Through the eyes of a mayor | Features Local

In an interview with Point Fortin Mayor Clyde James, we got to the heart of Point Fortin, its people and community spirit. We learned why this municipality was different and that they are proud of the impact they have on the country’s economy, sports and culture.

Mayor and Deputy Mayor Kwesi Thomas spoke openly about the events; the good, the bad and the ugly. They shared their plans for the area. What we learned in a nutshell is that Point Fortin is about the people. The mayor warmly greeted the readers of the Express newspaper during our conversation.

Family Time: Participants celebrate the Point Fortin neighborhood.

Express: In your opinion, is Point Fortin the cultural capital of Trinidad and Tobago?

Mayor: “Yes, that is true. Point has been the cornerstone for years, not only culturally, but also in sports. Most sporting icons of the past had their umbilical cord buried in Point Fortin and in the culture as well. Very important names in the calypso arena: SuperBlue (Austin Lyons), Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins), The Mighty Duke (Kelvin Pope), they were all pioneers who crossed the world; they were all born and raised in Point Fortin. We have other cultural icons, people who were involved in different aspects of the culture who came out of Point Fortin. Without hesitation, I think we still do, because we are still producing people in different aspects of the culture who are still pioneering the Point Fortin flagship. Recently we had Mrs. Trinidad and Mrs. World, Yolanda John, who came second in the Mrs. World competition. There are so many other people carrying the banner of what Point Fortin is and what Point Fortin will be in the future.”

What is the crime rate in Point Fortin?

‘I do not feel comfortable. It’s not bad, but I don’t feel comfortable. We recently had three burglaries in one street. With the help of the Trinidad and Tobago police and our municipal police, we try to stay on top of things. I think as a people we need to do more, be more vigilant about what is happening and the kind of crime we see here is not acceptable. We had a situation where five electricity meters were stolen, two buildings away (town hall). That night they stole eight meters in the Mahaica area. They stole the meters to get the copper. One building was mine and there is no compensation for it. It cost me a lot of money to get it back in place. I had to rewire the entire building and have the building inspected. The situation is not as bad as in other parts of Trinidad and Tobago, but still not acceptable. We need zero tolerance when it comes to crime and we are working to achieve that level of comfort for our people because we need to be able to leave our homes in the evenings and at night and not be afraid that something will happen. ‘

How do you compare Point Fortin then to now?

“There is a culture change. The whole world has changed and Point Fortin is no different. Growing up in Point Fortin, it was like one big happy family, especially in the Mahaica area. Everyone knew each other. Because we had one common denominator: the oil company. Almost everyone who lived in Mahaica or Point Fortin had some connection, directly or indirectly, to the oil company. It became like one big happy family. Parents knew each other, children went to school together and in Point there were only two major high schools at that time: Point Fortin College and Point Fortin Intermediate. It became a good melting ground with good connections. Fast forward to today, we don’t have that level of connection, we’re close, but I wouldn’t say that connection is comparable to what happened in the 1960s and 1970s. We live in a different world. Technology has changed us.

In the 1960s, one household had a television set. Everyone gets together on Saturday evenings to watch Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Star Trek or on Friday evenings to watch Bonanza. But now we don’t visit together. We live in an age where our pastime is going to the mall. We have never had that in the past. What our form of entertainment was was going to the drive-in movie theater, and most of us who couldn’t pay to go in went to the RC School and sat there and watched the screen, even though we had no audio had. We entertained ourselves by playing a sport. The internet has brought a culture. We all have a smart TV, phone, Netflix. That personal bond we had a long time ago is no longer there.”

Is Point Fortin the cleanest neighborhood?

No doubt. I have lived in Point Fortin all my life, when this neighborhood was inaugurated 44 years ago, such was the fame, because it was one of the cleanest neighborhoods in Trinidad and Tobago and over the years we have maintained that. I think our employees are doing a fantastic job and that all our stakeholders are proud of that. If you come here on Saturdays and Sundays after the market, you won’t see the difference because our staff goes out and makes sure everything happens. Our waste collection is second to none.

What’s in the pipeline for Point Fortin?

The key aspects of the Point Fortin development will take place on the La Brea Industrial Estate, which continues into Point Fortin, but from where I sit our focus will be on tourism. I see tourism as the next platform to ensure Point Fortin remains on the map. You may be wondering, “Why tourism?” We have a fantastic beach and one of my goals before I leave office is to make that beach one of the premier recreational areas. My vision is to try and utilize the local talent on the weekends, keep them busy as an employment source and provide the necessary incentives to get people coming to Point Fortin.

Now that we are easily accessible because of the network design with the roads, it is now easy to get to Point Fortin. If you create that atmosphere of entertainment, we have the opportunity to just improve it, create opportunities for people to come and recreate. It provides employment, it provides trade in the area and a lot of activity. Then more people gather in Point Fortin.

Another idea I have is to get the powers to take the water taxi to Point Fortin. It could work twofold. It allows for another mode of transportation that people from Point Fortin can use during the week and on the weekends we have the opportunity to take people to Point Fortin on the water taxis. We can arrange tours to Point Fortin. There are several parts of Point Fortin that are very unique to Trinidad and Tobago. We have guides and we can go to Pitch Lake, Cedros and Erin and other aspects of the area where people can see how we live. How people in Point Fortin live differently from other parts of Trinidad and Tobago. We have to market it.

Use of the water taxis when the tourist ships come to Port of Spain. We can take the tourists off the ships, take them to Point Fortin for the day and experience some of our culture. We can have the different artifacts, the southern artifacts can be there and we can sell it. And that could also create a level of commercial activity.

We have the infrastructure, and we need to build on it. We have the product, what we need to do is get it to market. If we can do this, Point will not only be known for its cultural and sporting icons, but also be part of one of the greatest tourist areas you can have, not only in Trinidad but in the Caribbean. I can not do it alone. I need help from those in power and help from the business community. We have a platform that we can develop, we have a platform that we can grow on. If that vision can move forward, I can say it will be my greatest achievement in this term.

What do you think are the main challenges you face in Point Fortin?

Not being able to do what I want to do. I look forward to local government reform. Thanks to the new arrangement, we can do business much more easily. Coming from the private sector, it’s a culture shock. I’m still learning how to operate under government regulations on how government agencies are run. The decision-making tools are too slow.