Elected representatives and neglect

Late last month, this newspaper carried a report about flooding affecting an octogenarian in Delph Street, Campbellville. The flooding was not widespread in the area, but just the yard where she has resided for more than 30 years and was said to have been caused by poor maintenance of the alley at the back.

The 86-year-old woman, Ms Celestine Neils, estimated that the alley had not been cleared in 13 years. The resulting stagnant water in the yard had become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This is one of the many alleys in Georgetown that were not touched during any of the many clean-up campaigns that have been held.  What is worse is that Ms Neils, at the time she spoke with this newspaper, had already paid three visits to the City Engineer’s Department and on three separate occasions had been assured that someone would visit to look into or fix the issue. Naturally, she was not in the least enamoured of the fact that local government elections had been held and that there was actually a councillor responsible for her constituency to whom she could take her concerns. Ms Neils had no idea who that councillor was as no one had ever visited her area – as far as she was aware. Based on her address, Ms Neils’s area falls in Constituency Four and her elected representative on the City Council would be real estate agent Mr Alfred Mentore.

Mr Mentore, a member of the APNU+AFC coalition, in an interview with Stabroek News in February last year had said, “I feel I can make a difference for my constituency today and the various constituencies in Georgetown in particular.”

He had said that burning issues for him were to have clogged up and non-flowing drains cleared, potholes patched, street lights installed, and alleys cleaned. He had listed several other improvements, but since those that were priorities have not been fully accomplished there is no need to get into the others at this point. This newspaper is not aware of what, if anything, has been done in Constituency Four by Mr Mentore or through his representation. However, Ms Neils’s situation surely warrants urgent attention, especially given her age and the length of time nothing has been done in the Delph Street alley.

Constituency 12 is another problematic area. It encompasses Tucville to North Ruimveldt, and has sections that habitually flood after the lightest of rainfall. Festival City is one such area and there are others scattered throughout North Ruimveldt where the residents have to be constantly equipped with rain boots year round. Mayor Patricia Chase-Green is the elected representative for Constituency 12 and surprisingly large swathes of this district were also neglected during the cleanup campaigns, hence the constant flooding. And just like in Ms Neils’s area there are alleys and drains crying out for attention. There are drainage canals that have not been touched in over a decade.

A letter, written by a resident of Festival City and published by this newspaper on January 24, this year, stated: “As a case in point, the government reserve (northern side of Aubrey Barker Road) is being systematically carved up and handed to a variety of industrial, commercial, and other interests, most of which have no connection to the community. In addition to this, shacks are also springing up at various points on reserves surrounding Festival City/North Ruimveldt.”

The letter further said, “Recently a shack-shop, which was built at this location, was demolished by the City Council, but now after claims to the land by various persons, Mayor Chase-Green has apologised to the shack-shop owners and given them permission to rebuild.

“How can citizens claim ownership to council’s reserves? And why are shacks being allowed to be built on what is the government reserve? Isn’t the reserve to be used by council and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure to complete works to improve the community, for example drainage and road repairs? Wasn’t it set aside to ensure the existence of green spaces?

“We look on this action of the Mayor as perpetuating the degeneration of Festival City. This and other such structures are reducing Festival City to a shanty town. A most disturbing fact is that the Mayor is the directly elected Councillor for our constituency.”

To date, these complaints have had the effect of water falling on a duck’s back, to paraphrase a local idiom.

By contrast, there is Constituency 14, which encompasses the area from Ruimveldt Industrial Estate to South Ruimveldt Park, which is constantly being given attention. This comes as no surprise since former deputy mayor Sherod Duncan, known more for action than talking is the elected representative of this constituency. Then there is Constituency Ten, the backyard of Team Legacy’s elected representative Malcolm Ferreira, which has seen drastic improvements. Ferreira works along with his fellow councillors Carolyn Caesar-Murray of Team Legacy and Heston Bostwick of the APNU+AFC. He admits that there is still a lot of work to be done, but a number of residents of the Charlestown/Albouystown area have been singing his praises.

What is ironic is that at a recent council meeting, Mayor Chase-Green labelled Constituency Ten a “trailblazer” and urged other councillors to get working their areas. One hopes that the mayor would take her own advice sometime soon.