Closing the Beaches

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Guest Commentary:
Seeing the Light

The Town Council’s decision to place the beaches off-limits to everyone really sucks! I hate it!

Now, having said that, the rational side of me is saying, “Yeah, it does, but what sucks a lot more is the idea of my being a part of the possible spreading or catching the coronavirus, perhaps leading to somebody, including me or a member of my family, dying from it.” Sometimes you just have to live with what sucks the least.

We walked the beach last Thursday morning after the previous day’s edict that the beaches would be closed at 6 pm that evening, assuming that it might be our last chance for a while. We ran into Mayor Cereceda and asked her directly what this really meant. She said that after the Wednesday emergency council meeting, the accesses were going to be taped off but that we’d still be able to go out and walk. We all agreed that the message had not been clearly communicated and she stated that was the reason for the emergency council meeting that Thursday afternoon, in which they totally closed the beaches.

I streamed the meeting at home and it became clear that every member of the Council had heard from a variety of residents with a wide range of opinions. The discussion revealed that members’ own opinions ran from something that sounded like imposing “martial law” (just a little short of saying that violators would be shot) to “this is a huge infringement on our citizens’ civil rights.” There was much passion and anguish in the discussion because none of them wanted to have to take the action.

The conclusion was that it was not a viable solution to have the beaches “sort-of closed,” but not really. It was stated that the potential $5,000 fine attached to violations would only to be imposed after much educating and warning had taken place. The whole resolution (explained elsewhere) passed on a 4-1 vote. The fact is that everybody was right and there was nothing wrong with not having a unanimous vote. The last time I checked, that’s what democracy is about.

The objective of closing the beaches all over the state was to avoid having throngs of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder, drinking and otherwise coming in contact, and possibly carrying the infection back all over the country, a concept that a great many spring-breakers didn’t seem to get.

If this restriction is going to last more than a week or so, I do have a compromise solution to propose. It isn’t perfect but I believe it would do the most good for the most people. There is this sticky question about bucking the Governor’s executive order, but here it is anyway:

Some local business leaders and something called the Barefoot Event Group have been working with the Fort Myers Beach Community Foundation selling t-shirts that say “#WeAreFMB.” The shirts sell for $15 and 100 percent of the profits are going to help displaced workers, giving them grocery store gift cards. This is a good thing because these people are really getting screwed by all the business closings and they need the help badly.

The idea was raised about having the beach open for walking or running only to island residents, but was dismissed because there was no way to identify them. (Fortunately, some local version of “Stop and Frisk” never came up.) However, the Sheriff and Beach Patrol would have no problem identifying folks who were wearing one of the aforementioned t-shirts. They would work perfectly as a wearable beach pass and the fifteen bucks would be a great benefit to some needy island workers. Such a policy would need a lot of publicity and some signage to explain it, but it would also give a break to those of us who have had mandatory beach withdrawal forced upon us cold-turkey.

For information about obtaining the shirts, email info@barefooteventgroup or visit www.fortmyersbeachcf.com. Whether this “beach-pass” idea flies or not, buying the shirts is still a good thing.

There is a very useful bit of all-purpose philosophy that supposedly comes from King Solomon and was used by Abraham Lincoln and several others – “And this, too, shall come to pass away.” Let’s hope we’re all smart enough to keep cool until it does.

 

by Jay Light