Tourists are important, but so are service workers
Tourism is identified in our region as an important contributor to our economic vitality, and I fully support the promotion of our history and beautiful natural resources to visitors.
However, there is an aspect of tourism that our elected officials don’t talk about: the low-wage jobs that support the industry through restaurant and hotel service as well as retail.
Certainly we pick up important tax dollars when tourists come into town to eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores, fill up their gas tanks and stay overnight at our hotels. Sad thing is, though, the people who work the jobs serving the visitors often don’t make enough to afford a lease on an apartment or even to purchase a reliable car.
I’ve known a number of people in our region who have worked low-wage service jobs. They usually do not know from week to week how many hours they will be working. That makes it very hard to take out a loan on a car or to be eligible for a lease on a place to live.
This explains in part why some people are homeless. Our local governments need to commit themselves to planning for housing for all income levels. Also, our buses need to run nights and weekends, run more frequently, and reach more neighborhoods so those who do not drive can still get where they need to go.
Though our local governments and social service organizations have some helpful programs in place, they fall short. Our elected officials should show service workers that they are valued by taking action to change course. Low- cost housing and transportation alternatives should be priorities.