The following letter was sent to the FWC, with copies as noted. I'll report the response as soon as I receive it.
October 13, 2011
Dear Mr. Shipp - I am a writer for several prominent boating publications. I have been observing the ongoing anchoring situation for some time now, including the Pilot Program and its implementation.
I have been advised that the October 11 meeting format in St. Augustine was changed at the last minute by an Emily Norton so that members of the public were unable to address the issues at hand. Furthermore, it appears that the meeting that was open to the public, on October 12, was not attended by anyone from the public - possibly because it was not clear that it would be open to the public until the last moment? Can you please confirm, deny or explain these remarks for me?
As you are well aware, this entire Pilot Program is regarded with deep suspicion by members of the boating public. The situation is exacerbated by moves such as the above. It would appear that the parties involved are manipulating the process to their own ends. It is further discredited by meetings being announced to the public a week or less in advance, as was the case in Stuart, and also in St. Petersburg.
I am requesting that a complete explanation of Ms. Norton's actions at the October 11 meeting be forwarded to me, and a promise from you that meetings will be announced a minimum of three weeks in advance, so that those able to travel to them can make plans.
I also wish to see a procedure in place so that people affected by these changes and who are unable to be there, such as transient boaters from out of state who are still up north, as I am, can have their concerns about the Pilot Program publicly aired at these meetings. I would suggest an email address - which was NOT supplied by St. Petersburg, I had to chase it down - or a facility for a pre-recorded video statement or a skype video call be put in place.
I would request that all of this information and these changes be properly publicized, starting with adequate notice to Boat US, who represent a great many boaters and who in turn, keep a great many boaters aware of what is going on.
The changes being proposed are of great concern to responsible boaters - we wish our voices to be heard. We believe that we can contribute, but only if the process is fair, unbiased and open.
Please note - this letter is being forwarded to the VP for Government Affairs and the VP for Public Relations of Boat US, as well as to various Florida media, among others, and will be posted on the Internet, at http://anchorsawayinflorida.
One final question: in a press release some time back, the FWC stated that the Pilot Program was put in place due to the concerns of 'homeowners and some others', or words to that effect. I and others wish to know exactly who these people are. Please include that information in your response, thank you. I am prepared to place a FOI request if I do not receive a reply to this question, as it would appear to be central to this entire process.
I regret sounding so harsh, but as I watch these proceedings, I am not encouraged to believe that the Pilot Program is anything but a back door attempt to bring in anchoring legislation that will ultimately infringe on boaters' historical rights of navigation. It is my most sincere hope that you can prove otherwise to me.