William 'Boots' McCormick wants Walton to consider Trump resolution on oil and gas exploration

Jim Thompson
Northwest Florida Daily News

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Walton County Commissioner William "Boots" McCormick will ask his commission colleagues Tuesday to consider a resolution on former president Donald Trump's extension of a federal moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to the year 2032.

McCormick has placed the issue on the agenda for the commission's meeting, set for 9 a.m. at the courthouse annex on Coastal Centre Boulevard off U.S. Highway 331 in Santa Rosa Beach. The meeting also will be available for public participation online via the Zoom teleconferencing tool at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89735026838.

Information attached to McCormick's request, posted on the county government's website at https://rb.gy/lxino6, includes a resolution apparently previously submitted by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents Northwest Florida in Congress.

In the resolution, Gaetz — a staunch supporter of the former president — praises Trump's September 2020 executive order extending the ban on oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for an additional decade from what had been its scheduled expiration on June 30, 2022.

Previous coverage:Trump announces extension of oil and gas moratorium in eastern Gulf of Mexico

The previously looming expiration of the moratorium had been seen by officials at all levels of government in coastal Florida as a threat to the state's tourism industry and, of particular interest to Gaetz, military operations in the Gulf Test Range.

Gaetz has called preservation and enhancement of the range, covering 120,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico, his "top legislative priority." The range, overseen by the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, is used by an array of U.S. military units and accommodates, among other things, air combat training, air-to-air missile testing, drone targeting, hypersonic weapons testing and space launches.

Specifically in the resolution included with McCormick's request, Gaetz notes that communities in his congressional district "(recognize) the lengths President Trump has gone to safeguard America’s future — despite daily and unfair attacks from adversaries ... ."

The resolution continues by saying Trump "recognizes the urgency of extending the moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Eastern Gulf, which is essential for continued development of the American military’s combat mission ... ."

The resolution closes with phrasing indicating that Walton County "hereby extends our genuine appreciation for President Donald Trump, who has ensured the Eastern Gulf of Mexico remains free from oil and gas drilling and exploration, and thereby guaranteed that it will remain a vital asset for the testing, training, evaluation, and readiness of the United States Armed Forces. God bless President Trump."

In a related development late Friday, Florida's two U.S. senators, Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, announced that they had reintroduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act, federal legislation which would extend the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to 2032. The bill "would help solidify the progress made by President Trump’s September 2020 executive actions to protect Florida’s shores," the two senators noted in news releases from their respective offices.

Parking enforcement proposal

In other business Tuesday, commissioners will consider a proposal from local attorney Gary Shipman that, in Shipman's words, would modernize and streamline parking enforcement in the county.

Shipman was retained by residents of communities along County Road 30A to develop some sort of updated parking enforcement mechanism for the area.

Vehicles, a pedestrian and a bicyclist move along Walton County Road 30A in the Seaside community. An attorney working with residents of 30A communities is proposing a change in how illegal parking on private property is handled.

Broadly, Shipman's proposed ordinance would replace the current parking enforcement process — in which private property owners have to call a towing company to take an improperly parked vehicle, and in turn the vehicle owner has to track down their towed vehicle — with a digital system.

More:Walton County moves to control low-speed vehicles on 30A and Scenic Gulf Drive

Specifically, Shipman's proposal — developed in consultation with county commissioners and with the Walton County Sheriff's Office — would allow trained personnel in communities where parking regulations are enforced on private property to use "smart immobilization devices."

A vehicle operator whose vehicle has been immobilized by a licensed security worker would, in turn, be able to use a cellphone to pay a fee to have the device unlocked and be on their way.

More:Walton Gridlock: Plans discuss 30A parking structure, alternative modes of transportation

Charges for illegal parking on private property could be set by the individual communities along County Road 30A, Shipman explained. Charges could not exceed the maximum $100 fee currently set by the county, according to Shipman.  

"It's just bringing us into the 21st century with parking enforcement," he said.

In particular, according to Shipman, the proposed new approach would be aimed at golf carts and other low-speed vehicles used regularly along County Road 30A, particularly during tourist season.

"The real problem is golf carts," Shipman said. "People seem to think they can park them anywhere."