Dear St. Augustine: We’ll Love You To DEATH - Reader Submission

It’s already happening.

1.) There’s a new, luxurious “one-of-a-kind” resort situated on beachfront property right next to the St. Augustine Beach city pier. Lucky us, right? This corporate-owned venture will create new jobs for the people who live in our county. But wait. The management staff, already in place, was recruited from someplace other than St. Johns County. However, there will be some lower-paying, seasonal positions available that come without the ‘perks’ of health insurance, pensions, promotions or sick pay. (And then there was that pesky little height issue.) But no worries...we’ll take good care of you, St. Augustine – we love you!

2.) The FDOT presented St. Augustine with an opportunity to repave San Marco Avenue for safety reasons. Their original proposal was to initiate a resurfacing project only, removing a limited number of spaces to provide more visibility. And they planned to meet with city residents before implementing any proposal. Enter St. Augustine city officials with a proposal of their own: remove all parking from Castillo Drive to SR 16 and add bike and shuttle lanes with satellite parking. They spoke for the residents and business owners without even a consultation. No problem, right? Except business owners, residents and customers don’t want bike and shuttle lanes. They want to survive. They want parking. No worries – our city government knows best. They love St. Augustine! (And who on our city commission would be most in favor of bike lanes? I don’t know.... I’m just asking.)

3.) Richard Goldman with the VCB rolled out his plan before the St. Augustine City Commissioners last week: it turned out to be an already-implemented, bed-tax-funded, $210,000 marketing scheme designed to bring tourists to St. Augustine (or, more specifically, to some parts of St. Augustine) during our “off-season.” A plan Goldman calls, “Easy Season”... because none of us want to see a less-crowded St. Augustine! Well, except that a lot of us do. But, no one asked us. Still, no worries and no negative feedback about tourism, please – we love St. Augustine! (And a pro-tourism initiative on social media? Isn’t approximately $107 million annually enough?)

Commissioners don't care about you, and neither does the tourism industry here in town. St. Augustine has been asking for a stop to the madness and overcrowding for years. Now that we have it, what will we do?

Ok, so maybe the name is a bit of a shock. Maybe they should have called it “St. Augustine Residents are Tired of City Officials Thinking For Them” Or, “Please Stop the Madness Before Our City is Tired, Broke and Beyond Repair” Or, maybe something like, “Easy Season Targets Residents.” Or the “Anti-Tourism Industry Council.” But, they didn’t. They called it the Anti-Tourism Council. And they gave us an avenue for effecting change when city officials don’t ask and won’t listen. They gave us a voice. A funny, sometimes harsh, sometimes critical, abrasive and grating voice, but a voice. And an avenue for action. We should use them. Before we love our city to death.

Some fast facts about focusing on growing a tourist economy:

Tourism creates low-paying service jobs that are often seasonal and come with no benefits like health insurance, pensions or sick pay.

Tourism increases local property prices and the costs of goods and services for locals.

Tourism puts additional and unwelcome strain on the local environment (more litter and trash, more traffic, overcrowded beaches and parks) and impacts public services like police and medical personnel.

Tourism contributes to increased housing prices and a shortage of affordable long- term rentals due to the conversion of income property from long-term to short term. (Air BnB)_

Tourism contributes to the overuse of natural and cultural resources like a city’s water supply, and it increases pollution through traffic emissions, littering, increased sewage production and noise.

Monies generated from tourism often end up being redirected and diverted toward beautifying and maintaining concentrated tourist areas, often at the expense of residents who don’t live in tourist areas.

Tourism promotes outside hiring since middle and senior management staff are often recruited from out of the area and transferred in, especially regarding staff for hotels, resorts and chain establishments.

Corporate dollars from hotels/motels and resorts can influence local politics and the decision-making process.

Tourism often brings with it an increase in substance abuse, begging, panhandling and hustling.

Given all the above, it’s pretty clear that there is often a decidedly negative impact when a tourist economy grows to the point that other avenues of generating income are neglected, and an economic dependence begins to emerge. But no worries...we love St. Augustine!

This letter was submitted to My 904 News recently from a viewer/reader who works downtown, in a heavily trafficked (by tourists) area. The identity of this individual was confirmed by My 904 News, however they wished to remain anonymous for fear of work, and political backlash.

Because St. Augustine has a fucked up obsession with tourism and it's now getting ridiculous.

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