Dateline 2012: City Overwhelmed By Art Galleries

Fake News From The Future posted by Martha Throebeck on Thursday, February 22, 2007

from the will-anybody-save-walmart? dept.

The following story comes from February 22, 2012:

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI -- It was only a few short years ago that civic boosters hoped that parts of the city could be revitalized by art galleries and studio apartments. The planned worked beautifully. A little too beautifully, in fact. Now art galleries have popped up everywhere, occupying valuable real estate while generating precious little tax revenue.

"We wanted gentrification, but this is ridiculous!" exclaimed the city manager while giving a tour of the 27 different art galleries that have appeared on Good Hope Street in the last five years. I mean, do we really need three storefronts selling 'post-modern neo-cubist glass sculptures'? It's like we've been overrun with a plague of avant-garde locusts!"

Long-time residents are still having trouble believing that Cape Girardeau has suddenly morphed into the art mecca of the Midwest. But despite all of the success, the average art gallery produces very little tax revenue, leaving the city in dire financial straits.

"We were actually better off when we still had vacant lots and crack houses," explained a city police officer. "With the low crime rate these days, we can't get any decent federal grants. The pork barrels are empty."

Other revenue sources have shriveled as well. Some of the neighborhoods have gentrified so much that many residents -- typically starving artists -- are able to walk freely and don't own cars. "Vehicle registrations, parking tickets, fuel taxes -- the numbers are lousy," said a worker in the county collector's office. "We're headed for the worst crisis we've seen since the Blizzard of '79."

One city councilman has proposed a moratorium on new business licenses for art galleries and other "foo-foo" businesses. "The big box stores along the interstate are hurting badly, and we're losing sales tax revenue left and right," he argued. "The chain stores simply can't compete with the downtown revitalization. But I keep telling people, you you can't run a city with only mom-and-pop operations! Once you start losing franchise businesses, it's all downhill from there."

Despite the dire predictions, many downtown residents feel little sympathy for the city's plight. Said one bicyclist near the River Campus, "First they were upset that downtown didn't have enough thriving businesses. Then they were upset that downtown had too many taverns. And now the alcohol is gone, but they're still not happy. Sheesh!"