Enhancing The Tourist Environment
Often when one lives in a particular location for a period of time and passes the same sights every day one becomes accustom to the environment and after awhile pays little attention to surroundings and what I refer to as “eye pollution.” I was driving through southern Chalan Kanoa the other day and noticed how dilapidated many of the business structures appear along Beach Road.
Shoddy tire repair shops; flimsy,jerry built automobile repair fronts; greasy spoon restaurants; small, decrepit retail outlets and girlie bars that look as it they would blow away in a high wind. Some of the structures are so ugly you have to wonder if they belong in a tourist resort area. In thinking about it I recalled a comment made to me long ago, before the American urban renewal programs, which addressed the appearance of American cities in the eastern United States.
This person’s observation concerned the fact that after the Civil War America had lost the flower of its youth – people who would have been needed to propel the United States further into the industrial revolution and the westward movement were not available as Civil War cemeteries would testify. In order to obtain the labor to build the cities and expand the nation, American turned to immigrants from Europe. It was from the slums of Europe that many came to rebuild and expand the country. Unfortunately, as my friend pointed out, since many had been recruited from European slums they brought with them slum ideas about how a city should look with the result that by the early fifties many sections of American cities were very ugly.
In driving around Saipan I wondered if something similar is happening here. As an individual who has been involved in encouraging foreign investment for most of my adult career as a method to develop economies in my judgment many of these ugly, one room businesses are not complimentary to a tourist environment. I can appreciate the scenario that a local land owner might have little interest in the type of business or structure that is ultimately erected on land he or she has leased. It is, after all a free country. But many of these “ratty looking” structures do little to enhance the overall image of a tourist environment turning some sections of the island into tropical slums. Zoning would go a long way toward eliminating such eye soars and contribute to a more beautiful tropical resort island.
Freedom to do what you want is a double edge sword and as any economist knows very well – when it comes to money a universal law prevails which is – “bad money drives out the good.” Businesses that are allowed to invest only a little capital may, in some cases, drive out those that might have invested “big bucks.” For those interested in what a resort island can look like I suggest Bermuda as a model. Returning to the subject of freedom, I believed I have lived long enough to have earned some of life’s credentials and in this regard it has occurred to me that the more freedom a nation’s citizens have, the more laws are necessary to protect that freedom.
This results when some citizens carry what they perceive as their presumed inalienable rights too far to the extent of taking advantage, if not abusing, their freedom. Thus more laws are necessary to curb those abuses thereby placing further constraints to limit everyone’s freedom. Certainly zoning places limits on an individual’s freedom to do just anything with land but it does so presumably for the overall good of the area. It’s the double edged sword’s “trade-off.”