City Council’s woes
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The Georgetown Mayor and City Council has, of its own making, been receiving some negative press within recent days.

Last week its workers protested the non-payment of October salaries. Ms. Debra Lewis, Council’s Public Relations Officer, last Friday told this newspaper that October salaries will be paid over the next three working days, and that payment for November salaries will come from revenue expected with the amnesty on rates. It is hoped this would be the last time such unfortunate circumstance is visited on the Council and its workers.

The average worker lives from pay cheque to pay cheque, and very often has to rely on the benevolence of friends and family, or engage in other activities to supplement his or her income. Professor Clive Thomas has done extensive writings on the “working poor”, their inability to meet basic requirements of living, and the impact of such challenges on their socio-economic wellbeing and the nation’s human development. Given the income bracket of the Council’s workers, they can be classified in this category.

That these workers had to engage in protest action in order to receive payment for their labour, more than two weeks after it’s due, one can only imagine the challenges they faced in meeting their bills and other financial obligations.
Suffice it to say, however, that such economic dislocation would have a domino effect and adverse consequences on their and their family’s livelihoods.

Then there is the other issue of garbage collection. Even as the Council initially sought to give assurance that it was in command of the removing and disposing of solid waste, residents and those who do business in the city knew otherwise. Garbage was pilling up, and in some instances not collected in a timely manner, giving rise to concern that Georgetown, after two years of noted improvement, was sliding back into being the Garbage City.

When Mayor Patricia Chase-Green last week said the city has a garbage crisis, and she was prepared to beg the two major garbage collectors, Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers, to return, this acknowledgement had to be a welcoming development.
Solid waste management has been elevated to a science, given its importance to the environment, combating climate change and ensuring human development. The magnitude and type of garbage have also expanded, and as such a willy-nilly approach to its management will not suffice.

When Solid Waste Manager, Walter Narine said the city can manage the garbage when it indicated the proposed termination of its contracts with the major collectors, though it is inclined to have been well-meaning that the Council can be independent of the two, it has proven not to be so. The experiment proves that even with the best of intent, where all the factors are not considered, one can overextend oneself, which can lead to failure.

Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s unfortunate that the efforts the Council subsequently embarked on to pay the identified contractors were not pursued before. It was recently made known that with the help of Central Government, the hundreds of millions owing to these contractors by the Council will be begin to be paid.

The Council’s financial woes are not new, and made worse by non-payment of rates and taxes and its narrow revenue base. At the same time, City Hall has to be proactive and find creative ways of expanding its revenue base. The impression is often given that a hodgepodge rather than a deliberative approach is being applied to addressing the matter.
For instance, the vendors’ issue could have been handled differently were primacy placed on the fact that that revenue contributes to its coffers. Where many have been forced out of business, it carries a corresponding impact on revenue reliance.

Next up was the controversy over the China trip by the Mayor and Town Clerk, where other Councillors advised they should have been informed prior to the departure. While there may be no statute that requires the Mayor, Town Clerk or other officials seek permission to travel overseas or be advised of same, applying the unwritten rule in ethics does not hurt.  It is bemusing that given the fallout from similar attitudes when pursuing the parking meter issue, that it was not seen as important to avoid a repeat.

Last year, Local Government Elections returned after more than a decade-and-a half. This new Council was elected on a popular platform. It gave rise to hope that the incumbent City Fathers and Mothers would have brought with them a new culture when treating with each other, the public and the capital’s business. A year hence, there exists skepticism in several spheres, that such would not be possible, though it is to the interest of all to have the Council succeed.

No councilor, regardless of the tier in leadership, political affiliation or independence, should think he or she or group is not responsible for what is happening.
Responsibility is borne both for the action and inaction resulting in the present situation. All must equally take responsibility to address and correct the woes.

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