The letter following this introduction was written by Freeacre concerning our local fight against the incessant drive for development and wealthy playgrounds anywhere. Besides our fight with the county commissioners over a non existent problem with local septic and ground water issues, the county is also pushing for building a bunch of destination resorts in the county. Freeacre’s letter is an introduction to a meeting with concerned people from other parts of the county about the building of destination resorts to raise tax revenues. Of course the contractors make a bundle on this too. The following is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and does not include all of the negative aspects of just this issue.
Oh, and by the way, a fellow I am friendly with in town, one of the local computer techs, insisted to me that in another 10 months, everything will be straightened out and we will be all back to normal. I bet him $10 that it wouldn’t be in 5 years. He wouldn’t take me up on it, just looked at me astounded like that anyone could think that. Sigh.
Destination Resort Siren Song by Freeacre
About five years ago, I moved to
I lived in
It was kind of like here, actually.
Time passed, though, and it was the nineties. Money had trickled up. The mega-rich had money to burn and needed to put it somewhere. And, they liked to play – hard. To keep up and compete with
But, here’s what happened: the family owned businesses like Harrah’s got bought out by big international tourist and entertainment conglomerates. The first thing they did was to fire most of the local staff and replace them with an independent housekeeping entity that paid lower wages and provided few benefits. They recruited on a large scale with international employment mills, hiring people from
Huge mansions have been built to cater to the rich retiring from
The financing of these mega developments has been somewhat of a nightmare as well. Projects have been started and halted and re-started depending on the ability to secure and match financing. Resorts and hotels have been sold and re-sold, and many now belong to international corporations whose allegiance is to their stockholders, not the local population. Those initial assurances that all would be well and the locals hired first, the community’s traditions cherished, and all that, have long since disappeared.
Many of those hard-working service workers, who are paid by how many rooms they can clean in a day, fortify themselves with drugs to keep up the pace. So now, there is also the meth problem to deal with. Their children, having no parents at home to supervise them, have formed gangs to give them a sense of “family” and protection, and now big fights break out regularly between rival groups at bus stops and on the school grounds. And, the crime rate has increased dramatically. It’s not the people I blame; it is the corporations that have set up this system of exploitation in both countries that have created this desperate situation. They make money on them from both sides. And, if the workers or their relatives are incarcerated, they make money on that, too, since the prisons have been privatized.
So now, when you go to Tahoe, you’ll see a beautiful, up-scale, world-class resort destination. But, the people working these palaces of privilege are living in barrios and taking the bus. The bus schedules are only printed in Spanish, by the way. There isn’t enough money to print them in English, too. The former local trades people are moving away in droves because the housing costs have gone up so high. People have to jam into apartment slums to live there. Unless you want your kid to grow up dealing Blackjack or carrying the luggage of a fat cat from
Another disturbing element is that the tourist trade is ever more vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate, the discretionary income of people from other countries as well as our own - and the price of oil. If many of the airlines fold, and the State workers stop driving the hundred miles to vacation, business will come to a standstill. The town will be crushed under the debt load that it took to re-develop. But, when the citizenry is composed of part-time residents, time-share vacationers, and workers who make subsistence wages and barely speak English, who is going to provide the backbone necessary to pull through hard times? We all need to think seriously of these consequences or blow-back from the big-time tourist trade. It could happen here as well. Once the Resorts are in, “Resistance is Futile”.
I recoiled from living under those circumstances and sought a place far from this “development” nightmare. I moved to La Pine in
Trust me, we are looking at a train wreck in slow motion if large scale destination resorts proliferate. In attempting to make more money and increasing the tax base with rich outsiders, we will be destroying the wealth of the community and of the land. Instead, we should be pulling together to work within the limitations we can afford, utilize the talents of our residents, and take care of the people who live here. Think “Bed and Breakfasts” not big hotels. Think Disc Golf, not 18 hole golf courses. Think artist colony, writers workshops, fishing retreats, permaculture seminars, yurt manufacturing, organic farms and specialty produce, ranching and farmer’s markets, pony rides, and trading centers that feature locally made products.
We should be looking to create sustainable communities that localize food production, produce necessities that will no longer be imported due to the rising prices of transportation and manufacture. We should be supporting businesses that create jobs for the families that live here and produce goods and services that are regionally vital in the long term. We should work to make sure that the children who grow up here can find decent jobs and afford homes to live in. We need to focus on quality of life and conservation and preserving the incredible Northwest as we know it. Keep it simple. Keep it wonderful. If we do that, we will continue to be an envy of the world. If we don’t, and we succumb to the Destination Resort siren song, it will be lost. And, it may never come back.