With the controversial parking meter contract instigating fractures within the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), President David Granger yesterday reminded city councillors that they are accountable to the citizens who voted them into office.
In the first presidential address to the city council in 20 years, Granger told councillors that they each represent at least 2,800 citizens.
“You don’t represent yourself, you don’t represent your families, you don’t represent your political party; you represent … citizens and you have to listen to them,” he emphasised.
Bookended by the Mayor Patricia Chase-Green and Deputy Mayor Sherod Duncan, who were clad in the green and yellow, respectively, of their political parties, the President also urged the councillors to “remain united as a council working for the good of the city.”
The last few weeks has seen the members of the M&CC expressing widely disparate views about the previous council’s decision to enter into an agreement with National Parking Systems/Smart City Solutions (NPS/SMS) to provide the city with parking meter system.
While Mayor Chase-Green has lobbied in support of the US$10 million deal, several councillors, including Deputy Mayor Duncan, have questioned why the contract, signed by Town Clerk Royston King, was not made available for review by the entire council.
Mayor Chase-Green has since said the contract is the “private document of the administration,” which she took “a deliberate decision not to share… because we wanted to secure the investment. We have had bad experiences with sharing contracts, proposals and initiatives only to have them subtly taken away from the council.”
She has also noted that the contract will not be made public until the project is well into the implementation stages, which has drawn sharp criticism. Also criticised was the lack of public consultation on the details of the contract, which reportedly include a 49-year monopoly and $500 an hour cost to citizens. The mayor has since claimed that the cost to citizens will be much less.
While Chase-Green has maintained that she speaks on behalf of the council, Duncan has several times referred to his comments, which have mostly been published via social media, as representing his own personal views.
Yesterday, the President told the councillors that “sometimes you attempt to speak for yourselves but you should speak to [your constituents] first and find out what their views are before you attempt to make public your opinion… Each one of you has a constituency and those constituents speak only through you.” According to the President, each councillor must remain committed to fulfilling his/her oath of office and serve the citizens of the city.
“You’ll only be here for 30 months, not 22 years. If you don’t perform, people will not put you back in office. Your return to the horseshoe table depends on your personality and your performance, not your party,” he reminded.
President Granger also pledged his government’s support to the council. “I am here to pledge the collaboration of central government. Government has three strata—the most fundamental is the local/municipal stratum, the second is the regional and the third is the central government but the three must work together if citizens are to enjoy the good life we promised,” Granger said. He added that there will be “No declaration of war, no fight between central government and municipal.
“The central government under David Granger will always be prepared to meet with the council and listen to their grievances so that in the final analysis citizens can be assured that their interests are protected and the nation can be assured that its national capital is in good hands,” he added.
Granger, however, reminded that while the central government respects the autonomy of the city of Georgetown, that autonomy must be exercised in accordance with the law and in the national interest.
“The council will not be not be constrained in anyway in securing the best interest of the citizens of Georgetown and central government will support every effort to make Georgetown a city of which all citizens can be proud; one which deserves to be called the capital of the sovereign state of Guyana,” he stressed.