1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Florida Anchoring Sneak Play....We Were Screwed!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Florida Anchoring Sneak Play....We Were Screwed!

I've already said this several times publicly and I'm going to repeat myself - the people who negotiated on behalf of we boaters for the new Florida anchoring legislation did an excellent job this year. With very little fanfare, they got new rules put through that permit anchoring in Florida with minimal restrictions. You can read the new rules here.
However, before you break open a cold one to celebrate, you need to know what went on in the background, and what it portends for the future of boating and anchoring in Florida. It isn't good.
As most of you are aware, in 2016, the Florida legislature granted exemptions to overnight anchoring in three areas - Sunset Lake, Miami Beach; Venetian Causeway, Miami Beach; and Middle River, Fort Lauderdale.
And just coincidentally, three people who are anti-anchoring just happen to live in those three areas: Frederick Karlton, Mark Gold and the father of the bill's co-sponsor, Senator George Moraitis. I have to admit, I am stunned by the coincidence of that. Simply amazing. Ok, sarcasm 'off' now...
The bill that put those exemptions into law was HB 1051, and it was made clear at that time that the provisions would 'sunset' once the FWC ("the commission") had reported on the Pilot Program in 2017. All good, so far. I mean, really, what could go wrong?
However, THIS year's bill, CS/CS/HB 7043 had a few wrinkles. I'll come to those in a moment, but it's important to note that this year's negotiations were not contested by the usual suspects, like Karlton and Gold and their supporters.
Why was that? Why weren't they out there screaming and making a fuss this time around, as they've done every year for years now?
It's because they were assured - and I have this from a source who was close to the negotiations - that their exemptions would not be removed. The three no-anchoring overnight zones would be retained, and here's the wording in the new bill that ensured it:

This section shall remain in effect notwithstanding the Legislature's 
adoption of the commission's recommendations for the regulation of 
mooring vessels outside of 159 public mooring fields pursuant to s. 327.4105.

Another meaning for the word "notwithstanding" is: 'you were screwed'. Because that's what has happened. To ensure that there would be no serious opposition to the negotiations, the boaters' groups negotiators chose to permit that clause in the new bill. Apparently, the opposition agreed not to contest the new bill provided those three exemptions were retained.
Now I do get it. If boaters had demanded that those three areas be opened up for overnight anchoring, then the big money opposition would have swung into gear and there would have been a huge fight, as in year's past. So the decision was to blunt the opposition by accepting these exemptions to overnight anchoring.
This was a choice made by the team and as in all politics, it was a compromise. I get it, but really, what is the worst that would have happened if we fought on this issue? No bill? Everything back to what it was in 2009, when the Pilot Program began? That's not a bad thing for boaters. The legislature is tired of this fight - they wanted it over, but what has been done ensures that this fight is a long way from over.
That's because this compromise will come back to haunt us.
Very soon, some Florida community is going to demand its own anchoring restrictions because, 'if Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale can have restrictions, why can't we?'
Well, that's a very good question isn't it? And if you were that community's senator, how would you answer that question?
In other words, the demands for anti-anchoring ordinances are going to start up again, only this time, there is no way that the legislature can defend not approving them, not with these exemptions permitted by Tallahassee. What do they say? It's ok for them but not for you? That ought to go over really well.
With all due respect to the negotiating group, this situation is like picking up the ball at your one yard line and running it down to the other team's one yard line - then failing to put the ball across the goal line. They did a great job, but they have not finished it. We need that ball over the goal line.
These three no anchoring exemption areas need to be dealt with. Otherwise, we will be seeing demands to limit anchoring. Even now, I'm aware that several locations are eager to stop anchoring in their communities: Dania and Hollywood, Boca Raton to start with. Palm Beach could be another, and no doubt there are several west coast locations that will be asking about this.
I have been communicating with the negotiating team members and a few of them recognize the problem here, but are not willing to do anything about it. I've also told them that, if they choose not to act on this, that I would discuss this publicly and let the boating public know what went on.
I'm not interested in starting a fight with them. They aren't the enemy. I understand what they did, why they did it and why they thought it was the best thing to do. But we need to recognize that this fight over anchoring isn't over, and why that is.
I also don't know if anything can be done about this now. But if you disagree with what was done, you want to contact the MTOA and the AGLCA, who were the lead groups in this fight, and let them know you aren't happy about these exemptions. You could also make your concerns known to the SSCA, via their Facebook page.
After that, you can get ready to fight again, because, sad to tell you, we're not done with this issue.

(as always, please share this post to your page, and to the boating groups you belong to, so that the general boating public gets this message).