San Fernando fell under the national spotlight last week for presenting itself as a City benefiting from the exercise of no-nonsense active government. In a T&T all too ready and willing to tolerate, overlook or shrug off instances of law breaking, the San Fernando City Council stood out as a body prepared to go the full distance in insisting on adherence to law and in upholding order.
Mayor Kazim Hosein will have deservedly earned national recognition and support for actively enforcing policy against illegal billboards erected around San Fernando. Leading from in front, Mayor Hosein saw to the removal of the offending billboards.
That as many as 40 huge advertising signs could be identified by the Corporation as illegal evidences the brazen success with which law and procedure had been flouted, and official policy ignored, in T&T’s second city. Increasing numbers of these giant hoardings go up, presenting potential distraction to motorists, and maybe also obstructing views of the cityscape.
It’s the sort of phenomenon that causes ordinary citizens to ask: “Is this legal? And who is in charge here?” In San Fernando, such questions have found unequivocal answers, as the Mayor took charge of down-with-billboard operations.
It turned out that erection of signs, known to be illegal, has been claimed as the livelihood of at least one misguided entrepreneur. This discovery only underscored the expectations given rise to by continued non-enforcement.
Still, in the interest of tempering justice with mercy, Mayor Hosein invited the entrepreneur, now allegedly facing ruin, to talks at his office. It is likely that the City had anticipated such special pleading and had entertained plans for redirecting economic activity in more acceptable areas.
Other authorities in other places are still to move with comparable vigour against illegal signage, large and small. San Fernando’s leadership in insisting on adherence to applicable policy and regulations is to be saluted.
Vending, parking, littering, sidewalk encroaching, and street dwelling are among illegal activities that cry out for correction in T&T’s cities, municipalities and other areas. Stop-and-start efforts have been made to organise, regulate, and generally govern such activities. As the experience of former Port of Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing shows, undesirable practices survive the best efforts of new brooms and old.
Mayor Hosein, still a new broom, must be encouraged to press on. Removal last week of unauthorised signs followed injury sustained by a South Carnival masquerader on whom some poorly maintained billboard had fallen. The episode serves to remind all that unregulated signage could be equally unsightly and unsafe.
Mayor Hosein is setting a national example of both timely intervention to uphold law and good order, and of a potential danger to life and limb.