Editorial: We have guests coming over

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If you are a regular reader, you will know that we have a few pet peeves. Recently, we touched on the whole issue of littering and the lack of civic pride that seems to be taking over our bit of paradise. Today, we continue on our pet peeve rant and would like to highlight another issue that is continuous – infrastructure maintenance and development.
Admittedly, that is a broad issue but we think that it actually falls under the wider issue of civic pride. And it is an issue that transcends politics because, as we said before, it is continuous. So, before the touchy, kool-aid drinkers attack with rabid viciousness, just relax and you just may find that the point that we are about to make is a criticism of government, in a generic term, and not a political one aimed in any particular direction.
The topic of infrastructure came to the fore when it was announced that Redcliffe Street and the West Bus Station are among places dubbed as “priority areas to be fixed” by mid-July. This, according to Saiid Greene, managing director of the Antigua Pier Group who indicated that after hearing cries of frustration from vendors and doing an evaluation of the West bus station, a “retrofit of those areas will be done ahead of the 2017 Carnival celebrations”.
And there you have it. Like normal, we are going to be rushing to ‘fix-up and clean-up’ because we have some guests coming over. The cries of the vendors and bus drivers have been echoing in the wilderness for years but it takes the 60th anniversary of Carnival to prompt action. The West Bus Station, alone, has a litany of health, security and basic infrastructure issues that have been reported for many, many years. Yet, for some reason, the government could never muster the resources to address them.
We did an informal, unscientific poll of a group of people (we have to be careful how we describe polls nowadays) and every one of about 20 people knew of someone that had an accident on Redcliffe Street. One person recalled an incident of a friend that fell through the wooden drain covers in 1997, got jabbed by something and ended up with a nasty infection in their leg. That was 20 years ago!
We are welcoming of any efforts to address the many issues that plague our nation’s infrastructure, especially the St John’s environs, but we must ask, is this more of the usual band-aid fixes or are these fixes part of a long-term plan? Listening to Mr Greene and his pronouncement that “work has begun” in order for “history to be made” in the city did not give us the comfort level that we desired.
More to the point, is there a master plan that has been developed, of which, these fixes form a part of? Or, are we sprucing up and sweeping things under the carpet until the guests leave?
Mr Greene spoke of the work being done to fix broken covers that have led to exposed gutters which have, in turn, become the source of unsightly garbage and odour. But how long has the stench of St John’s been a burden on the noses of the visitors, workers and storekeepers in the city? And how long has the unsightly garbage in our open gutters been a burden on everyone’s eyes? Answer these questions and you will see why this is a government thing and not a political thing. It is a matter of civic pride and being proud of how we present paradise to the world and not one where you pull the drapes to hide the mess and our faces from embarrassment.
Every city requires a master plan. Not long ago, the government presented an ambitious plan for St John’s which we commended and we hoped that we would have seen some significant movement toward that goal by now. We have always held that St John’s is an extremely unique city in the Caribbean and it could become our greatest tourist attraction. We understand that takes resources but we also believe that if we manage our limited resources well, and take a systematic approach to doing a bit at a time, we will eventually get there. Certainly, if we had started 20 years ago, we would probably have finished whatever master plan we may have started.

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