EDITORIAL – Bad things can happen to ‘NiCE’ programs

After an altercation between two workers in the government’s National Community Enhancement program left one in hospital and the other in police custody, the headlines practically wrote themselves … some “NiCEr” than others.

Police have arrested one man and are investigating the matter, which occurred early Tuesday afternoon at the George Town landfill. Officials say the stabbing victim suffered injuries that are “serious but not life-threatening.”

Opportunities for the exercising of editorial wit aside, the isolated incident should not detract an iota from the NiCE program’s overall reputation and mission. Our support, and we imagine the community’s, remains unshaken.

Perhaps in response to some negative chatter about the program, the Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure released a statement calling the situation “unfortunate” but balancing that with reminders of the program’s successes over the past several years.

“While Government seeks to provide a structure within which NiCE participants can benefit from a productive experience it is incumbent on each one to take advantage of this opportunity to the fullest,” the statement read. “Many have done so in the past and this year’s program will continue as planned.”

The ministry is exactly correct.

The beach and roadside cleanup initiatives provide much-needed employment for Caymanians struggling to find jobs while making Grand Cayman a cleaner, healthier and more beautiful place for residents and visitors. In fact, we recently advocated in an editorial for expanding the “NiCE” program into a year-round Cayman Cleaning Corps.

Like many in Cayman, we have spotted in recent days teams of NiCE workers at work alongside our highways, and, frankly, their efforts are making a noticeable difference. We would hope that some photographer is shooting both “before” and “after” pictures because the difference is as dramatic as it is welcome.

To our friends in the ministry as well as the NiCE workers on the front lines, we would counsel you not to be overly concerned by the incident that happened the other day and the “naming” of your program.

Not only is it no big deal – an anomaly at most – it does not compare to what happened in Washington, D.C. in the middle-1970s. City fathers came up with the bright idea of celebrating unity, harmony, brotherhood and love in the capital city. They named their creation “Human Kindness Day.”

Well, in 1975, roughly 125,000 people attended the event held on the National Mall, which was headlined by Stevie Wonder. Who can forget (city officials are still trying to) the tally and the toll?: 500 robberies, 600 injuries and 150 hospitalizations.

As one letter writer to The Washington Post put it, “So much for kindness. I don’t want to be around on Human Cruelty Day.”

And so, NiCE folks, do not feel too bad. We would, however, issue a general caution to those in the “branding biz” in government, the private sector, or, for that matter, parents naming children: Be careful of getting too cute, clever or enthralled with your own creativity. (Remember the Johnny Cash tune, “A Boy Named Sue?”)

In Cayman we’ve already got “OfReg,” “WORC,” and, of course, the subject of this gentle editorial, “NiCE.” Might be an appropriate time to hit the pause button …

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