Thursday, December 07, 2006

Grouchy Adults Still Trying to Outlaw Cruising (surprise surprise)

I hadn't been to a Board of Alderman's meeting in quite some time. Last night's was more fun than I anticipated.

Specifically, I found the lively discussion resulting from one alderman's request for an anti-cruising ordinance most entertaining. The specific concern is spring break and since these days spring break is pretty much just Texas week and not even the weekdays but just the two bracketing weekends -- well, I think we are talking about setting the legislative wheels in motion to crank out a new ordinance that would basically apply to all of ... um, six nights a year?!

But kids are drinking while they are driving! They are disorderly and a danger to themselves and everyone else! They are playing loud music and laughing uproariously and flirting and lord knows they aren't spending money in our shops if they are driving around in their cars.

Please don't tell me I am the only one here who has fond memories of cruising the drag -- in my case it was the Grand Haven (MI) waterfront -- and the adults didn't like it then, either.

So who are these cruisers, anyway? I don't believe they are the breakers themselves, who predictably leave the beach/condo to eat or shop or drink and don't want to be sitting in traffic any more that you or I do. It is the kids from up the valley who come here to cruise. And they cruise for the same reasons you and I did when we were their age: you're too young to get into Louie's; you might see someone you know or meet someone new and interesting while hanging out the window of a slow-moving car; you're too broke to afford much more than gas money and you could only sit at the Grand Haven A&W drive-in for so long before they either wanted you to buy something or move along.*

I'm surprised I have to remind you of this.

But it's not safe! says another alderman. In reality, I would guess that sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic is one of the least-risky behaviors these kids are likely to engage in while here. I think that the people who hate the cruising the most really just hate spring break, period and I have to tell you that I am not all that fond of it myself. But it really is - for the most part - just kids being kids; it is only crazy for a week or two and the money it brings in benefits us all -- even if we do not cater directly to those children.

(I don't even remember any bad traffic jams last year: maybe it was a slow year, maybe the city handled things better or maybe it was a combination of the two but there is a danger in basing new spring break specific ordinances on drunken bacchanalias gone by instead of the increasingly toned-down affairs we have been seeing in recent years.)

If you really hate spring break, Texas week is a great time to take that well-deserved vacation. Let the kids have their fun and remember that the fond memories they are building today will very possibly translate into the desire to share this place with their own kids tomorrow.

*which brings to mind a story told me by an employee of a sandwich shop strategically situated on Padre Blvd. Seems that a whole bunch of these cruising valley kids stopped into the shop, milling around and taking turns in the facility. When the owner told them they had to buy _something to earn bathroom privileges, they obligingly emptied their pockets to collectively produce enough change to buy a single white chocolate macadamia nut cookie - which they carefully divided into eight mostly-equal portions to enjoy whilst awaiting their turns in the loo.



Blogger Sam said...

So, was the anti-cruise measure passed or what?

I didn't show up due to the bridge fracas and stuff - the maid stuck here and Lori was stuck over there.

As to an ordinance against cruising ... well, I guess that would knock off half the real estate sales on the Island, right? How about those Winter Texans driving in the Moron Lane? This should be intersting viewing.

As to the kids, maybe the "punishment" should be to give 'em free "God Squad" pancakes and five bucks for gas and ... err ... macadamia cookies. /sammie

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue was the cruisers are not spending any money on the island. The businesses are really suffering right now and if you can get'em out of their cars they might spend a dollar or two while they trash the place. Our friends and neighbors who have businesses really like this idea.

What happened on the proposal to complete the Continuous Dune Line?Same alderman was listed for it.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Shaine Mata said...

At least the kids bought something at the shop. That's so funny.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Now Anonymous at 8:32 don't get mad at me, but "The issue was the cruisers are not spending any money on the island" is simply the silliest argument I have ever heard.

At least we know it is no longer a public safety issue. It is plain and simple anti-Valley prejudice.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Pedro said...

Follow the $$.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hey Pedro help me out though ... millions of bucks spent here from nice folks up the Valley. I got a couple lawyers from McAllen as neighbors. Loads of bucks spent from folks from Monterrey. When the Peso crumbled this Island like to starve to death back in the 1980's. Now what the heck is going on here? I'm almost in denial by now!!!!

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just want to present the issue accurately as it was presented at the meeting, Sam. It was not an anti-Spring Break issue, but a pro-business issue.
Getting the kids out of their cars is an issue many communities are dealing with across the US. It has nothing to do with anti-valley anything. That conclusion is pretty silly. It's about our economy.

5:14 AM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

Hey Anon - your friends and neighbors who are suffering are mine too. In fact, they are me. This is the worst winter I have had (financially) in a long time. But more laws require more enforcers and you have to sell a lot of cookies to pay for just one extra officer.

7:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as for the continuous dune discussion, the request was for a flexible time table to be established but with a "set" date to present that timetable/plan so that the town keeps on the project. As the alderman said, it could take years -- ten, twenty or whatever -- but get it going! There was some negative comment from various city people who seemed to think it meant to start building dunes tomorrow. Alderpersons seemed in favor but there is a question about who really is for pursuing it actively. Also a lot of misunderstanding about what the dunes do accomplish and how they are built and maintained. Talk to beaches and dunes -- they have a lot excellent information.
other nancy m

7:49 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

Ah, Other Nancy I must apologize. I suppose Spring Break is all about the money, and lots of kids just don't have any. By the way, if Sandy's computer servers are any indication, this coming Break could be the lowest in years. Bookings seem way down.

As to the "continuous dune line" that is interesting too. Actually, it might be a poor descriptor because the idea of something "continuous" and "in a line" is probably not practical or even good science. I would start with those places that funnelled the water onto Gulf Blvd after the Rita waves.

That would be a very different strategy.

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's misleading. We get lots of help from the State and other towns and agencies during SB. From what I heard, that's the only time they would try to manage the cruising. No new enforcers needed.

10:28 AM  
Blogger amazu said...

maybe they are looking for a parking place... or something for an under 18 to do... or are going from one club to another... or are just stuck in traffic... did anyone try to define cruising?... i've been out in that traffic on a bicycle (safer than when they can drive the speed limit...) and i don't know how you would know which ones were cruising?... at least without a lot of profiling... if they are drinking, rowdy, loud, then we don't need another ordinance... it is covered in existing laws.... lighten up, calm down, it is not a gated community... it is a public highway...

11:23 AM  
Blogger amazu said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, Sam: the fill in is really important. The town is getting bids to build the big, wide driveover for town vehicles and will then?? (or before) fill in beneath it. One of the Franke's (sp?) suggested more drift fences and letting sand accumulate as an inexpensive way to start. some folks were really negative about this, but if you just start with "no, we cain't do this" or " we tried it before and..." nothing ever gets done. It's like the parking and the green space issues - this island is not what it was 20 years ago, problems are different, solutions may be different and living in the past gets us nowhere.
Cruising: vacation time for residents!!!

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sam; whoops: other nancy m on last post

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can one justify making laws against "cruising" as means to coral customers? Sheesh, you'd better keep a motive like that to yourselves, or risk offending those whose dollars you seek.

And how would such laws be enforced? Would there be planned traffic stops like cities do to catch unlicenced drivers -- only on SPI the officers would ask for proof of shopping by checking purchase receipts?

Unless there's more to this plan than has been revealed here ... oh, surely there must be. Otherwise, it sounds counter-productive to business I'd say.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Gulfless said...

Why donít you just steal their money? Have a $11 car fee per spring break week. Keep $1 for administration and issue a $10 debit card, good anywhere on the island.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

To think that somebody was serious about hatching this idea is completely hilarious, you have to admit. The fact that this chap persisted could be a sign of ... instability? OK, you draw your own conclusions.

Good comment from the last Anon there.

4:49 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Hey Gulfless! But I think the Aldermen can do better than that, don't you? I mean at least we could comp the kids a banana and a condom, right?

5:01 PM  
Blogger Pedro said...

I'm Pedro and this place is beginning to sound like Cruisers!

11:00 PM  
Anonymous papabeare said...

Well, pehaps they will manage to kill Spring Break after all. It seems to be the goal of many. Ask yourself, why would they come here anyway? Their is little here except during Texas week and not that much then either. Ok, they have a few concerts but mostly they are STILL going with Rap " artists". I guess they haven't noticed that other than one or two groups, over all, Rap is tanking. Ok, it hasn't hit falling off the cliff like Disco did but it has lost a Lot of its former salepower. Kids really have to be carefull about going to Mexico, not for the obvious crime against the kids reason but because the kids are finding strict enforcement on the US side....meaning you can drink in Mexico but can't be a drunk minor on the US side. With little to do and tight enforcement the kids might as will stay home(some do)or go to someplace else. Some spend the entire time in Mexico or on a tropical non-US isle ( which is what the kids with rich daddies are doing more and more.)If thats what SPI wants then so be it but I wish they would come up with something in its place so we truly had some BUSINESS on this island. Oh yah, and the word I just got from Panama City Beach dosent paint a bright future for us here either. A few years ago they bought into the developers grand plan. Replace spring break with dozens of high rise condos. The "grand idea" was that the condos would bring in so many year round tourists that everyone would roll in the $$.It looks like this has been a disaster.You can't even see the beach for the buildings. They bought out all the " mom and pop" hotels and many other small business too. They built around the clock. The trouble was most condos were built on speculation. Few people bought to live there,rather, they bought to flip the condos later for a higher price. Of course, they over built. Now, no one is buying condos so that market is dropping like a rock.( Perhaps if they had all been time shares AND they had actually sold it would have worked. INstead you have units only rarely used).They just about managed to kill Spring Break...they no longer have the cheap mom and pop motels they could afford, now their are only condos that want $400 or more a night during spring break. Oh yeah and with no spring break OR year round "condo tourists" the last of the local businesses are going under. Some of the national chains are still around but they aren't making that much money. ( Yes, some are like our local Dennys...they do well thanks to name recognition...and again the locals tank even worse. For some reason many tourists prefer a "safe" known McDs or Dennys or Whataburger over even trying a local least for some of the meals.

Ok, a long enough rant for now. The only way I know to enforce cruising is to have several police watching to make sure that you dont go past the same sretch of road more than a couple of times a day. Of course you hire more people. Also you cant just enforce only during Spring Break...the law tends to not work that way.Selective enforcement isnt a good thing. So, lets also ticket our cruising winter-texans too...that will really help.

Opps back to ranting, I'm done.

5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect to all stakeholders on SPI, cruising may be the least of things to be concerned about. Have any readers of Sandy's Blog read pages 11, 12, and 13 of the latest publication of the, Comprehensive Plan? If you do you will find a plan to provide, "Low Income Subsidized Housing," for the employees of SPI. I wonder who will pay the subsidy? I'm sure it wouldn't be the taxpayers of SPI????

Cruising I can handle, subsidized housing, I have problems with.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

I want to be on the receiving end of that subsidy ;-)

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Subsidized housing on SPI?

There would go paradise for everybody but those who live at the expense of others.

Crime will increase and business will pull out. Spring Breakers will take their cash elsewhere.

Winter Texans and summer vacationers will take their families elsewhere.

Bad idea. Very bad.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean, everying going to pot because we could require some developers to provide lower-cost housing? How on Earth could that hurt you? You already know that the old dumps on the Island are going to be knocked down and new stuff built. So what is wrong with requiring a few units to be of the "low income" variety? As I envision it, it would mostly be elderly folks and not like Katrina refugees on the dole or something.

You know, at the end of the day what you said was a really rich, snotty, aggressive thing to say. If there was a means to assist old-timer Islanders and nice folks who could afford something slightly less than the outrageous ocst of living on this Island, why not if it doesn't cost you a dime?

I mean the idea of putting up a Housing Authority and "projects" is completely foreign to this place but there are ways to make incentives for development that included some lower income groups, especially if the developer wanted some variances and exceptions to the rules.

Make 'em put in some lower cost units is one solution. If there is no political will or inertia, well heck drop the idea and make all the developers go on the new comprehensive plan. It is no bog deal.

You don't have to act like the commies are coming, though, you little reactionary baby.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who are you speaking to, Sam? I'm the post immediately above yours, so I'd assume it was me, but you're not speaking to anything I've said.

Trouble is, I can't see anything about the others that warrant your response either.

Scratching my head over this one.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a pretty cute response for somebody with that good old KKK mentality, making unsupported statements such "there goes paradise," "crime will go up," and crap like that. I should have expected that much. My point was that low-cost housing does not have to be that way. However, using the "me no comprende" approach on your part was quite revealing.

Brava, my friend, brava. Have you considered moving to East Texas, where people still think that way?

1:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Low cost housing as described is just code for "project" and, yes, they are always "like that". This is just the old liberal idea of make somebody else pay for it - it won't cost you anything. Doing good things with someone else's money. The idea of requiring one group of people to subsidize someone else's housing is simply theft by government decree. Why don't you just provide part of your house for low income folks? Maybe we should just require you to.

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, my apologies for rash thinking and strong words ... usually I don't fly off the handle like that. I guess I have humbled myself ... my bad!

How about a story instead?

A little island off Rhode Island called Block Island saw median house prices jump to over $300,000. Locals were leaving in droves, some who had been there for generations. Recognizing a major housing crunch in the State, legislature passed a bill that allowed developers to "fast track" their permits with the condition that 10 percent of the units be valued lower, intended as "affordible" housing.

The only problem was the program was so popular with the builders that the island was inundated with scores of applications for multi-family condos. The program did not cost the town a dime; money lost of the 10% affordible units was simply passed along to those who bought the other units.

Interesting but not surprisingly, people who lived next door to these condos ("abutters") protested in court. The rationale was not crime or seedy people (most were Islanders making over 50 grand a year) but that the Town lacked the legal right to "fast-track" or circumvent the zoning and planning process, which required public hearings, etc.

Despite the messy lawsuits, the program was deemed a success. The RI Legislature did rescind the law because it in fact did circumvent local planning, but the projects kept coming! For the fact checkers, you can contact Town Manager Nancy Dodge at the Town of New Shoreham, RI.

OK, story time is over ... hope you enjoyed it. The concept probably wouldn't work here but alas, I tried. /Sam

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"KKK mentality"?! Sheesh, Sam! No need for personal attacks, sir.

Your way off base on all counts.

You said:

"You already know that the old dumps on the Island are going to be knocked down and new stuff built."

I do? You seem to think we know each other. We don't - wouldn't recognize you if I saw you, Sam. Nor do you know me. You're jumping to all kinds of conclussions - all wrong. I occasionally read the blogs as one who vacations on SPI. I don't live there.

Anyway, your point is as irrelevant to my post as anything else you've responded with.

I've never been called "snotty" or "aggressive" by anyone I know - let alone "really rich."

You said: "However, using the 'me no comprende' approach on your part was quite revealing."

You're projecting, Sam. It is YOU who "no comprende" by assuming things about me and then projected your own thoughts. Yes, "quite revealing," but not on my part.

About "subsidized" housing- A little true story from which I've personally experienced:

Once there was a beautiful, well kept apartment community near a private University where many students attending said University chose to live.

The apartment complex later decided to accept "subsidized housing" from the city. Former Housing Project tenants (who could not per rules have a felony record) moved in.

This act alone caused many parents of the university students to immediately move their sons and daughters elsewhere- fearing risked safety for their children.

The remaining residents soon found themselves living in a complex of increasing crime. It seems that the "no felony" residents had plenty of felonizing relatives and guests who came to visit and stay awhile.

The staff couldn't keep up with all the vandalizing to the property - which even included the theft of toilets and copper plumming.

"Subsidized" housing, Sam, is more than "low cost" housing. It's taking what belongs to people who earned the money and redistributing it to those who didn't.

It's amazing how many people think government's role is to give them what they want by overriding what other people want.

My prior response was a somewhat knee-jerk response to a post on this blog which cited the subsidized housing proposal from the meeting. I think the key word of that post may have been "employees" of the island - which I should have noticed previously. Perhaps the propostion is intended to make transportation to jobs easier for those who are employed by the city, rather than a blanket proposal for anyone living in government subsidized housing.

That would change the dynamics, but not the principle. It would be nice for Island employees to be able to live on SPI, but it should not be at the largesse of others.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

How did a post on spring break cruising devolve into this?????

Anyway, I am on the committee and I have actually read the section on affordable housing and it specifically mentions establishing an "inclusionary housing program, which is a requirement placed on future housing developments and subdivisions.... without direct government subsidies."

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to "read" you, Lucinda. I'm Christine, and the writer of the above 4:17 p.m, 6:37 p.m., 12:25 a.m., and 2:47 anons.

I'm all for low-income housing on SPI for everyone who can afford to pay their own rent or mortgage.

I cannot afford to live on an island paradise, and would strongly object to forced subsidy on my behalf. The very thought is appalling.

I'm also NOT for forcing builders on paradise to build to accomodate me, as "nice" as it might be to live in on an island paradise.

Since you have read the proposal, please clarify for those of us who haven't. The "..." and the word "direct" in your statements bring pause. Will there be a "subsidy" as one of the other posters has mentioned? If so, who other than the occupants of "inclusionary housing" will be paying? Taxpayers?

Whenever I read the word "inclusionary" it's usually code for "by the sweat of someone else's brow."

5:39 PM  
Blogger Lucinda said...

Just came back from the CPAC meeting on the Land Use chapter and there was pretty much universal agreement that the affordable housing pages simply did not belong in this plan. In fact, it would appear that the writer took a similar chapter that he wrote for Huntsville and plugged some Island stuff into it, instead of using the outline that we had put together for him. (There is still a reference to Huntsville on page 16.)
There is some good stuff in there, but it is poorly organized and extremely verbose and pretty much is begging for an entire rewrite.

My sister Deb (the writer in the family) could knock that thing into shape in no time.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also attended this evenings meeting of the CPAC Committee. Sandy is correct, all reference to,"Low Income affordable housing for EMPLOYEES of SPI will be removed."The Citizens of SPI are well served by the CPAC Committee.

Christine, you were right on target with all your post. I am with you, I don't know what caused one poster to go off on such a tangent.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I make no excuse for flying off the handle - I do believe I apologized.

Most of the folks who do not understand affordable, value-pricing housing aren't local. The single and largest problem we have on our Island is that fact that rising property taxes and valuations are running good people off the Island.

Over the last six years, the cost of a 50 by 150 foot lot has grown from $80,000 to slightly over $200,000. This doesn't include any structure or house. Let's say you bought a house for $100,000; nowdays you would be paying taxes on over $350,000. Many local people, some having local small businesses, have sold rather than fight the price escalation.

Given the increased costs of living here, for mainly artificially induced reasons, many small businesses are leaving because the economy is essentially flat - there is no extra money flowing in. If you are retired, the extra money from the taxe increases comes straight out of your bank account. The money goes to the county and the school districts and hardly a single penny of taxes comes back to the Island (the town taxes are actually very low).

Folks, "paradise" is not just a pretty sandbar with some resorts and palm trees, it is the people and small businesses that grace it. If I got emotional because of people who think "it's my way or the causeway" perhaps I shouldn't have over-reacted.

Fortunately for some, it seems that value-pricing for local people and small businesses, as well and an a proposed ordinance restistricting "cruising," will go bye-bye and never rear its ugly head again.

Sam Wells
Oleander Street

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, you're still playing word games. Now you are substituting "value pricing" for subsidized housing. It is still forcing one person to subsidize (pay for) another's "affordable" housing.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, I set on the Cameron County Appraisal District, Appraisal Review Board. I hear hundreds of taxpayers protest yearly. The Boards job is to listen to BOTH sides the District and the Taxpayer and make a decision. Sustain the value placed on a property by the District or lower the value in favor of the, taxpayer.

In almost 100% of the protest we hear are backed up with, "SALES." As long as people are going to come to the Island and pay SKY HIGH PRICES, the District has a lot of evidence to support their Values.

The other side of this issue is the BOA could have lowered the TAX RATE which would have helped all taxpayers. The BOA would have HAD TO LOWER THE TAX RATE if they had not created nearly 9 million in debt. They would have been over the roll back rate.

I attended the BOA meeting when the TAX RATE was established for 2007. Not one citizen stood up and ask that the TAX RATE be lowered.

If you ask our Public Officials why they didn't lower the TAX RATE, I was told they left it the same to handle, "Overages on the new City Complex." Does that tell you anything?

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the education on appraisals. It does seem complicated, since there are so many entities - the town, county, school district, and so forth. I did apply for a Homestead Exemption (on time) and have talked with the appraisal office - and still consider myself a dummy on the subject.

As to "playing with words" there are all kind of affordable housing programs, but what I think you have in mind is something like Section 8 community block grants. Federal funds require matching at maybe 30% plus maintaining the program, which yes is a cost passed onto the local bonding district (town, MUD, whatever).

If you read my story about Block Island you would know I'm talking about a program that doesn't cost the taxpayer a dime. In return for expedited permits and some variances, the builder would simply sell a few units - maybe 10% - at a lower cost. This lower cost might still be considered high, since the builder simply will not lose money in the process.

Call it what you want, in some places in the US it really works. Just don't call it the Section 8 program or "low income projects." Believe me, that concept is completely foreign to the Islanders.

I will be glad to discuss any details with anyone. It is obvious that some people just don't understand the concept, or just don't want to because it is considered tainted meat. I stand by my contention that such an "alternative" affordable housing program would not cost the taxpayer a single dime. Anywhere, anytime, anyhow.

Is this something that could work on SPI? Maybe in ten years the concept could evolve. The political climate is not ripe now, so I'm not pushing the idea other than it CAN work, allowing the free market to dictate the program and not the government. What's wrong with that picture?

Please don't ask how the appraisal district would handle their side of the deal, though. /Sam

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam - I was not referring in the least to section 8 block grants. You ask "what is wrong with that picture?" in requiring builders to sell some units at a reduced cost. What is wrong is that you are forcing, by government decree, one individual to subsidize housing for somenone else. Again, I ask, why not just require Sam Wells to provide some space in his house for low income folks. As you say, that would not cost taxpayers a single dime.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sam, I know how the appraisal district handles their end. It's like any other situation you have to do your homework. If you find properties similar to yours and the value is considerable less, "BINGO," you will get your value lowered. The more you find the stronger is your position.

Valuations on the Island have increased 100% in the last five years. The BOA has had over 500K additional tax revenue dollars, year over year for the last five years. That additional revenue never stops. In the last five years the BOA has lowered the TAX RATE by 1 penny.

In your last post you seem to attribute some of your comments to me and your statements are incoccect.

If you will read chapter 3 pages 11, 12, and 13 you will understand where the, "Low income Housing for SPI Employees," comes from and perhaps your position might change.

You have a nice day.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My position has changed all right: Season's Greetings to all and to all a Happy New Year!

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandy, 41 comments not bad. Sam spends more time on your Blog than he does on his own. I guess Water Quality is not as interesting as crusing??????

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No but the horny manatee ARE!!!! BWAHAHAHA!!!

6:34 PM  

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