“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.” — E.C. McKenzie

Eons ago a cartoon appeared in the New Yorker magazine. Here’s the setup:

A father and son were pulled off to the side of the road with a flat tire. While the exasperated dad was wrestling with the jack and the wrench and the bolts, he looked up and said, “Son, I can’t change the channel. This is real!”

Likewise, on a number of key issues, Cayman can no longer “change the channel.” It must deal with a multitude of critical issues that have been allowed to pile up – not unlike the mountains of trash at the George Town Landfill.

At the top of everyone’s mind this week – for obvious reasons – are the fuel tanks at Jackson Point. Over the decades, homes and businesses have grown up around this critical, yet potentially combustible facility. The South Church Street area will soon see further development, including, as reported in today’s Compass, a new 36-unit luxury condo complex called Fin.

We don’t know (but rest assured, we are looking into) the magnitude of the disaster that could have occurred if firefighters had not been able to control Sunday’s blaze. The only clues we have are that Chief Fire Officer David Hails said it was potentially “catastrophic” and that emergency responders thought it appropriate to evacuate hundreds of people within a one-mile radius of the terminal.

We do appreciate this week’s post-event press conference featuring Chief Hails, but that debrief should have included planning experts, attorneys and perhaps an actuary or two. Chief Hails cannot be expected to speak authoritatively on such issues as: What is the downside risk of having fuel tanks amidst a densely populated and growing area? What is the worst-case scenario if the fuel tanks ignite/combust/explode? Who would be liable? And dozens of others…

As we noted in Wednesday’s editorial, Cayman’s leaders have had at least two opportunities to relocate the increasingly out-of-place fuel terminal – first with the proposed East End Seaport in 2010, and again in 2014 in a proposed deal with Navasota Clean Energy LLC. But both efforts stalled because of public opposition or parochial politics.

Stephen Covey, in his highly regarded book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” writes about four categories (he calls them “quadrants”) of activities. They are:

  • Quadrant I: Urgent and important
  • Quadrant II: Not urgent but important
  • Quadrant III: Urgent and not important
  • Quadrant IV: Not urgent and not important

He writes that most people, including executives, fill their days with urgent and important tasks (Quadrant I), leaving little time for reflection and visionary planning. Effective leaders of businesses and other enterprises (including countries) maximize the amount of time they dwell in Quadrant II. That’s where the real hard work and “head work” is done.

Take the towering and odoriferous George Town Landfill – a problem politicians have talked about solving for years – make that decades. When the Dart Group proposed a mutually beneficial solution, marginal opposition morphed into campaign sloganeering and resulted in the project being tossed into history’s wastebin.

Years later, the dump is still growing – looming over Camana Bay and impeding further development, as a monument to government inaction.

In addition to the fuel terminal and the landfill, we could easily list many more examples of complex, long-term problems that have been left to fester (sewage plant), stagnate (public school system), propagate (green iguanas), or downright disappear (the public park on the site of the now-decaying “Glass House”).

We’ll close with the obvious: Effectively governing a country isn’t a “tabletop exercise,” board game or computer simulation. As the man in the New Yorker cartoon said: This is real!

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  1. Remember when New Orleans drowned? They were not prepared.

    The risk of catastrophic events in Grand Cayman is high. Another “Ivan” or the Dump/Fuel tanks fire (explosion) are just few.

    The smelly and contaminated Dump full of disease poses a serious threat to human health and the environment. Who knows what is brewing in the toxic mix of the Dump.
    Is CIG ready ready for outbreaks?

    Poorly treated or untreated wastewater creates a health hazard and an environmental hazard. https://www.caymancompass.com/2010/03/28/solving-the-sewage-system/

    Good luck with finding peace and quiet in the new luxury residential development next to the fuel tanks.
    At least renters can move. They should do it immediately.

    • I agree with L Bell . I don’t understand why everyone are not speaking up about the issues around this fire and those fuel storage tanks . To me these issues are a major disaster threats waiting to happen to the public , and I think that Government and the Oil Companies are not going to address and fix these problems the right way for the safety of the people .
      I really think that the public should be demanding the answers to why and how that fire was started in that fuel storage tank .
      To my knowledge those storage tanks has been there over 60 years and never had a fire in them , and never been replaced new . How long do we expect the life of the steel in those tanks to last ? I would say 60 years is over expectations especially in the location where they are .