The bones of Richard III weren’t the only things found buried this week. (In case you missed that news story, archeologists dug up his remains under a parking lot in Leicester, and verified them with DNA from one of his sister’s descendants from … Canada, a dutiful colony to this day.)
Not to be outdone, a friend sent us a text message: “A King has been found buried beneath the fish plant in Cape Broyle.”
Buried deep in the stream of news on the national and international wires was an item about a conference this week in Charleston, S.C., regarding problems and adverse effects created by the cruise ship industry.
The event was dubbed, “Harboring Tourism: A Symposium on Cruise Ships in Historic Port Communities.”
Granted, harbouring tourists isn’t as dangerous as harbouring terrorists, but the play on words makes it apparent the organizers don’t extoll the virtues and saintliness of the cruise ship industry, as is largely the habit at St. John’s City Hall.
Among the problems cited are water pollution, air pollution and congestion (of people descending upon a tourism site or historic city centre).
Additional problems created by the floating hotels are somewhat surprising, such as urban decay.
According to The Associated Press, “Concerns about the industry also have been raised in Venice. … UNESCO, the UN cultural organization, says the liners cause swells that further erode the delicate foundations of the city’s historic buildings.”
Some dilemmas aren’t surprising, such as economic ripoffs.
The AP reports, “Sam Jones, mayor of Mobile, Ala., is scheduled to speak at the conference. In his city, $20 million was invested in a cruise terminal in 2004. But later, Carnival Cruise Lines moved the liner serving the city to New Orleans. Now, Mobile has the challenge of paying for a terminal no longer used for cruises.”
That $20-million boondoggle dwarfs the $900,000 that St. John’s city council and the St. John’s Port Authority want to spend to build a fancy fence to keep locals off the harbourfront, but the principle is essentially the same.
Such officially sanctioned swindles can arise when authorities refuse to examine all sides of the issue. Tourism has become sacrosanct — all good, all beneficent, bestowing wealth upon the locals. You would almost think there is no downside, because we so seldom hear about it. Residents of St. John’s are relatively lucky they’re stuck with paying only $450,000 — half of the fence’s $900,000 price tag — rather than the $20 million Mobile taxpayers were hit with.
But the two cities share a scandalous irresponsibility of their elected representatives. In Politics 101, municipal politicians are supposed to look out for the residents’ best interests. In reality, such politicians are often schemers and cheerleaders for the latest fad or trend.
Thus the preposterous, backward situation in St. John’s, where councillors should be vociferously opposing any curtailment of public access to the harbourfront, but instead, a large majority of council members actually favours blocking off a portion of the wharf, and helping pay for it with taxpayers’ money.
A couple of adages come to mind. For residents of St. John’s: “People get the government they deserve.” For residents of Mobile, Ala.: “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.”
The symposium in Charleston is sponsored by the World Monuments Fund. According to its agenda, posted on its website, featured speakers are from Italy, Norway, Costa Rica, Alaska, Florida, Chile, California, Mexico, New York, South Carolina, Victoria, B.C., and Newfoundland — the latter being Ross Klein of Memorial University, a well-known expert on the cruise ship industry. Maybe some council members should give him a call next week.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.