BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTEGO BAY, St James
Despite being harshly criticised for his handling of the flag foul -up at the swearing -in ceremony for new representatives of the St James Parish Council last March, the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry has given Glendon Harris, the city's mayor, a passing grade for his stewardship of the local authority during his first year in office.
" We really have to commend him because we have seen marked improvements, especially at the Charles Gordon Market and downtown Montego Bay. He is really doing a great job and must be commended," said President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Davon Crump.
He also cited the return of MoBay Nite Out and the securing of funds to repair the historic Dome, the removal of vendors from the main thoroughfare of Montego Bay and tighter traffic management in the city, as other major achievements.
" With the chamber and the parish council doing what they are suppose to do, we will definitely see a much, much better city of Montego Bay," Crump stressed.
Harris, who has been the People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Maroon Town division for 23 years, was sworn in as mayor of Montego Bay and chairman of the St James Parish last March, following his party's victory in the local government elections.
In that parochial election, the PNP won 13 of the 17 parish council divisions up for grabs in St James, while the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), which had control of the council since 2003, came out ahead in the other four.
But the swearing-in ceremony held at the historic Montego Bay Civic Centre for the new elected representatives was mired in controversy, after the green was left out of a stage backdrop designed to depict the Jamaican flag.
The decision drew the ire of the public and the JLP, with some charging that the People's National Party-controlled council was being petty and tribalistic, pointing out that green is the colour of the JLP.
Initially, Mayor Harris had apologised for the debacle and said that he had nothing to do with the decoration.
But the JLP, who described the removal of the green from the backdrop as reprehensible and "a disgraceful violation of our national symbol," said Harris must be held responsible, and called for his resignation.
Yesterday, local political observer, Christopher Hylton, commended Harris for " bouncing back" from the flag controversy and keeping his eyes focussed on the task of improving the social and economic condition of St James.
"In his first year Harris has had a fair amount of achievements," said Hylton.
" We can look for example, at the rehabilitation of the clock tower on Barnett Street; improvements to the Charles Gordon Market, road repairs......."
He pointed out, however, that during his next year in office the mayor must seek to regularise the controversial Bogue Lands; upgrade the fire service in Montego Bay, and improve the aesthetics
of the resort city.
Meanwhile, Harris has given himself a passing grade, saying that there have been a number of successes since he and the current batch of councillors took office.
" I am satisfied that we have tried our best and have done a lot of work in spite of the economic conditions, so I will give ourselves seven out of ten," he told the Observer West yesterday.
Among the achievements he listed was the renovation of the Charles Gordon Market.
" We have repaired the roof of the market, fixed the bathrooms, establish a police post, repair the roads in the area and put the vendors back in the market," he noted.
He added that plans are also being finalised for the rehabilitation of the main market building.
According to Harris, the council has also put measures in place to address traffic congestion in Montego Bay; undertake work on the clock tower on Barnett Street; repair a number of roads in St James and improve the aesthetics of the resort city.
He cited too, the return of the once- popular MoBay Nite Out to the resort city, and the implementation of a rodent control programme, as other achievements.