Key West Florida is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States and the westernmost island connected by highway in the Florida Keys. Cruise ships brought nearly a million passengers to Key West in 2019. On Election Day last fall, on Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020, the voters of Key West passed three ballot initiatives restricting cruise ship visits to the city. On one, 63% of the voters voted to ban ships with the capacity to carry more than 1,300 passengers from docking in the city. A second initiative limited the total number of passengers who could disembark from ships to 1,500 per day. That passed with 61% of the votes. A third initiative gave a priority to ships with “the best environmental and health records.” That one passed with 81% of the vote.
Now, the cruise lines are making an end run to overturn these initiatives with a bill in the Florida Legislature that would preempt any regulation of cruise ships at the local level. So far, their bill has not passed.
Perhaps it is time for the citizens of Juneau to rethink cruise ship tourism here.
In my view, we blew past the comfort level a long time ago. In 2019 there were 1,283,853 cruise ship passengers in Juneau. Before the pandemic interrupted things, there were 1.4 million projected for the 2020 season. Now Norwegian Cruise Line wants the city to change the waterfront plan to allow them to build a new dock in Juneau to accommodate its megaships. If history is any guide, the Assembly is an easy mark.
There are many people here who are eager to pick up right where we left off as soon as the pandemic is over. I am not one of them. Last summer, for the first time in over 20 years, I was able to hear birds sing in the middle of the day. I thought that was a good thing.
• Ray Preston resides in Juneau.