I could not agree more with Steve Black's suggestion that our leaders get out of their comfortable offices and autos and get out into the streets and sidewalks of St. Thomas, such as they are.
Our streets and sidewalks without considering the garbage; the criminal activity such as gun carrying and shooting, drug sales and prostitution; the excessive noise; the loitering; the cars parked where and as they can; the tie up of traffic by the insane positioning of taxis; and more…are a disgrace in general.
Streets: The pot holes; the clanking of man hole covers; the ridiculous signing; the lack of a parking garage (this is 2009 & yes we can); the lack of a commuter system; no parking meter system; the poor planning of traffic direction and flow; the lack of stop light synchronization; the lack of water run-off control; and much more that has been figured out, and set as an example for years, in most other parts of the world, proving it can work, has not even been attempted here.
Sidewalks: Rough, uneven, missing, no wheelchair access for most intersections; malfunctioning cross walk lights; and even the school youth wandering slowly everywhere with no regard to their own safety or the traffic problems they cause, are major problems. It is only a matter of time before some tourist decides to sue our government, our Public Works Department, for an injury directly resulting from the condition of our side walks.
I realize that Mr. Black has taken a broader view with his suggestion that government get out and take a look at reality, but a good start would be to look closely at the embarrassment of our streets and sidewalks, alone!
He is absolutely right in explaining the adverse example we are showing to our visitors – we are showing that we not only don't care what they see and think about our island, we are shouting to them that we don't even care what we see, and that we most likely are not doing much thinking, at all.
This island offers us the opportunity to polish a jewel and yet we treat it like a piece of garbage. The once proud historic buildings are let go while cities such as St. Petersburg, Fl; Charleston, SC; Key West, FL; Williamsburg, VA, and many others have taken lesser structures, less history, and made themselves shine, drawn people in; not only making the needed improvements but have made them pay off as tourist attractions. There is nowhere on earth like St. Thomas – no place that has these marvelous Gangs (the long steps to connect the original roads) – and we are letting it all crumble and rot.
Mexico is making huge strides in capturing the tourists that once came to the Virgin Islands. They are doing it by hard work, progressive thinking, cleanliness, safety, and friendly, efficient service, and cooperation…at reasonable rates! None of these ideas are ever offered up for a fix to St. Thomas' problems; it is always more money from the US, more discussion committees, more time; and whatever excuses come to mind, instead. And when the money does become appropriated for such work, the history of graft, theft, illegal contracts, etc. has proven that our government isn't able to handle its own responsibilities to not only the island people but to our only major source of revenue – tourism. Just consider The Fort…..just consider how long it has been torn up, what condition it is now in, what revenues are lost, and how embarrassing it all is…or should be!
Our Governor has got to be held accountable for such things as saying "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.", in the annual state of the islands address, then holding a lavish party at the Governor's Mansion, that very night. That is more like Nero fiddling while Rome burns! He might also consider that many of the town valley residents are trying to sleep so they can get up and go to work the next day. We don't appreciate the volume and after hours noise violation that he seems to feel he is above abiding by. A better thought out, and more progressive statement from him would be: "Prepare for the best, because this government has stopped offering its worst."
The days of simply letting this all go by, as "the way it is", are gone! The system has got to change. The thinking of every person living on the island has got to alter. It is time for everyone to go out in the streets, take a good look around, and not only demand change from the government but also from themselves. If we simply accept things as they have been, then we have no right to complain. It is only when every citizen cares, every citizen is actively involved on some facet of community service, and isn't sitting back waiting for someone else to "do it", that we will ever improve and can be proud. Until then, the Governor is correct…prepare for the worst. It is very close.
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