Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Editorial | A capital mired in filth

Published:Saturday | December 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Kingston's new mayor has inherited a city mired in filth. It has been that way for a long while. In fact, the last time Kingston looked clean and felt environmentally friendly was during the 1980s when then Prime Minister Edward Seaga made cleanliness a centerpiece of his administration.

Incoming Mayor Delroy Williams has a huge task to prove that he can deliver quality service among and across the various groups that live and work in the city of Kingston and its environs. The people are aching for bold, creative and imaginative leadership and many long for a better experience with their government.

When measuring the impact of outgoing Mayor Dr Angela Brown Burke, the evidence suggests that her performance was distinctly unremarkable because it was a tenure marked by inefficient and ineffective management. Streets of shame, poor sanitation, garbage backlog, indiscriminate sidewalk construction, lack of accountability and transparency are some of Mayor Brown Burke's legacy.

It is far from sexist to acknowledge that women usually bring to leadership different experiences from their male counterparts. One obvious difference in a woman's approach includes attention to the environment and often greater compassion for the less fortunate. Conditions in the market district, where the majority of vendors are women trying to eke out a living, remained pretty much as Dr Brown Burke found them - dirty and disgusting.

So now, it's Mr Williams turn to prove that he can do better to remove the scar from Kingston's once beautiful face. At his swearing-in, Williams shared his lofty dream of making "Kingston the capital of the Caribbean, the pearl of the Antilles, and a major player on the Latin American landscape". All nice-sounding words, we say, but what about the resolve to make Kingston a cleaner, more orderly place? Even as he was being sworn in, chaos was on display within and without the Council Chamber.




Creating a clean environment will mean finding space for the city's indigents who can be seen at traffic signals and generally roaming the streets of the Corporate Area. Some of these persons are menacing and dangerous and have been known to attack persons going about their business. Sadly, this problem has been ignored by successive administrations.

Voters who thumbed their noses at the recent municipal elections and stayed away from polling booths were sending a clear signal to the municipal leaders. It will be more of the same, underperformance by local politicians who have no clue how to put the country on the path to improvement. In the estimation of nearly half of the electorate, these men and women of the local councils will not make any difference to their way of life.

As a young mayor, Williams is likely to be au fait with social media tools. We urge him, therefore, to make use of these platforms to improve transparency and accountability of the KSAC. Communicate with citizens and let them know what infrastructure projects are being contemplated and how they will be implemented. Move away from closed-door committee meetings and create easy channels for citizens to register complaints and respond with a sense of urgency. In other words, improve citizens' experience with their municipal government.

The mayor is the glue that holds a city together, albeit, he is not a one-man band and needs the cooperation of fellow councilors. He also has to ensure that managers and department heads are capable of doing their jobs and are performing.

Williams has promised much, but we don't know yet what measures he intends to use to achieve his goals. Only time will tell whether he has the ability and the will to get the job done.