Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Andre Wright | We’re pissed off, buddy

Published:Friday | August 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A man urinates outside the St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston in 2011, despite the presence of refurbished bathrooms just a few feet away.
Pedestrians walk past a warning on a wall adjacent to the Kingston Parish Church which tells what will happen to the offender who tries to urinate in this area. Taken on Tuesday, May 31, 2005.
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There's nothing like a new law to embolden municipal authorities to tread with elephantine swagger and swing a twig to compensate for a small ego. Delroy Williams knows that too well.

Williams, mayor of Jamaica's piss-soaked capital, must understand that big-chested pronouncements, like those he has been making about moving a resolution in the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation to amend the Solid Waste Management Public Cleansing Regulations, are prone to invoke more cynicism than support.

Senator Williams' grand plan to increase the fines and custodial sentences for breaches in proximity to national heritage sites will fall flat on its face without the corresponding enforcement drive. Increasing fines won't matter if you don't catch Willy Wonka in the first place.

If the mayor is unaware of the pissiest spots in the capital, he could ask the average commuter whose nose flares within 10 feet of radioactivity. He could start at

St William Grant Park at Parade, downtown Kingston, which, despite lavatory facilities on the inside, reeks of effluent on the outside. Not too far away is that paradise of pee, the lane on the eastern boundary of Coke Methodist Church, where even the Holy Ghost has fled the stench.

And how about the entrance to the NCB car park in Half-Way Tree Square, across from Clock Tower Plaza, which is a veritable cesspool of urine? I'm sure that readers could pinpoint multiple more sites drowning in human waste.

Greater Kingston isn't the only global city that's a welcome toilet. Wealthy American cities like San Francisco are covered in poop everywhere - from footpaths to sidewalks.

"I will say there is more faeces on the footpaths than I've ever seen growing up here," London Breed, San Francisco's mayor, told NBC recently. "That is a huge problem and we are not just talking about from dogs; we're talking about from humans."

 

Common denominator

 

Both San Francisco and Kingston suffer from a common denominator - municipal authorities that have been negligent and complicit in the corrosion of urban order. There is a deficit in public will.

Mayor Williams will be quick, no doubt, to find refuge in the rote of politicians: "There is just no money." Or: "It's not in the Budget." But that's a cop-out.

Political leaders should be aware that there are greater costs associated with the deterioration of public order, such as, fundamentally, the disincentivisation of investment and commerce in your city. If no one wants to shop there and no one wants to set up shop, urban rot will take root and spiral.

So for the mayor to fixate on the passage of legislation - "Our laws need modifications and the time is now" - won't mean diddly if he isn't already cuffing half the stray willies peeing on the roadside. Laws, in themselves, are not the silver bullet to lawlessness; enforcement is.

And it's not just the urine, it's the mounds of garbage, the vending chaos, the general descent into pandemonium that defines Kingston's streets.

We've had it with pledges and warnings of zero tolerance - from the mayor, the police, members of parliament, just about anyone who represents authority - because if there's one thing that Jamaica is intolerant of, it is high-sounding, empty talk of zero tolerance.

Meanwhile, the State must provide enough garbage receptacles and self-funding, low-fee public lavatories in major towns. After all, people have got to go. And if the homeless and mentally ill aren't taken to shelters or Bellevue, it'll be an exercise in futility.

If the mayor is intent on not being a scratched record, his campaign should be quota-driven: say, 3,000 prosecutions for littering and 300 for urination per month. And that's just scratching the surface.

So the next time a 'cruff' arches his back, reels out his firehose, and splashes the pavement, it's a screw-faced warden (none of that Anthony the Friendly Cop crap) wielding a bigger stick that will make him go limp.

- Andre Wright is The Gleaner's opinion editor. These comments do not necessarily reflect those of this newspaper. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.