1 LiveBloggin' the ICW

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Memo to Miami Beach: We are NOT going away

Illegal anchoring ticket being given to boater
Once again, Miami Beach is ground zero for boaters fighting to keep their rights in the state of Florida. The first time was when Miami Beach created their seven days only in one month anchoring ordinance, an action which ultimately led to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Pilot Program when cruisers fought back.
Among other things, the new state legislation enacted in 2009 made the city’s ordinance illegal, as it stated that no city outside of the five appointed Pilot Program cities could enact anchoring legislation.
But Miami Beach didn’t rescind their ordinance, not at all. It remained on the books, a slight odor of disuse coming off of it, until Sunday, March 20, 2016, when the full and odious stench of Miami Beach’s illegal law struck home. 
That afternoon, a Miami Beach Police Marine Unit officer went round to some half dozen boats to hand out tickets for illegal anchoring based on Miami Beach municipal ordinance 6-88. Warnings were handed out to two more boats, giving them seven days to move on or receive their own tickets. 
Watching this unfold were more than 20 concerned cruisers from as far north as Palm Beach and south to Marathon who had come out to quietly register their protest against this act.
Not that it matters that the City of Miami Beach had no legal right to do this. Hell no, what on earth makes anyone think that this particular city cares anything about what the law says anyhow? I mean, we have wealthy citizens who are upset, the law clearly doesn’t matter here. Gotta kiss those rich asses, we need their contributions towards our next election campaign. 
Interestingly enough, two of the people who are the loudest voices against anchoring and who will benefit greatly from the anchoring bans soon to be enacted by the state just happened to give $65000 in the 2012 election cycle. Gee, what a coincidence. 
And the sponsor of that bill, George Moraitis? His family home is on Middle River, another area where overnight anchoring is to be forbidden. But I digress. Let’s get back to Miami Beach.
View of anchorage,
Tenzer's boat in foreground
I was told by a source within the police department that a senior officer went to the City’s attorney, asking why city ordinance 66-8 couldn’t be used to get rid of unwanted liveaboard boaters. The city’s lawyer, either ignoring (or just ignorant of) state law forbidding the ordinance, said ‘hell yea’, and gave it his blessing. Let’s go get those boat bums, those perverts and poopers...
What? Perverts and poopers? Yep, that’s what the city of Miami Beach thinks of you, along with various state representatives. If you want that firsthand, I’ve copied the text from the October 14, 2015 council meeting below and the video is linked. Don’t you feel so....so....special? 
If so, you’re a better person than I am, I just feel incredibly angry. It’s probably very fortunate I wasn’t in the council chamber at the time. I might have been compelled to ask one person at the meeting about the public accusations against him of domestic violence from a few years ago. What’s a little poop between friends when we’re talking about beating up women?
It didn’t matter that police officers in the marine unit aware of the state law’s impact advised against enforcing this ordinance. It didn’t matter that more than one boating organization contacted the city to state that the ordinance was illegal. It clearly didn’t matter that the city of Stuart , Florida, tried a similar move some years ago and got slammed with a civil rights lawsuit - and folded their tent like thieves in the night while tossing money at the plaintiff to go away.
One former MB city commissioner, a lawyer by trade, noted without prompting when told of the upcoming ticketing that it would create a civil rights violation. I’ve been told he went to the city to discuss this in an attempt, apparently, to dissuade the city from acting, but if so, it was clearly a failed effort.
No - the law didn’t matter at all to Miami Beach. What mattered was that some local citizens don’t like looking at boats anchored out or the people living on them...and what the fabulously wealthy want in Miami Beach, the city is more than glad to bow down and give them.
The best comment I’ve heard was from a marine unit officer. He said, “If this ordinance was legit, (Frederick) Karlton wouldn’t have spent a fortune on those dinghies or with his lawyer looking for other ways to get rid of liveaboards.”
So Sunday, tickets were handed out to local liveaboards, including Dr. Tenzer, who owns a veterinary clinic two blocks up from the waterfront where he keeps his Hunter 45. 
As you would expect, Dr. Tenzer doesn’t fit the image that Miami Beach’s city hall would like you to have of liveaboards - perverts pooping in your water and spoiling the view for all while trespassing on your property and stealing you blind. 
A slim, fit man, his boat is neat and attractive as you can see in the photo here. He even has a composting head so that unlike Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami Beach, he isn’t pumping feces into the water. 
Sewage pipe off south Florida coast
Oh, you didn’t know about that? Those cities account for multiple millions of gallons a day in sewage being pumped directly into the ocean - and the pipe’s outlet is within the three mile limit that boaters have to clear to be legal should they choose to pump their tiny 20 gallon tanks overboard. 
It would take 50,000 boats pumping overboard every day for a month just to equal a miniscule portion of the discharge south Florida spews out every year.
One man, a pilot, told me that to fly over where the pipes discharge is just disgusting. I didn’t have the courage to ask if he meant the view, or the smell, but talk about disgusting - the odor of the hypocrisy of south Florida cities on this issue is beyond disgusting. They ticket recreational boaters for the smallest of infractions, while legally pouring hundreds of millions of gallons of untreated and partially treated sewage into the ocean. But back to our topic.
Interestingly enough, the illegal anchoring tickets that were given out did not give a date for a hearing. Instead, they all stated ‘to be determined’. I asked the officer what that meant.
He advised me that those in receipt of a summons would have to contact the court for a court date. In other words, if they just ignore the ticket, nothing happens. 
Well, not quite nothing. If the boater doesn’t leave the anchorage, he’s going to get another ticket next Sunday, and again every Sunday following, but as the officer noted, that’s not so bad. He could legally give out a ticket every day from Sunday onwards. 
Clearly, and this was the subtext of the officer’s comments both then and in subsequent discussions, the city hopes that these boaters will just leave, go away, and not force the city into a confrontation that they must know they will lose. On Monday, the day following the issuing of tickets, the officer who gave out the tickets noted that several of the boats had, indeed, moved on.

Unfortunately for Miami Beach, Dr. Tenzer and several others are not in the mood to accommodate the city. They intend to fight their tickets, using the same civil rights legislation used in Stuart. 
Some people reading this are thinking - well, those boats were probably derelicts and needed to be removed. Not the case at all. Of nearly 20 boats in the anchorage this past weekend, none appeared to be scummy or falling apart. None had decks covered in refuse or junk. Only two small boats under 20 feet had no masts. One of those had a small outboard on it, so was apparently capable of moving under its own power.
I saw considerably worse looking boats permanently moored in the legal mooring field at Boot Key Harbor in the Keys just two weeks ago. Frankly, I’ve seen considerably worse looking boats at docks in Miami Beach, but of course, since their owners are not at anchor, it doesn’t matter, does it? 
I often ask myself if these boaters’ real sin is finding a way to live affordably in Miami Beach when they aren’t filthy rich. I mean, what’s life in Miami Beach without a gold bidet or black Maserati, and a team of illegals doing your yard work?
Then of course, there’s the twenty or so bird crap and barnacle encrusted dinghies belonging to Karlton anchored out in Sunset Lake. These ‘vessels’ are clearly in violation of the FWC’s own rules on derelicts, not to mention other boating violations which the FWC agreed with when I contacted them about it - three years ago.
However, I’ve now had two police officers tell me that Miami Beach and its police officers were told, direct from Tallahassee, to leave Karlton alone. Like the ad says, wealth has its privileges. One of those, I guess, is being allowed to break the law with official permission.
Dr.Tenzer was chatting with two young ladies out paddleboarding a week ago, and mentioned that all of the boats in the South Beach anchorage might soon be removed. The ladies were upset, stating that it was the boats that made the harbor so attractive, so quaint. Without boats, they said, it simply wouldn’t be as nice a place to look upon. Wait until they, along with hundreds of jet skiers, fishermen, kayakers, charter boats and even the duck boats, find out the city is looking at closing down access to the public ramp they used to get out onto the water, as I was advised by one city code office employee. No unauthorized recreating in Miami Beach waters, oh no. Can’t have that.

So what happens next? That remains to be seen. This fiasco could take several directions, but here’s my thinking on this. The City of Miami Beach could come to its senses and rescind these tickets, recognizing that it is in the wrong. I’m betting against that one. There’s too much pressure on them from the wealthy cranks who don’t like people anchoring to back down. 
It will be much easier to get shot down in flames in court, and then say - “see, we can’t do a thing about it.” The politicians and bureaucrats are then off the hook after having tried. 
Not a bad play really, but it’s going to get expensive for the City. They were warned in advance. If they choose this route, I hope the judge has the option of some form of punitive damages against the City, perhaps teach them an expensive lesson.
The bigger play is in Tallahassee. The new law just passed banning anchoring in five locations in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale’s Middle River comes into effect on July 1, and will sunset in the fall when the Pilot Program comes up for review. At that time, the State is to put in place rules which will govern the entire state.
Now anyone who thinks that Miami Beach is going to give up what it has won in Sunset Lake and along the Venetian Causeway needs to think again. If for no other reason than they would have to suffer Karlton’s screaming fits over it, they’ll fight to keep those bans - and frankly, from what I’ve seen, heard from and about the man, I can’t blame them.
What I am terribly afraid will happen is that the state of Florida will permit overnight anchoring bans in any city that wants them - and we’ve already seen that Boca Raton and Destin, to name just two, are eager to get on the bandwagon. West Palm Beach is apparently right in there also. How many more?
Allowing overnight anchoring bans throughout the state will create the requisite level playing field. Of course, it will totally destroy Florida insofar as cruising is concerned. Boaters will either be forced to bypass Florida entirely, or pull into non-existent marina slips, or unavailable mooring balls. 
Keep in mind, Marathon’s Boot Key Harbor had a wait list of 55 boats from December right up until mid March, and Miami had neither slips nor balls available at Dinner Key right through the busy transient season.
I myself was forced to anchor out behind the Las Olas mooring field in Fort Lauderdale coming through late one evening this past February, as there were no balls available, and no one around to assign me a non-available slip in the packed marina. 
I already knew that Lake Sylvia was packed full because of weather delays holding cruisers from crossing to the Bahamas and would have been unsafe to enter that time of night, and it was too late to continue on past Lauderdale inlet in the face of an oncoming storm.
How many more of us will face the same difficult circumstances next winter, when Middle River is closed off to anchoring, along with the other anchorages in Miami Beach, and God only knows how many more that we haven’t heard about yet?
My original summation was to exhort everyone to fight, but it seems that cruisers are tired of fighting, if this past few months is any indication. Only 2.5% of the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s membership donated money to the fund to hire a lobbyist. 
And who can blame the cruisers? This fight goes on and on, never ending as the Karltons of south Florida keep pouring their ill will and their lies about cruisers into the ears of local and state politicians, and their money into those politicians’ campaign funds.
So let me end with this question: what will you do if anchoring in Florida is closed off to you? 
Have you thought about that and what it will mean to your cruising plans? Do you realize that Florida is 380 statute miles from Fernandina Beach to Miami. 
How many of you are ready for and capable of doing a three to four day overnight run to avoid the state, against the Gulf Stream? 
Perhaps more honestly, how many of your spouses are willing to put up with that? Be honest with yourself - an anchoring ban in Florida could mean the end of your cruising plans, couldn’t it?
What will you do if the weather is against you, as it often is during the transient season? Northers are a frequent occurrence, typically every four to seven days. And if the winds are with you, out of the north, how do you plan to deal with the Gulf Stream, which comes in quite close to the Florida coastline? We’re talking short period wave heights to 13 feet and more. Again guys, how many of your spouses are willing to put up with that?
How will you cross to the Bahamas if you aren’t able to stop and anchor out in Florida, reprovision, fuel up, do any last minute repairs, and even just rest up? You won’t be able to get a slip, there are no slips available, nor any mooring balls.
And all of the above is just to get to the Bahamas. What if your cruising plans are to go to Cuba, or the western Caribbean? The only rational places to stage for those destinations are the Keys. Guess what? You’re beat, no place to tie up.
Will it get this bad? I hope not, but the possibility is certainly there now and we need to - we must - think about it. It’s that, or buy an RV and hang out in Walmart parking lots, and wear sandals with socks. 
I’d rather stay home and shovel snow.

(p.s. I have been advised that my articles on this topic are read by members of the Miami Beach City Council. The preceding article and the following comments are especially directed to those folks for their edification.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
to the City of Miami Beach councillors and Mayor Levine - 

Perhaps in the face of a little contempt from others for your egregious and boorish behaviour, you’ll tone your actions and misguided rhetoric down to something a bit more reasonable and rational. Or not. Based on past actions and remarks, probably not and frankly, I don’t care. Doesn’t matter, the courts will ultimately slap you down for your high handed actions.
I and others have made it clear to you, and the state of Florida, that the cruising community and its major organizations - Seven Seas Cruising Association, Boat US and others, will work with you to resolve the problems you face and, in particular, the derelict boat problem which I’m advised by city representatives is a major concern.
We sympathize with you and are on record on this issue as the derelict boat issue is a problem for us also. Derelict boats and boaters, who become lumped in with the rest of us, create discord and problems we simply do not need. 
Responsible cruisers take pride in their vessels and in their chosen lifestyle. We want to work co-operatively with the many communities we find ourselves, even temporarily, a part of.
The derelict vessel problem has been noted by your own FWC as being a problem involving residents of Florida - not visiting cruisers. The FWC is on record as stating that these people are by and large people with substance abuse problems, mental health issues, PTSD and just plain overwhelming poverty. 
As such, they are not boaters. To them a boat is just a convenient abode, more comfortable and safer than living under a bridge. These people represent a social welfare problem that you, as politicians, need to get a handle on. 
Calling these people boaters and then enacting repressive boat oriented legislation to make them go away is not a responsible manner in which to deal with this problem. And, it goes without saying, it is grossly unfair to ‘real’ boaters.
Worse, it shows an essential lack of humanity in you, along with an excess of expediency. These people need help and all you do is to point them down the road, run them out of town to be someone else’s problem until they are run out of the next town. That’s not solving the problem, is it, because the ones from the next city or county over will soon be coming along, given the bum’s rush by that jurisdiction’s own irresponsible politicians. Musical chairs for indigents - how charming.
We, the cruising community and our organizations, have solutions if you wish to sit down respectfully and discuss them with us. These solutions, provided the State and its representatives and the local communities work to fairly and honestly implement them, are answers to the issues we all face.
This would be a far better way to proceed rather than having elected representatives who are clearly unaware of the realities of boating - and I base that on the sheer idiocy of the laws I see being proposed and/or enacted - imposing unworkable solutions on the boating community. 
This community cannot accept so called solutions that put us at risk, violate our fundamental rights, or give our historic rights away to others without any sort of justification.
Those unworkable solutions will only cause this disagreeable situation we find ourselves in to continue. No one wants that.
However, if your attitude continues to be such as is shown in the council meeting of October 14, 2015, or of the statements of various state representatives, then we will just continue to fight, won’t we?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Text of October 14, 2015 Miami Beach Council Meeting and link to video.

The video link is here also. The video minutes are different than the meeting minutes, The discussion starts at meeting time 1:42 as seen on the screen.


Commissioner Grieco(MG)- we want to provide direction for MB to participate in mooring field pilot project to mitigate the squatting.... The equivalent of someone living out of  a van in front of  your house and making your life miserable"

Lobby for mooring so we can Mitigate boaters that are squatting, camping out behind peoples homes.

Weithorn: It clearly is a problem. Someone outside, essentially your backyard.Some of these people think they can use our docks for their personal ability to walk through the neighborhood and go to the grocery and do a variety of things.If you talk to residents I think you'll find out that that does happen.The whole mooring on pub property that we passed was because they can't get to peoples docks so they pull up to sea walls and they attach them which we've now stopped as well. These are people who believe that they have the constitutional right to run around on the water, pay no taxes, pay for no services.I see them there for weeks and months at a time so I know that they are discharging into the bay things they shouldn't discharge. Interestingly there's no ability to enforce their noise issues, um , because you guys(marine patrol) can barely get there. Um and so they have been a problem.(42min mark) The problem we've had is that the state of fl doesn't particularly want to deal with it which I think you guys(MP) are aware of. It really is not the city of Miami Beach's jurisdiction. We've done everything that we can do . We can make it illegal to moor your boat on a seawall.We can make it illegal for you to trespass on our public property. We can call you guys(MP) if someone get's off on our dock and I have had someone get off on my dock and I had to tell them I was calling you and then they got back on their boat. you know, we can can do those things but the water has been the state's jurisdiction. (asking MP) Any ideas that you have, please let us know. I think your right (to MG) we have to lobby the state. I know I personally went up there, there's a very powerful lobby on the other side.

Mayor
So I think the objective here, chief, is to give a policy directive, we want you to work with fatima and lobbyists to push for this legislation

Comm Steinberg (MS)
I think MB has always represented to the state regarding the mooring issue. I think your(MP?) hands are tied as to what you can do. There's an environmental aspect, They dump hazards into the water. It's a nuisance, it's a safety issue for families that live there and then you have just boaters that are docked behind that are peering through or..eh , it's a mess. and I think there are other municipalities in Sofl that are currently lobbying the state as well and I think that as far as policy direction, we should go forward and continue and do what we can and arm you all(MP) with as much as we can so that we can lobby effectively.

Chief

Can I ask what would be an ideal. Would it be local control. Would we pass whatever reasonable local ordinance we wanted so we could control mooring . What would we be asking for.

MG
I think that what's being discussed in Tallahassee is the concept of expanding the mooring program . If the city provides options to create a mooring field, then that gives us the opportunity to police the areas that are outside of that mooring field for squatters and that's the pilot program.
That's what they're pushing for now. the other aspect of this and this is what I need to educate myself on is regarding the tablets that you can put in the tanks. What do we currently have a policy program, How aggressive is it. There's actually something you can do where you can board a boat and put a tablet in the tank, what is it the septic tank(chief _discharge tank) To make sure that these squatters or any of these boats for that matter are not putting sewage into and fecal matter into the bay. Which has been a huge complaint.(NOTE>>http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article42956091.html  NOTE)
So I guess I've gotta ask law enforcement about that and the city attorney. What is it that we do? What are we legally allowed to do? and what is it that we're doing now.

MP

We do have tablets and when we do inspections, we do check. However it's easier said than done.People, they close their valves, so that when we put the tablet in, it obvously doesn't flussh out. So, at the end of the day, or at night or when we're not around is when they do whatever it is....it's reasonable to believe, obvoiusly that they are uh are flushing wasste into the water. It's very hard to catch. I do occasssionally see boaters coming in onto our marina onto our docks and they have bags and they throw away; I have no idea what they throw away. But they're throwing away garbage.It's not all of them, It's very, it's easier said than done . We do have tablets and we do check but they close their valve so that it doesn't go through. And that's basically what the tablet are. When we check the marine sanitation device, if the tablet once it flushes in and it comes out obvously the water's gonna change color beneath the boat and we'll know if the valve is open. These guys aren't they're alittle smarter than that  they close their valve. At nighttime or whenever it is that they do, then they might open it

MS
I think bottom line the only thing that will stop this is an action from tallahasse allowing us to have a mooring area where we can then enforce the outside

Chief
The idea is that we can have a mooring area so that we can enforce outside that area.
MS
correct
I don't think we can full control, I think that's never gonna happen, but we can have a mooring area

Mayor
So we agree we can havee our team, we can have our lobbyists proceed towards this goal to have an established mooring field, so that we can have some kind of greater regulation of these squatters

Karlton asked by MC what's going on in Tallahassee.

Karlton. I was in front of committee that dealss with this. The way legislation is moving is to empower ccities to control their own waterways. They are still encouraging us to create a mooring field.And I did some design work Which I may have shared with some of the city officials here which I created with biscayne engineering privately I'd be happy to send it if you'd like to see it. It's very possible in the very near future that you will be getting some of your powers back because they recognize that broward county and miami are the worst off of florida. Not just so fl but fl.
It just goes without saying that as I saidd to some of you before, look, the public swail has the protection and if anybody were to park their vans outside of anyone's homes and dump their sewage, it wouldn't last thirty seconds and yet we don't have this protection in the waterways. We have absolutely no options. You know, it's been suggested to me that I pick up my home and that I move it and I'm just not strong enough to do that. So , boaters have many many options, other places to go and we have none. 

Mayor
Thanks fred for everything you're doing for us for everybody cause it's not just you it's for the entire city.
How do we deputize fred as an honorary marine patrol?
So our direction? Alec?

City Atty?
One other thing that's important that thee commission understand, Dumping sewage is of course a violation of state law. The officer is clear that you have to catch it. I've done a memo on the placement of dye tablets but it really becomes an issue of catching it. Now there is a requirement that does mandate that the vessel can not essentially, moor, for lack of a better within a certain distance of a seawall and that is also enforcable prohibition right now even though there is a preemption regarding mooring in and of itself so if theey do breach that distance...

MSinterupts
What is the distance?
Atty_( Big sigh)

MS you don't know?

Karlton - there isn't a distance right now but I do want to say one thing

Atty. Sorry I don't have that right now but I've sent a memo on this before , there is some distance they have to be from the back yard. So that is something that.. It's either a hundred feet or a hundred and fifty feet.

Fred Karlton. 
They don't care, these people don't care. They're dumping their sewage. You can go a=out there and fine them 10,000 dollars a day. They're not US citizens. They tear the ticket up and they're gone

Mayor.
So that's the direction . We're lobbying