Wow, what a spectacular Monday morning. One of those days when I send a “wish you were here” postcard. Which got me to thinking: Why would anyone want to live in Key West?
There are a bazillion unscientific surveys that say Key West is a “top 10 this-that-and-the-other,” but those things are always about why VISITORS want to be in Key West. There’s nothing out there, at least nothing I’ve found, that explains why one would choose Key West as the place to move to be a teacher, doctor, lawyer, business owner, cop, firefighter, etc. You know, the kinds of jobs and professions that make a little-town-big-city a great place to put down long-term roots.
I used to live in a place where the first words out of anyone’s mouth when a permanent newcomer came to town were: “WHY would you want to move here? It’s awful.” Really. They did. The people who lived in that town professed to like living there, but they sure questioned the sanity of those who came with a moving van and permanent address.
Key West ought not be that kind of place. But I wonder sometimes if we’ve not gotten way far down that path over the past 20 years, at a pace that seems to be escalating. We keep asking: How can we get people to come here? How can we improve the “experience” for our visitors.
Ought we not be asking instead “what must we do to become a place where people want to live”?
Social scientists use pretty specific criteria to define a good place to live. Among them, a livable community needs well-paying jobs, housing those jobs can pay for, good schools, access to health care, public safety, strong leadership and community participation, a sense of shared vision and goals, a welcoming diversity, things to do, opportunities to grow, a solid infrastructure and public services and a sense of community.
I believe that if Key West were to make this a great place to live, our tourists and visitors would follow along happily. But we’re so focused on making things good for visitors, investment home owners and tourists that we’ve lost sight of the locals.
So, this is where I need your help. Whether you already live here or think you’d love to live here, what criteria must be solidly in place for you to stay or come with a moving van?