Mon | Jun 17, 2019

Carolyn Cooper | Pop-down signs of neglect in Kingston

Published:Sunday | April 14, 2019 | 12:29 AM

Several months ago, twenty banners were put up on light posts along the Palisadoes Road. They were bright and beautiful and blew briskly in the breeze. I can’t remember if the banners were deliberately slit to let the wind pass through. But I figured that the supposed experts who had installed them knew what they were doing. Perhaps the material used was much more durable than it appeared to be.

The banners were advertising Kingston as the city of reggae. That was even before UNESCO dubbed our music a global cultural treasure. Some government committee must have decided that it was an excellent idea to install banners to welcome tourists and remind Jamaicans of the cultural capital of the city.

Unfortunately, the idea was not thought through properly.

The wind on the Palisadoes Road is powerful. Soon, the banners started to show signs of neglect. A little tear here and there! Then much worse: tear up, tear up!

Nineteen of the banners are now completely batter-bruised. They are barely cotching on their light posts. They look like fallen kites hitched up in trees. The optics are not good.

Only one of the twenty banners is intact. Perhaps it has been replaced. If so, what about the others?

I’d like to believe that this solitary banner is a miracle, confirming the truth of the proverb, if yu born fi heng, yu can’t drown. Or, in this instance, if yu mek fi heng up, yu can’t pop down. Incidentally, this drown/hang proverb is not unique to Jamaica. It appears in several languages, including English.

ROUND AND ROUND

I tried to find out which government agency was responsible for putting up the flimsy banners and failing to maintain them. First, I called the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport. I was referred to the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. From there, I was sent to the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC).

I went round and round the corporation and was unable to find anyone who could confirm responsibility for the banners. I was told that a generic ‘sign company’ had put them up. But I couldn’t get a name. I suppose this is not a project to be proud of.

My fruitless wandering around the corporation reminded me of my wasted effort trying to find out from the mayor’s office when repairs would start on the section of the roof at the Papine Market that was destroyed by fire almost a whole year ago. I was sent to the office of the town planner and then back to the mayor. And back again to the town planner!

Clearly, dem tek mi fi eedyat.

But I got the message and gave up without getting an answer.

Two Saturdays ago, I saw that the process of repairing the roof has finally started. A plyboard fence has been put up around the damaged area. I was told that it had been erected that same week. This was April 6, 2019. The fire happened on May 31, 2018!

KSAMC SELLS STREET TO CHINESE?

The torn-up banners on the Palisadoes Road are a relatively minor issue. Dem look bad, yes, but it’s not a life-and-death matter. Unless you’re driving and take your eyes off the road to look at them and get into an accident!

Papine Market is a whole other business. So many vendors depend on the market to make an honest living. It should not have remained in such a state of disrepair for so long.

What bothers me is how philosophical some of the vendors are about the Government’s failure to move quickly to repair the market.

When I said to one them that it was real disgrace, her response was, “At least dem start fix it”. She was resigned to her fate.

It’s almost as if people don’t expect ‘Govament’ to do any better.

Of course, other vendors are angry that they have been disrespected by the KSAMC. For almost eleven months, experts have been coming to view the damage at the market and nothing seemed to come of it. And there wasn’t anything that the vendors or their customers could do about it.

As I know full well, calling and emailing the KSAMC to complain made absolutely no difference. Just another site visit but no action!

There’s another issue on which I’ve had no luck with the KSAMC.

More than two years ago I wrote a column, ‘KSAC sells street to Chinese?’, which was published on February 5, 2017.

I’d sent an email to the CEO, enquiring about the sale of parking spots to Chinese businesses on Princess Street: “Can you please let me know the terms on which parking spaces are sold? To whom are parking spaces sold? And at what cost? When was this policy first implemented? And how is it managed?”

Up to the time of writing that column, I hadn’t got a response. Last Friday, I tried following up. It was round and round the KSAMC again. I’ve given up. I can’t deal with the vertigo. Or the neglect!

- Carolyn Cooper, PhD, is a specialist on culture and development. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and karokupa@gmail.com.