The Keys to the City

As someone who was born, raised, educated, and now currently works in Port of Spain, I often imagine what it would be like if I, a woman, were mayor, instead of the men that continue to dominate that position (Click here to view NALIS’ list of the Mayors of Port of Spain). What would I do to keep the city clean and hospitable to all?

Indulge me in the following flight of fancy.

If I were the mayor of the city, I would:

  • Liaise with the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders to ensure that “caring for our community’s inhabitants, visitors and surroundings” is part of the primary and secondary school curriculum (Social Studies?). Instilling such lessons at an early age is important. It stands to reason that civic-minded children may become civic-minded adults.

  • Consistently maintain Port of Spain’s parks and recreational areas. This includes seating, security, signage, garbage collection and the planting, pruning and watering of shrubs, trees, grounds. Lord Harris Square is still without its statue and has been in a state of “repair” for the past few months or so.

  • Erect street signage and provide direction information that is clear, accurate and consistent. i) I see that the Secretariat for the Implementation for Spanish has been putting up a number of signs in Spanish, but they must be accompanied by the English versions. ii) What about maps of the city? In my travels to a few major metropolitan cities, it was so useful to refer to the many encased street maps that were conveniently located throughout. iii) I think that the city ambassadors programme is a good idea. Click here to read more about it. But it seems to be mostly geared towards the tourists / foreigners. Ideally, information booths / kiosks could be strategically placed throughout POS (and not just on the Promenade and Frederick Street), offering directions to landmarks, sites of interest, public telephones (more needed, especially the coin-operated ones), public restrooms (more needed), as well as maps, tour and intra-city shuttle services etc. to foreigners and locals alike.

  • Ensure that streets are constantly maintained: no potholes and broken pavements (see below). I still have all of my senses and limbs, but seem to “buss” a skid, trip or fall in POS, every other week, due to a combo of my own clumsiness and moreover, some shoddy maintenance.

  • Make certain that the city is accommodating to the differently-abled. i) Are the pavements and streets wheel-chair accessible or easy for someone on crutches to maneuver? ii) I have my doubts as to whether the “blinking” lights plan makes it easy for the visually-impaired to cross our roads. Would they best be served by traffic lights that actually use all three (3) colours and that incorporate the use of sound-features? iii) Are our signs for streets and major city attractions labeled in Braille or in a font, size and color that is readable by all? Note: Only last year were the disabled granted wheel-chair access to the Hall of Justice. Read the full story here.

  • Commercially sweep and wash the streets daily. It is good to provide employment for people, but no human cleaning activities can be as efficient in getting rid of human and animal waste (see point to follow) as sweeping and washing machines. Cleaners (with the necessary equipment) could still be assigned to maintaining certain street sections throughout the day.

  • Put more bins / trash receptacles, and larger, more strategically located ones at that, on our streets. Have them emptied (by the aforementioned cleaners) every few hours, instead of being left in an overflowing state all day long.

  • Increase the number of litter prevention wardens (LPW) patrolling the streets and equip them with the necessary tools (camera to capture the perps on film?). Last year there was an article in the Express about LPW’s work. Read the full text here. Wonder about the practicality of clogging up an already overburdened court system with matters like this. Maybe we need a small, specialized court that deals with littering and other associated offences. Failure to pay fines = garbage collection duty in some very busy part of Trinidad, names printed in the papers (a good mix of nasty task and public humiliation).

  • Rid the city of stray animals. It certainly ruins my day to have to dodge a steaming turd on the pavement first thing in the morning, or to be rushed at lunch time by a pack of fierce dogs that are after the food that I am carrying.

  • Liaise with Ministry of Social Development? and other stakeholders to find ways getting the homeless off of the streets and to the help that they need, while treating those same individuals with dignity. Prohibiting the distribution of food to the homeless in Tamarind Square is not the answer. Last year I was amazed to see the respect that was given to the homeless in a major world city. There they were entitled to access the city’s services and facilities such as public transportation and libraries (The Carnegie Free Library’s stance on usage by vagrants might not be worth emulating).

  • Consult with major stakeholders (law enforcement, business owners etc.) to devise and implement a plan (street cams, increased foot and vehicular patrols) to combat crime (robberies, sales of counterfeit products, illegal vending etc.).

As the local government election approaches I am forced to consider that although there are certain attractions, I do not know if I could spend another few years in this Stink City.

Murch, just give me the dam keys!







Note: Who is the genius that saw it fit to okay a “parade” of music trucks from Memorial Park, all the way down Frederick Street to the Promenade, during yesterday’s rush hour (4pm-)?


~ by mangoandmosquitoblog on January 24, 2008.

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