Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Back to local politics.

With the "No Chains on Main" ordinance sure to pass, I began wondering about a strip mall at the edge of town. They are doubling the size of the mall, and I wonder what is going in there. Could it be a chain? Something to get the locals to abandon Main Street so the tourists could have free reign?

While there is no doubt in my mind that tourism has been good for Fredericksburg, it has also been bad. Habitat for Humanity homes were built for $40,000, and appraised for $125,000, meaning that affordable housing in Fredericksburg is becoming an oxymoron. Our "beloved" mayor campaigned on getting more affordable housing. He said he would get Realtors (who don't make as much money selling affordable housing) and builders (who don't make as much money building affordable housing) to form a committee to investigate affordable housing. That's like putting a committee of foxes in charge of investigating chicken coop security. At his second Town Meeting (which he said he would hold regularly, which, apparently meant once a year) he said, "There is no affordable housing in Fredericksburg. Next question." Nice to see a politician live up to his campaign promises.

Tourism brought in people who wanted a piece of the Hill Country bad enough that they would pay any price to have it. One bedroom one bath homes with no heat or air routinely sell for a quarter of a million dollars in the historic district. Then they are remodeled into 30,000 square foot "Fuck You" homes. (A "Fuck You" home is a house two or three times bigger than the surrounding homes that push property values into the stratosphere. We also have "Fuck You" subdivisions at the edge of town. One of them is a gated community, 'cause Fredericksburg crime is so rampant.) A recent report showed that 60% of the Hill Country Memorial Hospital employees do not live in Gillespie County. Why? Too expensive. It's cheaper to live in San Antonio and commute 2 hours each way to work than to live in Fredericksburg.

The other thing tourism has brought us is a Main Street geared to tourists. Where to the locals shop? At the edges of town, where chains are allowed: Wal-Mart, Bealls, Walgreens, Blockbuster, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Mr. Gatti's, Dominoes, Game Stop, and more. I'm sure the CVB would happily make people move from Fredericksburg so there would be more homes to convert to B&Bs and guesthouses for the tourists to use.

As we make Fredericksburg more and more of a tourist destination, I have to wonder, what is left in town for the citizens? High tax rates and minimum wage jobs kowtowing to tourists who, because they're on vacation and you serving them, think they're better than you? More people who move from Houston and Dallas and commute to jobs in San Antonio and Austin who spend a lot of their time telling locals that if things were more like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio or Austin, Fredericksburg would be a better place to live, and who think they are better than you if you disagree?

Lord, I hope not.

I miss my hometown.

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