Port Canaveral CEO apologizes for remarks

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Walsh apologized Thursday for remarks he made at a recent Canaveral Port Authority meeting.

News 6 partner Florida Today reported that during the Aug. 26 meeting, Walsh referred to some critics of the port as "Luddites" opposed to progress for their opposition to the port's proposed cargo rail plan that would traverse over the Banana River and through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

"I made some comments and remarks at our last Port Canaveral commission meeting that I regret and should not have said," Walsh said in a statement issued by the port. "I would like to apologize publicly to members of our community offended by my comments. It was not appropriate of me to get personal or attack those members of the community who oppose port rail or growth strategies. I allowed my frustrations to lead to comments that were inappropriate, and I should not have done so."

During his presentation at that Aug. 26 Canaveral Port Authority meeting, Walsh said: "Are we going to make those people happy? No. Their own kids can't make them happy. That's just the reality, and we have a target on our back. Dogs don't chase parked cars. They chase the ones moving, and this port is moving."

In the statement, Walsh said: "Port Canaveral always has been, is today, and always will be a good steward of the environment, and we work closely with all constituents and agencies to assure projects are done responsibly. Again, I am sorry for offending those expressing their opinions and concerns."

Walsh said Port Canaveral will continue to work with the federal Surface Transportation Board process in considering various rail proposals, "and value and consider all public input."

But not all of the port rail critics were buying Walsh's apology.

Alex Gorichky of Merritt Island, a local fishing guide and critic of the port rail plan, said: "As far as I'm concerned, John Walsh doesn't need to apologize to me, the community or the constituents of the port district. He needs to apologize for the lagoon he's about to trash."

"This wasn't off the cuff," Gorichky said, referring to the Luddite remark. "It was in a PowerPoint presentation."

In a PowerPoint slide with the title "community climate" that was part of Walsh's presentation, Walsh wrote: "2% have taken a radical approach that is Luddite in nature and anti-growth masked as caring environmental stewards. This is not the way forward."

Brevard County Commissioners last week unanimously approved la non-binding resolution that opposes the Banana River route for the port rail plan. It asks Canaveral Port Authority commissioners to push for an alternative route through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

County commissioners also approved an amendment to the resolution, put forth by County Commission Chairman Robin Fisher, saying they will seek a joint workshop with the Canaveral Port Authority to discuss the cargo rail issue.