This could be the start of a bad habit. I tuned into Bill Becker’s morning show on Labor Day and once again encountered the Chamber of Commerce PAC spokesperson, Jennifer Hulse make gobbledygook out of figures taken from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) Reconnaissance Report on the proposed channel dredging of Cut B.
Bill Becker was left sputtering and nearly speechless while Hulse claimed that widening the channel could create 1200 new jobs in Key West.
Becker asked, “You mean, another possible 1200 jobs if the channel is widened, versus if it is not?
Becker: “Where would these jobs come from?”
Hulse: “If we can bring in a higher class of passenger that generates more money to the city – that’s jobs created for the city.”
Becker: “So, widening the channel would give us more jobs — I mean — it would just trigger that?”
Hulse: That’s what the Reconnaissance Study says and I’m sure that’s what the Feasibility Study will say – in more detail.
There’s one really BIG problem. That’s not exactly what the Reconnaissance Report says. The job creation estimate is based on an assumption that the project will result in more and higher capacity cruise ships.
So, while the Chamber of Commerce keeps insisting that the intent is not to bring more people. The Army Corps’ estimate is based on bringing LOTS more people. The additional job creation would result from the necessity to provide services for all of the additional passengers and crew. In fact, the Army Corps estimates that as many as 1800 new jobs could be created. The other side of the equation, however, is that would require adding about 1.3 million new passengers and crew to our existing level. In other words, it would approximately triple the cruise ship presence in Key West.
Scaling back to the estimate of 1200 new jobs that Hulse suggested would be created, would only require the addition of about 845,000 additional passengers and crew. That more than doubles what we have today. Just think… double the number of Conch Trains, double the number of trolleys, double the number of $5 stores – you get the picture.
On one hand the Chamber claims that they are not interested in more passengers, but in the same breath, they are boasting about the job creation that would only be achieved if the number of disembarking passengers doubled.
But this is where their argument really falls apart. We don’t have 1200 unemployed workers and our present and future housing couldn’t accommodate them if we were even able to attract the required workers. Furthermore, would we really want to?
The Chamber’s new argument relies on job creation for workers that we don’t have and a housing shortage that already leads to the highest prices for living accommodations in the state. In a feeble attempt to create the need for more jobs, Hulse claims that Duval St. stores are already laying off employees due to the shrinking cruise disembarkations. Someone should alert the bean-counters, who note that Key West has shown steady decline in unemployment for the past four years – presently only 3.6%, or half of what it was in 2009.
However, the Chamber’s wet dream becomes even more nightmarish. It totally overlooks the environmental impacts of dredging, which the Report states will occur. Then add twice as many cruise ship passengers standing on the reef, flushing toilets, the cumulative impact of twice as much toxic sunscreen in the water, etc. Plus, the additional increased population to service them.
Bigger ships, more ships, double the number of cruise passengers with all of the negative accompanying impacts. The Chamber of Commerce wants to study how we can get there from here.
It’s all there, on page 29 of the Reconnaissance Study. Jennifer Hulse doesn’t want you to really look at what it says – she wants you to take her word for it. But you don’t get the (unneeded jobs) without the passengers. As Captain Tony would say, “there’s no free lunch.”