It was 15 minutes of fame that should have run out some time ago, but the appearance of one man and his boat problem on marconews.com somehow got stretched far beyond that.
Gerry Davidson, the colorful character known as Dr. Wuz, went to the Sept. 17 Marco Island City Council meeting to voice his opinions on the city’s anchoring ordinance. He managed to do that, but he also got enmeshed in a case of city politics he did not anticipate.
It began with a spotlight on Davidson and his derelict boat. The yacht has been stuck on the mudflats of Goodland Bay since Hurricane Wilma tore through the area. The eccentric Davidson says the same thing about himself.
On Sept. 16, an e-mail went out from the Web site eyeonmarco.com to residents, referencing the story. The link was provided, entreating recipients to click on it “to see one reason why Marco has a waterways ordinance!”
The e-mail went out a day before the council meeting discussing pending prosecution of Dave Dumas, the Marco resident charged with violating the anchoring ordinance. The item was on the meeting’s agenda so City Council could get public input on whether to proceed with what may prove to be a very costly case.
Eyeonmarco.com is operated by Bill McMullan, co-chair of the Marco Waterways Organization, which made vocal its support of the city’s current ordinance. The organization is now actively encouraging the city to move forward with prosecution and protect the controversial ordinance, even offering the services of the organization’s own attorney as part of the prosecution team.
Davidson’s arrival at the council meeting was treated with suspicion, and some residents even approached him to ask if someone had put him up to it.
“I was just standing there eating my cake, and someone came up to me and asked, ‘Did they give you any money yet?’” Davidson said in a Sept. 20 interview.
He said he was dumbfounded by the allegation that he had been recruited to speak at the meeting.
In one confrontation at the council meeting, a resident who opposes the ordinance accused Davidson of appearing to speak in support of it. However, Davidson made an argument for deregulation of the waterways, stating that boaters ought to be able to drop anchor wherever they please.
Avid boater Herman Diebler, a Dumas supporter, said he believes the intent of the eyeonmarco.com e-mail was to hold Davidson up as a fable for what happens when a city allows boats to drop anchor.
“It leads one to believe that the intent was to put a face on the visiting boater as (Davidson’s) face,” Diebler said. “And also to indicate that dragged anchor leads to that type of situation.”
Diebler believes that even if he was not paid to be at the meeting, Davidson was invited there by the Marco Waterways Organization.
“It was so obvious what the waterway organization was trying to do, it was almost comical,” Diebler said. “What he said was really supportive of our case, but the problem is that he was a caricature of us.”
McMullan denied ever having contacted Davidson, but said that he also questioned whether Davidson was compelled to be there by another party.
“I’d be interested to know if anyone put him up to it,” McMullan said. “But it kind of played right into our hands.”
Dumas, the boater charged under the ordinance, said he is not so sure that Davidson was regarded by the council as a representative member of the boating public. Davidson’s set of problems are unique, Dumas said. In addition, Davidson is not even a resident of Marco.
“His problem and that boat is a problem for the county, and yes, it’s absolutely the kind of thing that the boating public doesn’t like to see: derelict boats,” Dumas said. “Just like if I took my old car and left it in your driveway; no one likes to see other peoples’ trash.”
Marco’s City Council will hold a closed session with its attorney team Tuesday at 12, and will have to make a decision soon thereafter on whether or not to proceed with the case. Both parties are due in court for a status check Oct. 3.
Interestingly, both sides are hopeful that it will go forward.
“I would hope they would enforce the laws of the land,” McMullan said. “I would certainly like to see them go to court.”
Neither those against nor those for the ordinance want to see it dropped, because it would leave everyone hanging while they wait for a directive on the city’s policy.
“(The city is) kind of caught right now,” Dumas said. “They’re sort of in the middle of this. Of course, this is a consequence of their own actions, but if they want to go on with it, fine with me. Instead of the emotional rhetoric of City Council meetings, we could discuss the law in a court room.”