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posted 3 Feb 2014, 07:41 by Gerry Kangalee

 Dear Vernon De Leon: 
I heard you clearly on the connections between open spaces, mental health and crime in communities. I will

like to add to your list the connection of what constitutes the acceptance of responsibility by each citizen for the community. It is not evident to many that where we walk and breathe, there we also live. 
I am aware of the attempt by the Tacarigua community to resist the government's attempt to eliminate an open space in Tacarigua that is now used for sport and other recreation with another type of sporting complex.   
I will like to enter a few considerations and perhaps a plan of action. One is that the examples for governments in Trinidad and Tobago to use-up currently available open spaces without reference to people's community needs for open-air resource- based amenities for recreation, are legion. I remember when government committed the last remaining greens in St Augustine to the senior comprehensive and the Hugh Wooding Law School. 
Port of Spain, in 2014, is still a city without any acknowledged center of higher learning and a place for ideas. I believe that if any one of our post independence governments had the choice to bequeath the Queen's Park Savannah or Aranguez Savannah for public recreational use or to construct a set of irrelevant buildings on it, the choice for the latter would have been taken. 
Another is that some reasons for this likelihood are that members of governments are on the make and remain unstrained by the values of open spaces which are not part of the psychological DNA. In a certain way we are dealing with a poverty of urban values.  
Then too these are values that citizens also share where out of necessity there are no moral compunctions to liberate state forest lands as is now underway along the Valencia stretch of road in what is sign posted as forestry reserves for scientific research or the teeming constructions of two by four unsightly structures that engross land for schools, recreation and the teak trees in the area in St Joseph known as Bangladesh. 

You will recall that during the by-election for St Joseph the government gave away many letters of comfort to cement the permanence of a settlement that has no visual attraction, nor roads, drains, sewers, police security and therefore no authentic demonstration of public well-being. The celebration of the occupation of open spaces illegally by an underhoused people, by government fiat or without public consensus is the rule not the exception.  

Hence part of the reason for this is that the nation has no national physical plan that willfully decides in advance where community settlements should take place throughout the country. Confirmation of that fact was the declaration by Messrs Jearlean John last year that the housing ministry now had to consider high rises rather than single dwelling units because land was a scarce resource. 
The second reason for that development is our failure to willfully open up new spaces and place new settlements in the heart of the country in Central, Central East, and the South West. That move requires us to slip our grasp from the East West Corridor and the West coast and plan new developments and new cities and town elsewhere with all necessary amenities for living, working and playing. Action in that direction can give valid settlement proof of the Finance Minister's intent to proclaim economic growth poles. 
The next or a third reason is the absence of community with strong local government authority. Tacarigua and its environment is no exception. I do not believe it is entirely true to say that our professionals, with two exceptions only, are willing to commit to community development, despite their limitations we can identify. I know people who have been active on the public's behalf no less than the persons you have identified. Neither will that claim help the cause of development or develop the capacity to resist the intent of government to consume another piece of open ground. That is simply bad politics.

i recommend that we initiate a mass campaign in all the communities surrounding the Tacarigua grounds with the intent of resisting the government's plans through a petition that draws support from 75 % of the residents of that community, establish a pro-tem Tacarigua Town council; establish an account to fund a Tacarigua Town Council building; seek official ratification for the town council and urge the government to open up the fresh piece of land across the highway near Trincity from the old Orange Grove Sugar Estate for the purpose they have in mind.