Central government, local government and the parking meters’ saga

From its inception the announcement last year regarding the imminent introduction of parking meters had always been met with a public response that reflected as a priority concern the issue of affordability. At that stage the City Hall officials who had emerged as seemingly the main advocates of the meters, chiefly the Mayor and the Town Clerk displayed a shocking dismissiveness of the public’s misgivings.

This newspaper has commented just recently on our country’s proclivity for the arrogance of office and we have said that in the matter of the parking meters a good deal of arrogance was displayed at one time or another by one or another of the aforementioned officials, and others. To go further, since his appointment as Town Clerk Mr Royston King has been displaying a propensity for high-handedness in his dealings with the affairs of the city. There have been instances in which it is not so much the correctness or otherwise of the positions that he takes that is called into question but the manner in which he goes about the execution of decisions. The vendors in the municipal markets have been making that point repeatedly.

Mayor Patricia Chase-Green, too, has been inclined to make pronouncements that sometimes display an impatience with the feelings of the citizenry. In fact it would probably be fair to say that taken together, these two officials have done the public image of City Hall little good.

Even at that juncture when it became clear that in the face of other cost of living hikes occasioned by the recent assortment of additional taxes, the parking meters were now standing on even shakier ground, there was no evidence of any stepping back on the part of City Hall on the issue of the meters or on the issue of the charges. The government too refused, at first, even to comment on a circumstance that was heading inexorably for an impasse. That did not help since it only created a feeling in some quarters that those in authority were displaying a generous measure of insensitivity to the feelings of the public particularly in circumstances where those feelings were being vented on grounds that had to do with affordability.

Comically, it is only now that the vehicle owners have been digging in on the parking meters issue and the organization known as Movement Against Parking Meters (MAPM) has secured a level of visibility beyond their weekend protest outside City Hall that both the municipality and the government have bestirred themselves in the direction of what might be a climb down. In the case of the government, it has now sent a clear signal that it is behind “far less onerous” parking meter rates (though one suspects that the present rates will have to be cut considerably for them to get anywhere close to what working people will see as less onerous)

From the City Hall perspective Mayor Chase-Green, as of yesterday, appeared to be climbing down from the proverbial ‘high horse’ on which she has been perched, making an uncharacteristic reference to the need to listen to “the cries of the people who are working and have to park for eight to twelve hours,” a constituency to which City Hall had shown a particular indifference for several months.

Even now, the government’s intervention in the parking meter impasse does not go beyond the position that it is not prepared to usurp the authority of the elected Council, a decidedly disingenuous posture since, to pronounce on the issue of parking meters and their affordability for ordinary Guyanese already challenged by their other financial responsibilities does not come even remotely close to usurping City Hall’s authority. A more decisive posture by government on the parking meters issue, much earlier, would, in all likelihood, have tempered City Hall’s arrogance and truncated the quixotic excesses into which the parking meters issue has been extended.

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