. Opponents framed the discussion as an up-or-down on channel widening. Proponents left their message — let’s get the facts first before deciding — to languish without a caretaker, or worse, lashed out at opponents as being reef huggers with no sense of cash registers.

Last October I sat in a packed Old City Hall and listened for hours to a two-sided presentation to the city commissioners. One side said “ask the Army Corps of Engineers for a study.” The other side said “don’t widen the channel.”

See what I mean about talking past each other? No wonder voters are confused.

I figured the commissioners would agree unanimously to go for the study so they’d be equipped to make future decisions. I mean, who doesn’t want information and facts before making a decision? It’s a study, not a decision, on the economic, environmental and quality of life effects of widening the channel.

Instead, they passed the decision to voters via the coming October referendum. OK, so that’s not a bad idea. Let the voters tell the city to ask for the study.

Since October, referendum opponents have geared up their message: Channel widening bad. Referendum supporters dithered. So — and full disclosure coming — I made a proposal to the political action committee supporting the referendum: Let my company, KeyWestWatch Media, do an information advocacy campaign for you. I modeled it off the newspaper editorial board leadership campaigns from my past life.

We’ll call it “A study. Not a decision. Fact-finding for future choices.” I made the official proposal April 17. Don’t know yet if the PAC bought the idea. Either way, I’ll continue to write about the referendum because those future Key West decisions about who we are and what we should become ought to be based in facts.

 

 

 

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Linda Grist Cunningham

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.

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