Fix the city now

Georgetown has lost its appeal. Time was when it was a well laid out city, boasting concrete drains and canals, tree-lined streets, a demarcated downtown area and charming markets that could lure visitors. Sadly, this is no longer the case.

Citizens born in the early 90s, some of whom have now reached the age of majority, would have grown up surrounded by stagnant and weed-filled drains; uncertain garbage disposal which has worsened over the years; flooding after a mere drizzle; unkempt trees – save for those in Main Street; inept urban planning resulting in a hodge-podge of commercial/residential areas; a disgrace of a cemetery; and stray cattle, horses, donkeys, dogs and other animals causing traffic hazards. This list is by no means exhaustive; parking, pot-holed roads, ramshackle buildings, haphazard street vending are among several other ills that persons now accept as part of the city’s ‘charm’, having grown up with them. Is it any wonder then, that city residents are afflicted with the litterbug disease? We are all well aware that children learn what they live. It is therefore obvious that the children who grew up in the squalour of the once so-called Garden City have learned that it is okay to have filthy overflowing garbage and litter lined streets and canals. And do not tell them about by-laws; to them these do not exist.

Some 17 years ago—it really has been that long—the last local government elections were held, ushering in a change in city politics. A hitherto non-existent party, A Good and Green Guyana, led by then former PNC strongman Mr Hamilton Green, won the most votes in Georgetown. Expectations were not particularly high as citizens had already realized that politics did not bode well for the city. Georgetown had already had several slips off her pedestal during the tenures of other mayors. In addition, an Interim Management Committee had proven that it was money and not hot air that kept the city on an even keel.

But sadly, even the citizens’ lowered expectations were not lived up to. It has been proven that A Good and Green Guyana was neither good enough nor green enough to float Georgetown’s boat and steered her right up the creek. Mr Green might have had good intentions – the party’s plans certainly sounded good – but he naively did not factor in central government holding the purse strings and what that would equate to.

To say that Mr Green, as mayor, presided over the demise of the city would be to put it mildly. Heaven knows that he and the city council have been stymied at almost every turn; various income-generating proposals have remained just that; central government, businesses and individuals owing taxes became fairly commonplace. Sympathy is generally felt for the bank which held City Hall’s accounts as they are so often in the red. The city’s Sanitation Department collapsed to become a shell of its former self after all of its trucks fell into disrepair; there was no money to maintain them. A city, then, which did not have enough funds to pay its employees at the end of every month, set about contracting out its sanitation works. Thus began the roller-coaster garbage collection, which appears to have no end.

Some citizens of Georgetown were privileged to spend the holidays still surrounded by the effects of their Christmas cleaning along with the concomitant rats, flies, leeches and other pests. Some, no doubt, will have that pleasure come New Year.

By some strange miracle, the utterly polluted Georgetown has thus far been spared a rampant epidemic of some horrible airborne disease. But everyone is fed up, even those who have thus far known nothing else. The entire city council should just resign, putting an end to the tiresome bickering that passes for statutory meetings and only serves to add to the pollution. Someone needs to fix the city. Now.

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