Paco Kennedy and downtown Kingston
‘Paco’ Kennedy and downtown Kingston
The tributes to Francis Kennedy, the president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) who died last week, have centred largely on his promotion of enterprise and his equanimity. As Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller observed, he never complained – always willing to accept an assignment.
Indeed, there was an innate decency about ‘Paco’ Kennedy. He stood on no pedestal; driven neither by social status, creed nor class. Yet, the emotions that Mr Kennedy’s death have triggered in this newspaper are not primarily about whether he was a good businessman; his quality as president of the JCC; or any other such assessment, qualitative or quantitative, of his achievements.
We have a mixture of sadness and anger for the grit and squalor of downtown Kingston, which is a betrayal to ‘Paco’ Kennedy and a declaration of the policy failures of the central government and the incompetence of the municipal authority that manages the city. Mr Kennedy was a passionate and consistent campaigner for the resuscitation of the old section of the Jamaican capital, which crumbled during the worst days of hardened political rivalry and the ascendancy of criminal gangs and effete administration. The latter problem runs deep.
Indeed, the worst of the political excesses of downtown is receding, or is in remission. But there appears to be an absence of leadership and will to capture the space and fill the vacuum. Or, when an attempt is made, it is at best clunky and incompetent.
There is no clear strategy, say, in downtown’s central business district, by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), the local government, to maintain public order or to keep the area relatively clean. Or, perhaps, the authority’s officials have no real sense of what these things mean.
For instance, on King Street, the heart of downtown with its public buildings, sidewalks are overtaken by homeless people and are strewn with garbage. Recently, when this newspaper complained about dangerous evergreens that were dangerously overgrown, someone – the KSAC we assume – caused their tops to be hacked, rather than trimmed and groomed.
We will be told, of course, that such aesthetic considerations are expensive when, in fact, what is required can be achieved with minimum wage labour and a little bit of supervision. And that would be a start in sending the signal, as Mr Kennedy often urged, that there is a commitment to rescue downtown and a long-term, coherent plan to get the job done.
It would be a tribute to ‘Paco’ Kennedy if Mayor Angela Brown Burke could find a way to get – and keep – downtown clean.
It probably says something that those who reflexively bash the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), and sympathise with the 15 players who walked out of the tour of India because they disagreed with the pay package negotiated by their union, seem to spare no thought for the other players who represent the Caribbean territorial teams and would benefit as a result of the new arrangements.
Nor do they care about respect for the norms of industrial relations, unless the WICB is the erring party. To reiterate: The problem is infighting within the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA), the trade union, with an elite group wanting to maintain it as a closed shop of privilege.
Until recently, WIPA focused almost exclusively on the elite few who were selected for senior West Indies teams. They were paid large sums, regardless of how they performed, which was mostly poorly. The rest of WIPA’s constituency, whose interests it is also obligated to promote, was ignored.
Under the new deal, some of the money that elite players used to earn will fund contracts for an additional 90 players selected by the six regional franchises for the new-format regional tournament. The elite group is in a fight with their union over its attempt to more broadly share the spoils of West Indies cricket.
The WICB has an interest in helping to resolve the conflict, but it is not of the board’s making.