Friday, November 13, 2015

Letter to the Brunswick News Submitted in Response to UGA/FL on Saint Simons

To the Editor, 

           The purpose of this letter is to properly inform you of the results of the so-called "success" of Georgia-Florida weekend according to Dale Provenzano. As far as the local businesses and those who work them it cannot be described as anything other than an unmitigated disaster. I have informally talked to people who work at or own over 30 businesses, ranging from bars, high end restaurants, retail stores, garment stores, rental companies, to taxi services and have yet found a positive answer regarding the weekend. The responses ranged from 20%down to over 70% down. I'll say that again. 70% DOWN.  From busboys and bartenders, to renters who depend on this weekend to pay costs for the off season, this has had an incredibly negative effect on near everybody. This weekend for all of the aforementioned businesses is the real Black Friday for Glynn County. It is the last and busiest weekend of the year we can count on to cover our costs and get us through the winter. I know this may sound hyperbolic, but I can attest that Christmas is literally cancelled for hundreds if not thousands of people in the county. It was cancelled through the aggressive and, to be frank, offensive campaign Mr. Provenzano waged on "Frat Beach". He effectively put a huge KEEP OUT sign outside our community and it worked. I question the wisdom of putting that kind of sign outside a TOURIST community. 

             The scary side of this is what the tourists that actually came said. I heard repeatedly how they did not feel welcome, and they won't be coming back ever. These were not underage students. These were twentysomething to thirtysomething alumni who were so offended by their experience, they wouldn't come back on any other weekend as well. That's a lifetime of lost revenue for the county for every person offended. They did not feel comfortable going anywhere with a minimum of 5 pairs of eyes attached to a badge. Who wants to vacation to a place where anywhere you go, you are surrounded by police officers?  Never mind the well publicized letters Mr. Provenzano wrote to the universities as well as the newspapers, which, in my mind, as well as those who came for the weekend, sent the message, "We don't want you here".

             The police officers presence just flat out made everyone feel uncomfortable and seemed excessive.  That "6,000 people on the beach" is just a scandalous lie. According to officers who were there, a more accurate estimate places it at 1,500. Even the picture in the paper was used from two years ago. Besides, I got more complaints on people unable to get to the beach. One complaint was lack of parking. The reason for that, at the coast guard station at least puts the first FORTY spaces occupied by police cruisers across the state. These foreign cops were antagonistic to the locals as well(despite the glowing review of Mr. Provenzano).  I know of at least one restaurant owner, who had four cruisers parked right in front of his front door, politely request "gentleman, I know you have a job to do, but you are making my workers as well as my guests uncomfortable, would you mind just parking across the street?" only to be rudely rebuffed. This is a poisonous environment for the entire tourism industry.

            I understand there was an outcry for a more controlled island during this weekend. Something probably has to be done. However, the tactics used herein offended myself as resident, and has proven overbearing and incredibly shortsided financially for the county. While this particular weekend will only force a few hundred restaurant, retail, and hotel workers(just to name a few) to sweat and stress their personal bills entering the slow season, I don't think it is overstating that the economic future of our community is in question considering the actions and attitude of this commission.

John Jersey Koedderich