In a letter to the editor, Cody Moser, chairman of the Okaloosa County Libertarian Party, says Destin's laws governing Crab Island are not about safety but controlling business.
This year and last, members of the Destin City Council, under the false pretenses of protecting our county’s tourists and family values, decided to mark their territory on Florida’s public waterways in a hostile takeover using legislative bullying.
Following a failure of the council’s 2015’s repeated discussions to outright annex Crab Island to, in the words of sitting council member Prebble Ramswell, “make it safer,” the council pulled the county’s ears enough to institute new laws that are about anything but safety. These include an outright ban on alcohol sales in Florida’s public waterway, the institution of expensive $1,000 monthly licenses (beach licenses cost just $500 annually), and forcibly requiring a remission of a cut of each vendor’s revenues to go to the county.
These changes have proven to be trouble. While the county set up a “Floating Structures Committee” to help businesses acclimate to these changes, it will only last until Dec. 31, after which point the county requires that it dissolve. Even members of this committee are unsure of what these changes mean for Crab Island, as the employee of a sitting committee member went to jail for giving away free alcohol on the sandbar. More recent changes require vendors to move each night between Crab Island and the marina in a movement that County Commissioner Kelly Windes says will, “diminish numbers a little more.”
Seeing as residents are still free to bring their own alcohol and imbibe at their own leisure, it seems changes at Crab Island have little to do about our safety and more about controlling businesses in our county.
Make no mistake, this issue was never about safety, it’s about expanding the City of Destin’s control to places it is unauthorized to legislate and making sure that government gets a cut of the profits.
In 2018, Ramswell spoke in support of these regulatory shifts, stating that these changes would bring Crab Island in line with Destin law. Members of the county should not hesitate to remind Ramswell that despite these recent policy shifts, Crab Island is still not subject to her law.
Cody Moser, Chair, Okaloosa County Libertarian Party