Last Saturday the Town Clerk of Georgetown, Mr Royston King, in a letter to this newspaper, defended the City Council’s decision to hold a week of celebratory activities commemorating the birth of our capital city. He wrote that the town of Georgetown became the City of Georgetown on August 21, 1843, one hundred and seventy-five years ago, and the activities marking this event will begin on August 19. He went on to inform the public that these will be accommodated under the umbrella of the none too arcane name, ‘Georgetown City Week’.
But what, exactly, will this involve? According to Mr King, there will be “free sports, cultural and other forms of entertainment” and it will afford the business community the opportunity to showcase their local products. The high point apparently, will be Mayor Chase-Green’s dinner and cocktails, at which the restoration fund for City Hall will be launched.
The critics of this fun and games celebration – and there are more of them no doubt than Mr King would care to acknowledge – will be curious in the first instance to know why we are commemorating Georgetown’s status as a capital city, rather than the more customary recognition of its founding. The Town Clerk, however, has a response for them: Georgetown is not just a city; it is our capital city. In February we celebrate the birth of our Republic and in May our Independence, so commemorating the birth of our capital city is an idea “whose time has come.” That would not, of course, answer the question, but Mr King is clearly unperturbed.
He also has recourse to the fact that the Municipal and District Councils Act, (Chapter 28:01) mandated the council to promote and foster “Social Development” through the agency of a Social Development Standing Committee. “For us at Council (at any rate the overwhelming majority)”, he writes, “it is axiomatic that the concept of social development embraces and envisages an event such as Georgetown City Week.” Well in some circumstances it might, of course, but the sceptic might also reasonably enquire what other efforts have been made towards social development of a more enduring kind. The answer is none that those who have made their homes in Georgetown know about. So just how does a City Week as conceived by the Mayor and Town Clerk et al, qualify as social development?
Even if for the sake of argument one were to accede to the proposition that the capital was in need of a ‘City Week’, one might have thought a programme of somewhat more imagination and relevance would have been appropriate. It would have taken time and planning, of course, but would have been infinitely more informative – especially for the glitterati at City Hall – than the business people showcasing their products and forms of entertainment that Mr King is too reticent to elaborate on. If this is indeed about the history of the capital, then the commemoration should reflect that, particularly with schoolchildren in mind. There are many ways of doing it, some of which were done in earlier times. But the Town Clerk conveys the undeniable impression that it is not about history at all.
And as for the fear which has been given public expression, that given the problems of the capital, the council should not be wasting scarce funds on jollification of any kind, this at least was put to rest in the letter. The Town Clerk repeated what he apparently said at a recent meeting of the M&CC, namely, “‘not a single cent’” of the council’s revenue will be used to finance Georgetown City Week.” Unfortunately, he then went on to modify this with the remark that even if it had been, this would not have been unjustified. Unfortunately for him, there are residents in this city who would claim that such a comment constitutes evidence of a certain lack of judgement in the highest echelons of City Hall.
So where is the money for this revelry coming from? From his final paragraph, Mr King seems to be implying that it will be the business community. He also adds “friends”, although who those friends could be outside the parameters of business is something of a mystery. In any case, one can only assume that other than those who are expecting some special concessions from the council (the Town Clerk however insists there are no quid pro quos involved) business sponsors are rolling their eyes to heaven at having to fork out money for a totally unnecessary festivity, when there is critical work to be done in the city which would help them more, and the enigma of the parking meter saga is still to be resolved.
But finally, of course, there is the “special ticket dinner and a cocktail” for the restoration fund of City Hall. Mr King waxes almost lyrical about saving the rickety structure, although it seems rather banal to observe that the enormous funds required won’t be raised at a cocktail and dinner for the beau monde hosted by the City Mayor. Even if, he writes, “City Week serves only to bring into sharp focus and national attention and action and response to City Hall’s much needed restoration, the result will be all beneficial.” That is perfectly true; it would. However, since the Town Clerk has not made clear how the activities other than the dinner, etc, relate to the City Hall project, it is highly unlikely that the national focus will be on Fr Scoles’s famous building for the week beginning August 19.
In the meantime, the residents of the capital city still grapple with all the usual problems, with little hope of coherence emerging from the M&CC about a larger vision and detailed plan to develop their urban space. Mr King might believe that ‘Georgetown City Week’ is a celebration whose time has come; not all residents are so sure.