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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009 12 years ago

Our view: Beware of the tipping point


Everyone knew it would come to this: the town trying to extract some ridiculous monetary concessions from the Longboat Key Club and Resort in return for approval of its expansion.

This is where those sitting on the dais must be careful. There’s always a tipping point, that moment when the people with the money, who are in far-away places and not emotionally attached, decide they’ve had enough.

It’s a slow drip at first. Then it quickens and becomes louder, like torture. They get the weekly phone calls and e-mails saying: “Now they want us to do this.” … “Now they want us to cut back on that.” … “Now they want us to give them this” … “Now they want us to pay for that.”

And there will come a time when the financiers, who only have a vested financial interest, weigh the circumstances: Should we continue to spend more time and money on lawyers and consultants to fight city hall and everyone else? Should we continue to divert management’s attention from running our core business to pursue what is becoming an increasing annoyance? Or would it be more profitable if we stopped here and took the resources we’re expending on Longboat Key and invested them where we know there will be a bigger and better payoff?

Should we stop at $2 million in expenses to get this far and not have to deal with the $400 million over the next seven years?

There is a tipping point. And planning board members and town commissioners should keep that in mind. Joe Lesser, managing partner of New York-based Key Club Associates, owner of the Longboat Key Club, is 82 years old. And from what we know about octogenarians on Longboat Key, they’re not exactly patient, nor do they shop for green bananas.

+ Seen versus unseen
This is an often-used concept on this page — seen versus what is unseen. It is apropos to the above discussion on the tipping point for the Key Club’s owners.

To begin, you would be hard-pressed to produce any evidence where $400 million expansions and upgrades at other unique, successful resorts in America have led to a community’s economic decline and deterioration. It doesn’t happen.

So consider that the “seen.” Indeed, it is an easy intellectual leap to see that the Key Club’s proposed expansion would provide a huge, economic boost to all of Longboat Key and greater Sarasota.
We can see that when we see the renderings of the proposed buildings.

But what is unseen are the consequences of not redeveloping and expanding the Key Club.

The travails of the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort certainly stand as a reminder of what can happen. But think beyond that.

What if Key Club Associates pulls its plans and does what General Manager Michael Welly has said is a likely result? Key Club Associates would never propose another expansion. And in all likelihood it would manage the Key Club for cash flow, milking it like a depleting oil well, all the while looking for a buyer.

And who would buy, knowing he could never obtain the approvals for major redevelopment? The buyers would have to be convinced they could operate the 30-year-old facilities less expensively and bring in more tourists and business groups to recoup their investment.

Not likely.

The well continues to deplete and deteriorate. This is the “unseen.”

+ Mediator, schmediator
Many people have said the Key Club should “come to the table” and negotiate a compromise with the Islandside Property Owners Association. There’s a lot of chatter about bringing in a mediator to craft a compromise.

This is not a lawsuit. There is nothing to negotiate or settle.

It’s a legal process for the Town Commission to decide whether an applicant meets the town’s codes and ordinances to execute his land development plan. Vote it up or down on the legal merits.

+ Moore vote good for all
Town planners and two town commissioners didn’t like that Alan Moore used his bank loans to obtain residential zoning for his Moore’s Stone Crab Restaurant. Indeed, the loans were not the town’s problem. Nonetheless, downzoning to residential was in everyone’s best interest now and in the future.

+ Colony revival
Welcome back, Colony. We hope your reopening is the start of a magnificent New Year.

Who knows best: You or Pelosi?

By Walter Williams

The ultimate constraint that we all face is knowledge — what we know and don’t know.

The knowledge problem is pervasive, and by no means trivial as hinted at by just a few examples:
You’ve purchased a house. Was it the best deal you could have gotten? Was there some other house you could have purchased that 10 years later would not have needed extensive repairs or was in a community with more likeable neighbors and a better environment for your children?

What about the person you married? Was there another person who would have made for a more pleasing spouse?

Though these are important questions, the most intelligent answer you can give to all of them is: “I don’t know.”

 Since you don’t know the answers, who do you think, here on Earth, is likely to know, and whom would you like to make these decisions for you — Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Bush, a czar appointed by Obama or a committee of Washington bureaucrats? I bet that if these people were to make housing or marital decisions for us forcibly, most would deem it tyranny.

 You say, “Williams, Congress is not making such monumental decisions that affect my life.” Try this:
You are a 22-year-old healthy person. Instead of spending $3,000 or $4,000 a year for health insurance, you’d prefer investing that money in equipment to start a landscaping business. Which is the best use of that $3,000 or $4,000 a year — purchasing health insurance or starting up a landscaping business? And who should decide that question: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George Bush, a czar appointed by Obama or a committee of Washington bureaucrats? How can they possibly know what’s the best use of your earnings, particularly in light of the fact that they have no idea of who you are?

 Neither you nor the U.S. Congress has the complete knowledge to know exactly what’s best for you. The difference is that when individuals make their own trade-offs, say between purchasing health insurance or investing in a business, they make wiser decisions because it is they who personally bear the costs and benefits of those decisions.

You say, “Hold it, Williams, we’ve got you now! What if that person gets really sick and doesn’t have health insurance. Society suffers the burden of taking care of him.” To the extent that is a problem, it is not a problem of liberty; it’s a problem of congressionally mandated socialism. Let’s look at it.

 It is not society that bears the burden; it is some flesh and blood American worker who finds his earnings taken by Congress to finance the health needs of another person.

There is absolutely no moral case, much less constitutional case, for Congress forcibly using one American to serve the purposes of another American, a practice that differs only in degree from slavery, which we all should find morally offensive.

 Whether it is health care, education, employment or most other areas of our lives, I ask you: Who has the capacity to master all the complexity to make choices on behalf of others?

Each of us possesses only a tiny percentage of the knowledge that would be necessary to make totally informed decisions in our own lives, much less the lives of others.

There is only one reason for the forcible transference of decision-making authority over important areas of our private lives to elite decision-makers in Congress and government bureaucracies. Doing so confers control, power, wealth and revenue to society’s elite.

What’s in the best interests of individual members of society, such as a person who’d rather launch a landscaping business than purchase a health insurance policy, ranks low on the elite’s list of priorities.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. Copyright Creators Syndicate,

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