You are here
The decay of Kingston: no clear vision for renewal
Anyone who has had anything to do with the management of Kingston over the past 40 years and sat in the pews of the Kingston Parish Church on Sunday ought to have been shamed by the Rt Rev Dr Howard Gregory’s sermon. But if we are to judge by the evidence of the past, the remarks by the Lord Bishop of Jamaica will likely have elicited a shrug and another round of promises for the transformation of the Jamaican capital.
Kingston is marking this year as its 140th anniversary as a city, an occasion that, until now, perhaps with good reason, has been largely low-key. For as Dr Gregory suggested to the great and the good who gathered at the church, there is far too much about our city that is seamy and of which we cannot be proud.
He said: “The decay of Kingston is in evidence all round and is reflected both in the physical environment as well as in the social life of many of its residents. Every time I travel to cities abroad and see what renewal of cities can look like, I weep over my city.”
The focus of Bishop Gregory was largely on the old section of the capital, the downtown business district and communities such as Richmond Park and Vineyard Town. But Kingston’s decay is like a contagion. Its spread is engulfing communities beyond the city’s old boundaries, where a fifth of Jamaica’s population lives.
Kingston’s condition is partly a symptom of Jamaica’s old politics, from which the country is not fully recovered; when we cleansed communities to create enclaves of the politically ‘pure’, then hemmed them in with muscled goons to ensure ‘loyalty’ to the party.
This kind of political organisation carried a dear social price: the violence to clean out opponents, to defend the lines, and to maintain control over the ‘members’ of the gang. With that came the diminution of the authority of the State and the erosion of law, order and justice.
Little incentive to improve
Political returns in such communities depended little on the delivery of services and ensuring decency in people’s lives. Or, there was little incentive, as those who governed perceived it, to do anything to improve the quality of the garrisons not under their command. As those who could fled, or were forced out, and the capital faced competition from new suburban communities, its blight worsened and spread to the new neighbourhoods.
That politics may be receding. However, in the economic crisis, the Government cannot fund a renewal. But more consequentially has been an absence of leaders with a clear vision for urban renewal and/or the will to pursue it with vigour.
Kingston, in this respect, has suffered worse. Its council and leaders have talked loudly, but have not demonstrated a belief that something better is possible and leadership can be the difference. In that regard, this newspaper agrees with Angela Brown Burke, the chairman of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and mayor of the capital, who is more than six months in the job.
“I think we are all just tired of talking about it,” she said. Mrs Brown Burke says there are plans to fix the city. We look forward to the start of the job, by both the KSAC and national leadership.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.