I read with some interest your April 2 front-page story, “Chamber: City Manager needed for GT.”
While not being aware of all of the recommendations contained in the Chamber of Commerce’s list of ideas submitted to government; I, too, have some ideas of my own. I have been a leading advocate for urgent action to “save” our beloved Capital City – George Town.
On one of my numerous trips to Jamaica, I got lost at night driving and ended up in “Old Kingston” while trying to get to “New Kingston” – where all the major hotels and commerce now thrives.
One would wish to avoid driving in Old Kingston, even in the daytime! It is a place that harbors rats, drug addicts, criminals, trash, drug dealers and the “unwanted” of society.
Some in Jamaica’s leading economic circles have told me it took less than two decades for their once-thriving city to lose its luster, lose its attraction and become relegated to the trash heap of forgotten places … a place where people are afraid to visit or venture into. In 15 years, a leading business center, known as “Downtown Kingston,” was transformed to the “Old Kingston” it is today.
A leading cause for its ultimate demise was that economic giants of Jamaican society began to develop a new city center, which in short order became known as “New Kingston.” This was done because Downtown Kingston was being severely neglected by government.
Downtown Kingston was declared dead when New Kingston was born.
We must do whatever is necessary to avoid such a fate befalling our own beloved and historic capital city – George Town, Grand Cayman.
One can compare our present predicament – involving the Dart Group’s first-class development “Camana Bay” – to what occurred in Jamaica. Time is not on our side.
With that background, I have my own ideas to revitalize George Town:
Enact legislation and elect a mayor with the authority to drive the revitalization of George Town and prevent it from becoming our “Old Kingston.”
Create a city council.
The mayor must be the city manager and must be accountable to the city council, and ultimately to central government.
The mayor must have his/her own budget.
The city council’s funds should come from “user fees” levied by the mayor on tenants and other “users” of facilities and “spaces” in the revitalized George Town.
George Town must be our only recognized “mini metropolis” – in that the mayor, working with central government, must give incentives and other concessions to attract and retain first-rate businesses.
The mayor’s primary responsibility must be to ensure security for George Town’s businesses, residents and visitors.
Existing landlords should be encouraged (by incentives and other measures) to rebuild/remodel to allow for mixed-use commercial and residential buildings. All new buildings must allow for mixed uses.
Like the Chamber suggested, we should develop a public trolley system for George Town, as exists in San Francisco and also Boston, Massachusetts.
George Town must be incorporated with the mayor as its chief executive officer.
The mayor should only be able to serve two consecutive four-year terms, and must be chosen in open elections by residents and “users” of the city center.
The mayor must have real power, authority and support to prevent George Town from becoming “Old George Town” – a place infested with rats, criminals, drug addicts and drug traffickers; and a place where any business who dares remain will have to deal with broken windows and other destructive acts by vandals each day before they can open for business.
Businesses will be glad to say “Good riddance!” to such a place and “Camana Bay, here I come!”
It happened in Jamaica, and it will happen in Cayman should we fail to act now.