Friday, May 16, 2008

A Good Question

Above photo: an abandoned Duval Street during Hurricane Ivan

Another post by Bob Kelly, quoting a couple of entries from Citizen's Voice.

"Gas prices are at all-time highs. Airline travel has increased to the point the average tourist won't travel. Stay-at-home vacations will be the norm this year. What impact will this have on Key West? It will be devastating. Someone better tell the powers that be that the tourist economy that we have come to depend on will be nonexistent this summer. This news, with the housing market crisis, will have a negative impact on our economy. Where will the money come from? How will the average worker survive? It's a mess!"

"If you haven't put money away this season to survive through the summer, you're likely leaving KW soon. Rising airfares, hotel rates, and food prices couple with overdevelopment, crooked government, unwanted upscaling, and vanishing character no longer makes it such a great place to be for both tourists and locals alike."

He asks, "Are they pessimists or realists?"
***


My thoughts, unedited:



"It will be devastating. Someone better tell the powers that be that the tourist economy that we have come to depend on will be nonexistent this summer."

Surprisingly, I don’t think so. There is a traditional election year slump, but a large number of summer visitors are Florida people, still arriving from relatively short distances by car. As long as you can walk from your lodgings to a place where you can find a drink, or (ahem) other things people like, Key West will be an attractive venue. After all, as H. L. Mencken (I think) said, "Nobody ever lost any money by underestimating the taste of the American people."

"This news, with the housing market crisis, will have a negative impact on our economy."

Barring another hurricane, the housing market will eventually recover. Rents, of course, are a function of supply and demand. Although they have seemed unconscionably high to some of us for 20 years, it's only recently that demand has not exceeded supply. Still, many people employed in our local economy seem willing to pay up to $800 a month for a room in a shared house. "Catch as catch can" has been a major and workable "affordable housing" solution for many years.
What will happen after the inevitable "feeding frenzy" of buying that so many real estate agents are praying for is another question.

"Rising airfares, hotel rates, and food prices coupled with over-development, crooked government, unwanted upscaling, and vanishing character no longer make it such a great place to be for both tourists and locals alike."

There’s the rub. The signs of what was going to happen have been evident for almost twenty years. For a number of reasons, the public has not been galvanized to work for change. With the exception of a few well-informed individuals and groups like Last Stand (which has had its ups and downs, but now seems to be emerging from its Great Sleep) the public interest has been largely trumped by smart lawyers and politicians, few of whom even bother to pay lip service to the idea of maintaining some modicum of balance. There is always the danger that word will get out that Key West is in danger of becoming an overcrowded, overpriced dump, but then, again, maybe Mencken was right.

1 comment:

David Lybrand said...

I tend to agree with your analysis. Most of the doom and gloom predictions come from folks who can't help but see the worst case scenario as inevitable. More likely the confluence of factors involved (both negative and positive) will tend to metabolize somewhere in the middle.

That's not to say there won't be problems -- there are ALWAYS problems. But we'll all adapt to them one way or another and most likely will still enjoy our island life. I know some won't -- and they'll leave. But those who truly love it here will usually find a way, and continue to fight to preserve it.

I echo your feelings about Last Stand. My experience is that Last Stand is trying hard to make a difference. The organization has stopped Pritham from scattering his Parrot Cay transient licenses all over town for now. Hopefully the courts will stop it for good.

And Last Stand is fighting against building hotels on the working waterfronts of the county against the developers who are trying to use every tactic available to them. Last Stand is also now working with the City to nail down the cause of the beach closings.

More on the Last Stand website.