Sorry I haven't been able to respond until now, our harbor internet
is being worked on so I couldn't write last night and I had to work today.
Last nights meeting was well attended, both by boaters, the FWC, and other interested parties. There were 2 FWC Capt's, and 1 officer, 4 USCG, as well as the Mayor and several city council members. While the discussion was at times heated and several times seemed to derail and go off track, overall there was much good discussion. What I find interesting is the varying opinions of the way the meeting turned out. I personally think the meeting accomplished everything we set out to do. We,,
1. Brought attention to the problem.
2. They acknowledged our voice by having the meeting, and by those who attended.
3. They were in PR mode and attempted to put a human face on the FWC, Capt Dupree represented them well.
4. The FWC acknowledged there were problems with some laws and they are working on getting them resolved.
5. Cleared up some rumors that were blown way out of proportion.
6. We were able to establish that almost, if not all, of the questionable interactions were from 1 particular officer. (training issue)
7. Capt Dupree stated that his officers are being instructed to show greater discretion and more respect for the boaters in Boot Key.
8. Both Capt's have instituted an open door policy, as well as gave out personal numbers to discuss issues as they happen instead of letting it come to a head
9. Agreed we need to keep this open dialogue and should have a town hall type meeting a couple times per year.
Sure, some of the people that attended wanted a full blown apology, with FWC admitting they did something wrong and groveling, obviously that was not going to happen. They do have to maintain the integrity of the field officers (even if they were wrong) however the general impression I got was they were there to repair the relationship. The Mayor and the city showed a huge amount of support and validation for us as boaters and wanted to make sure this was resolved. Overall the people that attended were well behaved, well mannered and even though a few wanted to bring pitchforks and torches, they checked them at the door. Most importantly my kids
were there from start to finish, they got to see how people can rally together and change things. It was also another example of always standing up for what is right, even if it's not directly affecting you right now, it could have eventually and it was just plain wrong. Everyone stood together, we made our voice heard and to me, that means we won this battle.
Thank you to everyone for your support, your phone
calls and your kind words, they helped tremendously! For those of you that were going to skip Boot Key, don't, you'll be missing out on a strong community of amazing people I'm proud to call friends.
The following is what I said at the meeting when I was asked to speak. I hope I represented the harbor well and I tried to walk a "thin line" between being an upset boater/member of this community, and being a city employee.
We are here tonight to raise questions, questions we as boaters need answers to. Hopefully tonight we will all leave here a little wiser and with far less anxiety. The FWC's presence in the harbor starting on Thanksgiving day was overwhelming to say the least. Nightly spotlighting, and late night boarding of vessels without cause brought a sense of fear into Boot Key Harbor. This is a family community of live aboard boaters, these are our homes. I also know that FOR NOW… these are not offered the same protection, but they should be offered respect. A little bit of tact on the part of the FWC officers in question and we might not be here tonight.
Capt Dupree you said something the other day that stuck with me, it's something I think might have prevented the entire situation in the harbor if those officers here would have followed your advice. "Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should" Just because you can board a vessel at 11pm, waking a family, scaring the children AND the parents out of sleep and into a state of disorientation, doesn't mean you should. Using discretion and a little bit of tact, goes a long way with the public, just as the decision of your officers went a long way in creating this negative situation. Their actions have reached far beyond the mangroves of Boot Key Harbor. There are articles nationwide in magazines, internet and other media, and the city marina is fielding calls daily from all over the country about this situation. On cruisers forum alone there are over 15k views and word is spreading fast. We all await the outcome of this meeting. Many people have decided to skip Boot Key until this is resolved. This lost revenue creates a ripple effect that also reaches far and beyond the harbor. Cruisers bring money, dispensable income that infuses the economy here in Marathon. These businesses also have an interest in the outcome of this meeting.
I understand after talking with you, several of these citations were warranted. Many times the one ticket written was the least of the many infractions the individual could have gotten. Other times the citations have been odd, if not just plain bizarre. Writing tickets for things nobody has ever heard of, again, "Just because they can". Capt Dupree, what we want is consistent interactions and for you to pass this message to your officers in the field. We are not going to live in fear, we will not put up with heavy handed officers, and we WILL call into question at the highest levels, the necessity of actions such as nightly spotlighting and shining into my 8 year old daughters bedroom window. How many nights in a row do you have to "check my registration"? Capt Dupree we welcome the dialogue and the help in returning Boot Key Harbor to the way it was before Thanksgiving. Respect is not something that comes with a gun and a badge, fear does not earn it and it is not blindly given. When it is not given to us we question that authority, so tonight lets try and repair what has been damaged and show each other mutual respect.. Thank you.