Friday, July 25, 2008

Postcard from Spain

While throwing some things out a couple of weeks ago I came upon a postcard my brother had sent me from Denia, Alicante, Spain about ten years ago. Fifteen years before that, after finishing college, he had gone to Spain and liked it there so much that he stayed there for five years. Here were his observations on returning there fifteen years later:

Denia has changed a lot! I know it's August (when most Europeans take summer
), but there are crowds of people, cars, motels, even two beaches
that weren't here before. It's like a parallel universe, where there is just
enough to make it recognizable, but everything else has changed. Or like a TV
show where the characters are the same but played by different actors. Having a great time in spite of this, though.
Reading this again I couldn't help drawing a parallel to Key West, and what has happened there over the last twenty years. Both Denia and Key West became increasingly popular with vacationers, and both places went noticeably upscale during the process. (The same process has taken place in other US locations, like Aspen and Nantucket, just to name a couple.)

In Spain, however, what happened followed a more orderly course. They created a "protected" real estate class that kept taxes for locals down. They provided for the concurrent creation of infrastructure to protect their environment and quality of life. So they kept their workforce housing, provided for a continued middle class, and assured a desirable environment for locals and visitors alike.

In Key West they waited until there was a crisis before even taking the loss of workforce housing along with their middle class population seriously. City and county government have provided relatively little in the way of facilities for locals over the years. On the contrary they have worked with developers to take away green space and allowed them to break promises to provide workforce housing and public facilities.

Is the difference because Spain elected a socialist government? Or is it because they have a king?

It's a shame that the real powers in Key West have seemed more interested in lining their own pockets, rather than leaving a legacy of good planning and good government that would be of benefit to future generations, not to mention their own embattled people.

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