It is good news that legislators finally appear to be moving forward with the urgently needed national addressing system, which has been promised for more than 30 years.
As early as next week, the House of Assembly is scheduled to consider a list of road names for the greater Road Town area. This is a good first step toward a broader territory-wide system that we hope will follow very soon.
An addressing system will have many benefits:
- It will help with the response and recovery efforts after disasters like Hurricane Irma;
- it will facilitate a better postal system with home mail delivery;
- it will help government agencies such as the Immigration and Labour departments keep track of residents;
- it will help tourists find their way around;
- it will help emergency workers such as police and ambulances respond on a day-to-day basis;
- it will help many businesses improve efficiency; and
- it will improve census taking; among other benefits.
Despite the urgency of the addressing system, however, legislators must carefully review the names given to streets and other sites in the territory and consider replacing any that unduly glorify the territory’s colonial past.
Most of the names on the draft introduced in the HOA make sense: “Stoutt Drive,” “Paul P. Wattley Drive,” “Horse Path Road” and “Mangrove Court,” for example, all seem to reflect positive aspects of the Virgin Islands’ history, culture or environment.
Others, however, do not. Take the Sir Francis Drake Highway, which is the name proposed for the stretch of road leading toward West End.
Sir Francis was a British explorer and statesman who was widely respected in his lifetime. But he was also a slave trader. In this day and age, the VI surely can do better, finding a more appropriate name both for that road and for the channel that also bears his name. In this case, The Bennet Smith Highway might be one option, naming the road after one of the first Public Works Department engineers.
Another example of a proposed street name that bears consideration is Cable & Wireless Drive, which is named after a foreign company that now does business here under a different name. Instead, how about Wilmot Ham Drive, honouring one of the first PWD heavy equipment operators?
To choose other alternatives, legislators should consider local heroes such as Theodolph Faulkner, the Anegada fisherman who helped spearhead protests that led to the restoration of the Legislative Council in 1950; prominent VI artists, poets or teachers; or even Elton Georges, the recently deceased former deputy governor who by all accounts had a stellar reputation for service that transcended politics.
Finally, a few names on the proposed list appear to be misspelled, including “Fort Charolette Road,” “Abbot Road” and “Tamerind Tree Road.” And at least one is simply incorrect: “Walter James Francis Drive” is listed instead of James Walter Francis Drive.
We trust that leaders will not allow any errors to remain and become part of the historical record.
The national addressing system is urgent, and we hope that it will be completed for the entire territory within the current legislative term. But it also needs to be done right.