Clinton Pickering – Freelance Writer
As Montego Bay approaches the 41st anniversary of being a city, former mayor Homer Davis has critically posed the question of where does it go from here and has posited some solutions to issues confronting the tourist resort.
Davis, occupied the mayoral chair for four years prior to being elected to central government where as Minister of State, he has portfolio responsibility for rural development in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Giving the keynote address at an online charter ceremony for three new Kiwanis Clubs last week, Davis noted, “Today, we sit on the cusp of Montego Bay’s 41st year as a city, having been granted city status on October 9, 1980,” and that it had achieved a lot “but there’s always room for improvement.”
Reflecting on major developments in the city, he mentioned the Harmony Beach Park, the soon to be completed Montego Bay Fire Station, the Montego Bay Convention Centre, several road-construction projects to commence soon, including the Montego Bay perimeter road and the Long Hill bypass. “We have some of the world’s top-rated hotels, a thriving BPO sector, the busiest airport in the Caribbean which is now undergoing major expansion and a world rated cruise shipping and cargo port,” he added.
“With all these developments in place, the question is, where do we want to go,” he asked. And to start with, “let us look at the issue of addressing the social and infrastructural challenges which currently exist. Montego Bay has some 21 unplanned settlements which need further infrastructure developments to include proper road access, water supply, electricity, public health facilities, security facilities and to afford these citizens security of tenure by granting land and a title.”
Davis said Montego Bay had become the epicentre of urban drift which in and of itself created challenges in the existing infrastructure and had a major impact on rural communities.
Positing that “Montego Bay needs space for commercial expansion,” Davis was critical of the aesthetics of the city’s downtown, saying it needed a makeover. He argued, “Business operators and business owners need to be more of their space and seek to make it more appealing to customers and visitors alike. The Old Shoe Market on South Street has been on the backburner for far too long; these areas need to be transformed into a modern multi-storey vendors arcade and this is where I think central government, local government along with the private sector should form an alliance to upgrade that area.”
He went on: “There is also need for a multi-storey car park where the now car park exists on Harbour Street. There is a need also to look at Harbour Street Craft Market to make it into a multi-storey craft market with access to the upper floor via elevators along with adequate parking facilities.”
Also, “The railway lands, owned by the government within the city, should be used to expand downtown Montego Bay and to offer more space for a modern transportation centre.”
At the same time, he pointed to the city’s major crime problem, saying it must be cauterized. Noting that in most cases family members and community members were fully aware of the persons involved in these criminal activities which stemmed from family disputes that spill over into reprisals over lotto scamming and other underworld activities, Davis saw the need for “better cooperation, a better relationship between our security forces and our citizens,” citing that “We must all have a common interest in ridding our communities of crime and violence.”
The former mayor expressed the view that “with all hands-on deck and everyone honestly playing their part in the process, Montego Bay can return to the days when it was referred to as the friendly city.” He was confident that “We have the potential to do it and it is through the dedication from the people that we will achieve greatness.”