THE BOARD OF CABILDO. Before the Island of Trinidad became a British possession, it previously belonged to the Crown of Spain, and its chief town was St. Joseph – 6 miles from Port-of-Spain. This town was managed by a Board called ''The Illustrious Board of Cabildo.'' In the year 1783 this body removed its meeting place to Port-of-Spain, which by that time had been officially recognised as the Chief Town. On the Capitulation of the Island, in the year 1797, the management of the Town remained vested in this Corporation. In 1813, its minutes were ordered to be kept both in the Spanish and English languages instead of in the former tongue only as hitherto. By December of the same year, however, only the English language was used.
THE TOWN COUNCIL. In the year 1840 an Ordinance was passed for ''regulating the powers and constitution, and settling the mode of election of the members of the Corporate Body called the 'Illustrious Cabildo' of the town of Port-of-Spain, and chang-ing the name thereof to that of the 'Town Council of Port-of-Spain'.'' On the 6th June, 1840, the new Council met for the first time under the Presidency of Sir Henry George MacLeod. The Council was composed of the Governor, who was President, and twelve other members.
THE BOROUGH COUNCIL. In the year 1853 the Town Councillors presented a petition to the Governor-in-Council (Lord Harris) praying for a new constitution based on the same principles as those embodied in the English Municipality Corporation Acts. This was granted, and by Ordinance No. 10 of 1853 which provided for the ''Regulation of Municipal Corporations in the Island,'' the name 'Town Council' was changed into that of the ''Borough Council of Port-of-Spain.'' The new Council met on 31st August, 1853, with Louis A. A. de Verteuil, M.D., as Mayor. The Council was now composed of twelve members, one of whom was Mayor.
THE TOWN COMMISSIONERS. On the 18th January, 1899 as the outcome of a long controversy between the Council and the Government, an Ordinance No. 1 of 1899 was passed by direction of the Secretary of State, the Rt. lIon. Joseph Chamberlain, abolishing the Borough Council of Port-of-Spain, and substituting for it a new corporation under the name of the ''Town Commissioners," the four members of which were all nominated by the Governor, 'Sir Hubert E. II. Jerningham, K.C.M.G. The first Chief Commisioner so nominated by His Excellency the Governor was Hon. S. W. Knaggs who received for his services an honorarium of £300; while each of the other Commissioners received £100 per annum.
The Water and Sewerage Authority. In 1904 the Water Works and Sewerage Works, which up to then had been under Government administration, were placed under the management of a Board known as the ''Port-of-Spain Water Authority and the Board of Commissioners of Sewerage.'' This dual Committee heldits first meeting on 29th September, 1904 under the Chairmanship of the Hon. R. Gervase Bushe. The personnel of the Board included five ratepayers appointed by the Governor.
THE TOWN BOARD. On the 1st of May, 1907, the then three local authorities of Port-of-Spain, viz: The Town Commissioners, the Water Authority and the Sewerage Board, were by ''the Port- of-Spain Town Board Ordinance,'' 1907, merged into one body known as "The Port-of-Spain Town Board," also a wholly nominated Corporation. This Board comprised a membership of eleven – the Chairman, the Hon. Adam Smith, receiving as a remuneration for his services the sum of £300 per annum.
At an Extraordinary Meeting of the Legislature held on the 22nd August, 1913, the Governor, Sir George Le Hunte G.C.M.G. laid on the table a despatch, No. 286 of the 29th July 1913, from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, approving of the resolution passed by the Legislature on the 25th June previously to the effect that the nominated system be gradually superceded by some measure of election of members by the rate-payers ; and the Governor then announced the appointment by him of a committee of sixteen members to consider the details of the proposed change in the construction of the Town Board.
The Ordinance introduced as a consequence was passed on the 29th May the same year, coming into force on the 26th June 1914.
CONSTITUTION OF THE CITY
By the Port-of-Spain Corporation Ordinance, No. 24 of 1914, (now Chap. 224 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago), Port-of-Spain is constituted a Municipal "City," and its inhabitants are declared to be a body corporate under the title of ''The Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Port-of-Spain." The city is divided into five Wards, known respectively as the Northern, Southern, North-eastern, South-eastern and the Western Wards. Three Councillors are returned by each Ward and the term of office of a Councillor is three years. The elections of November, 1917, made the City Council entirely elected it having been previously constituted of partly elected and partly nominated members, the nominated members going out of office gradually each year and being replaced by elected ones. From the year 1919, one Councillor in each Ward goes out of office every year, the retiring member being always the one who has served longest without re-election. In addition to the fifteen elected Councillors, there are five Aldermen elected directly by the Council, either from among the Councillors or from persons outside the Council who are qualified to be Councillors. The term of office of the Aldermen is three years, after which they all go out of office together. The Mayor is elected annually by the Council from among the Aldermen or Councillors ; he is, by virtue of his office a Justice of the Peace for the City, and continues so during the year next after his year of office, unless disqualified ; and he may not serve the office of Mayor for more than three successive years. Provision is made in the Ordinance for the grant to him of an honorarium of £500 a year, and a sum not exceeding £100 a year for the reasonable travelling expenses incidental to the office of Mayor.
The Councillors are elected by the Burgesses of the City under an Elections Ordinance based on the provisions of the English Ballot Act, and the rules made thereunder for Municipal and Parliamentary elections. To be entitled to vote at elections of Councillors a person must be enrolled as a burgess in the annually prepared burgess roll of the city ; and in order to be enrolled he must be of full age, a British subject by birth or naturalization, or (if a foreigner) he must have been resident in the colony for at least five years ; and in addition he must be either the occupying owner of a house or business place in the city assessed at an annual rental of at least £10 or the tenant of such house or business place for which he has paid one year's rent at least to the amount of £12 10s. ; provision is also made for lodger burgesses paying at least £62 10s. a year for board and lodging combined. Provided that the conditions of actual occupation of the qualifying premises are complied with, it is not essential that a burgess shall reside in the city, residence within a 10 mile radius being sufficient.
To be qualified as Councillors, persons must be not only actually enrolled in the burgess roll of the city, but must be entitled to be so enrolled ; they must be British subjects by birth or naturalization ; and must be either occupying owners of a house assessed at the annual rental of not less than £50 or tenants of a house assessed at not less than £62 10s. ; or they must, in lieu of the occupation qualification, be in receipt of an income of at least £312 10s. per annum. Inability to speak English, being in Holy Orders, an undischarged bankrupt, having been convicted of treason, felony or any offence involving dishonesty, within the previous ten years, constitute disqualifications for Councillorship. So also do the existence of certain specified interests of a financial character in contracts with the Corporation.
The Annual Elections take place on the 3rd November every year, and the election of the Mayor on the 15th and (when necessary) of the Aldermen, on the 9th November.
The City covers an area of roughly about three and three-quarters square miles ; and includes about 350 streets and lanes, of a total length of some seventy-two odd miles. The boundaries are defined by the Port-of-Spain Corporation Ordinance Cap. 224.
The population of the City as shewn by 1931 Census is 70,334 souls ; but if the waterworks and sewerage districts are included, stretching as far as Maraval, and St. James on the north-west and St. Ann's and Cascade on the north-east, this estimate would be greatly increased. There are about 10,700 premises separately assessed to house rate in the city proper; and the Burgess Roll for the year 1937 comprises a total of 7,881 names. The War Rate District which extends beyond the city includes about 11,000 premises.
On the 6th November, 1899 the Woodbrook Estate which had formerly been a flourishing sugar estate on the outskirts of the town, comprising 367 1/2 acres were purchased by the Messrs. Siegert & Sons from the Liquidator of the firm of Messrs. W. F. Burnley & Co. of Glasgow for the sum of £50,000. At that time the cultivation of sugar had long been given up, and about 70 acres of the Estate had been already occupied by tenantry who held about 588 lots. About the year 1905 the condition of the streets, which had long been the subject of dispute between the Government, the landlords, and the tenants, was at last settled on the following terms, viz. : That the streets should be improved and laid out, the cost being borne as follows : Government 1/2, Town Commissioners and owners 1/4 each. On the completion of the work which gave general satisfaction to the tenants, the rents in that part of the tenantry were raised by the Messrs. Siegert. About this time the area between Carlos and French Streets was also laid out into lots, and the section between Roberts Street and Ariapita Avenue, where the streets were made, had been nearly all built upon.
On the 1st November, 1911, the estate again changed hands, the purchasers being the Port-of-Spain Town Board, for the sum of £85,000. The Board at once set about constructing streets where required and were laid out by the previous owners, the cost of which along with some minor improvements amounted to $32,138.21. On the completion of this work the rent along these streets was raised from $1.50 to $2.00 per month. The tenantry at present comprises over 1,430 lots, which are either held under monthly tenancies, or under long leases of 40 years, the whole producing a rent roll averaging over $44,000 a year.