WHEN Peterson Francis assumed the post of Castries City Mayor back in August 2016 no one thought that his journey would be as eventful as it is today. After-all, those who sat in that position before, especially those in recent times, cannot claim to have had as lively a time as Francis is having.
Not that their time was dull, although some may say so, it is just that with Francis’ seemingly making news headlines in almost every action he takes, puts him in a class above and beyond former mayors of the city.
His 21 months in office have been action-packed. His exploits in improving the safety of citizens and visitors alike and that of the general condition of the City of Castries have been praised by both supporters of his party – the United Workers Party and supporters of the St. Lucia Labour Party.
From transforming a comatose city constabulary to one where officers are energized to the point of, among other things, ensuring that the city’s ordinances are upheld by citizens and visitors alike, and in such a short time, is simply amazing.
More officers from the city’s constabulary are patrolling the streets of the city than ever before, the beautification plans for the city are also visible, and as of last year tour operators have been touting a safer city as compared to previous years. In the lower courts, city officers are hauling criminals and offenders of the city’s ordinances before magistrates on a regular basis.
But the road travelled by Francis as mayor is not all smooth, and his leadership abilities have been called into question many times.
The sudden resignation of Anselma Caulderon as Chief Executive Officer of the Castries Constituency Council was never adequately explained amid the rumours swirling of the two not seeing eye – to – eye on certain decisions taken by Francis and his handling of issues that would have required input from councillors.
The word is that one or two other councillors are not impressed with Francis’ style of management and although they will not speak out in public about their disenchantment or embitterment to protect the party more or less, they are of the view that he should not be in that post.
Sharing that view are scores of vendors belonging to the St. Lucia Crafts and Dry Goods Association which Francis has been at loggerheads with almost from the time he became mayor.
The success he seems to have found with many people with his handling of certain aspects of his portfolio looks to be eluding him with the vendors. A few days ago he was heard apologizing to them for taking their belongings like trays, chairs, tarpaulins, wooden and steel structures and storing them at the Marchand Market unknown to the vendors.
Francis’ ongoing dispute with the Association’s President Peter ‘Ras Ipa’ Isaac is becoming legendary. His claims of being fair and transparent with vendors took a beating these past few days following his unilateral move to transport vendors’ belongings to the Marchand Market on Mother’s Day.
On the other hand, the Association’s President must also be held accountable to his membership. One cannot run with the hares and hunt with the hounds as Ras Ipa would seem to be assaying.
This constant drama with vendors must stop. It is doing Francis and the Council no good. In fact, it could erode all the good Francis has done if it continues. He seems to have recognised this hence his attempts to fix the seemingly unending strife with himself and the vendors association by apologizing to the vendors.
This was a good move by Francis. He should show a willingness to listen to the vendors and their Association’s executive and work towards reaching consensus with them on matters that pertain to them. On the other hand, the executive must level with the members.
It is tough being a leader these days in a highly politicised country as St. Lucia. People are demanding more and more from their leaders who although they promise more, never, or seldom, deliver.
The legacy of Francis will depend on the blending of his unquestioned energy with the soft hand of compromise.