IT WOULD appear that Urban Renewal 2.0 is a disaster under the direction of the PLP-appointed Michelle Reckley, former party assistant secretary-general on Grand Bahama and school caterer, whose self proclaimed claim to fame is that she is qualified for her present position because she “comes from urban”.
Mrs Reckley explained her credentials to a Tribune reporter last year when the reporter tried to discover if she could possibly meet the credentials of the experienced coordinator who she was about to replace on the change of government. Mrs Tirzah Carey, a qualified educator who had been in the job for four years under the FNM government, was not only a qualified educator, but an experienced business woman, who was qualified in social services and housing. She had successfully managed the six Urban Renewal centres on Grand Bahama with a staff about 40 workers and 21 police officers. The Urban Renewal programme — meant to be the solution to all social problems, especially crime — has been recognised as the “brainchild” of Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Onto the scene — after the change of government — came Mrs Reckley, who in her own words justified her ability to adequately replace Mrs Carey. “What makes me qualified,” she said, “is that I come from urban. I have lived it and who else can appreciate Urban Renewal more than someone who has lived it?”
Appreciation is one thing. However, having the skills and ability to help fellow urbanites rise above their poverty, is another.
It is said that Mrs Reckley has had the privilege of cooking Mr Christie’s meals on his visits to Freeport. Cooking is her expertise. She is probably a far better cook than Mrs Carey. Each is an expert in her own field — one’s an administrator, another is a cook. However, the fault lies in the leader who obviously lacks the wisdom to know that one cannot put a square peg in a round hole and expect harmony.
Almost from the first week of her appointment, it was obvious that Mrs Reckley lacked the skills to manage staff. It was also obvious that, unused to her exalted position, yet anxious to do well, power had rushed to her head. One can hardly blame Mrs Reckley. The person or persons to blame are the ones who put her in a position to fail.
Former deputy prime minister Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, co-director of the Urban Renewal Programme, obviously concerned by reports reaching Nassau — especially reports of how Mrs Reckley was ordering police officers around —paid a visit to Freeport. On her return to Nassau, her permanent secretary was instructed to write a letter to Mrs Reckley, instructing her that the police are in charge in Freeport.
The letter pointed out that these instructions were in accordance with Prime Minister Christie’s wishes, and emphasised that there is “no Urban Renewal without the police”.
However, the letter opened by regretting that Mrs Reckley was not in Freeport to meet with the Urban programme’s co-director. “Mother” Pratt, said the letter to Mrs Reckley, “understood that you were in Abaco campaigning for the ‘Yes’ vote”.
Shortly after the “Mother” Pratt letter appeared in The Tribune, a letter writer in Freeport claimed that a “number of Urban Renewal workers were shocked and disappointed that Mother Pratt would hold a meeting with staff members and a press conference in Mrs Reckley’s absence. I can only imagine how Mother Pratt’s actions have confused those individuals and companies who have committed to joining forces with local Urban Renewal initiatives,” the writer claimed.
The writer then stated: “I feel she (“Mother’ Pratt) owes Michelle Reckley, Urban Renewal workers, and Grand Bahama residents a public apology. Mother Pratt, in my view, should have known better.”
What bumptious nonsense. Mrs Reckley was not at her post. She is the one who has much explaining to do, not only to “Mother” Pratt, but to the Bahamian people who are paying her Urban Renewal salary. She is the one who should apologise. Why should “Mother” Pratt, who had flown to Freeport during Mrs Reckley’s working hours, have to postpone her meeting with staff and inspection of the work being done because Mrs Reckley chose not to show up for work?
Mrs Reckley is being paid as co-ordinator of Urban Renewal in Grand Bahama. Her salary does not include her poking her nose into the business of the people of Abaco. During the run-up to the gambling referendum, Prime Minister Christie never tired of reminding Bahamians that he had no “horse in the race” — although with every pronouncement he indicated why Bahamians should vote “yes.”
Yet, the Urban Renewal director of his “brain-child” in Grand Bahama, assumes that she is justified in leaving her post to enter the gambling battle, from which her leader claims he wants to distance himself.
In a letter to the Editor last year, a Freeport resident had a long list of complaints about what was going on in Freeport under Mrs Reckley’s administration. Among other things, he said, “workers are being intimidated and made to wear yellow” — the PLP colours.
We congratulate “Mother” Pratt for having the courage — something that other members of her party seem to lack — to remind her party followers that Urban Renewal is to benefit all Bahamians. PLP, FNM and independents contribute equally in their taxes towards Mrs Reckley’s salary. She would do well to remember that.
In her letter to Mrs Reckley, “Mother” Pratt “reminded the civilians that the Urban Renewal Commission, as per the Prime Minister’s directive, is a-political. It represents no political party, but all Bahamians.”
And so, Mrs Reckley, you might be “urban”, but you have much explaining and apologising to do for not being at your post when the head of the programme came-a-calling.