There can be no question than that the high rate of urban unemployment and what is widely believed to be a consequential high rate in the commission of crimes, both petty and significant ones, that those institutions responsible for managing the affairs of the capital at the levels of both local and central government have a responsibility to do what lies within their authority and their resources to create meaningful and sufficient employment for residents of the capital. One might add, of course that the private sector too has a role to play here.
In pursuit of job creation it is also reasonable to expect that the authorities – again both central and municipal – would want to press into service such resources, not least, vacant spaces and properties, towards this objective. Such lands and buildings, including derelict ones in the latter instance can be used in a range of employment-generating pursuits, subject to their renovation. In the case of lands, these can be used for agricultural purposes, vending and recreation, among others. Buildings can also be renovated and converted into ‘factories’ of one kind or other to allow for agro-processing, wholesale and retail outlets and garment factories.
The point should be made as well that it would be unfair to be overly critical of a municipality that seeks to legitimately and responsibly garner revenues from the lands, properties and other resources at its disposal in circumstances where it continues to struggle to raise funds through the vehicle of rates and taxes collection.
Of course it need hardly be said that any initiative/project likely to significantly alter in one way or another the way of life of a community, however well-intentioned it might be, ought correctly to be discussed with residents of the community likely to be affected by those developments and one might add that those residents would be perfectly in order to seek to veto such projects as might reasonably be deemed to pose a health hazard, a noise nuisance, an eyesore, might attract undesirables, or in any other way constitutes an annoyance or danger to a community. One might add that whilst there is evidence of the emergence of a number of urban small businesses, particularly food-vending, there has been no serious investigation into the various ways in which life in the communities in which they operate are affected by their activities. This newspaper can think of cases in which certain types of nocturnal commercial activity, lucrative as they might be, amount to environmental eyesores, at the same time, presenting the host communities with considerable noise nuisance.
As an aside it has to be said that our experience of the Georgetown municipality’s dealings with its audiences, do not lead us to conclude that its decision-making customarily derives from widespread and democratic consultation. There is much more of a general feeling that the municipality governs by edict and this, indeed, would appear to be the case in the instance of the proposed Barbecue Pit on a plot of reserve land in Roxanne Burnham Gardens.
So that it seems that City Hall finds itself once again at odds with a section of the citizenry in a matter that arises out of its high-handedness, to say nothing about what appears, increasingly, to be its prerogative to act without checks and balances. And even if one makes the argument that the Council has the prerogative of acting in its own best judgement it cannot be overlooked that the body comprises representatives of political parties that ultimately influence the process and accordingly, are surely obliged to ensure that their points-of-view are taken account of in decision-making processes. The Council may argue, on the one hand, that its actions are, among other things, giving rise to the creation of a business venture. Presumably, the venture, if it goes ahead, will provide employment for a handful of people, at most, though the downside might be a serious falling out between the Council and at least part of the community. There is of course the further likelihood that in the circumstances whoever the vendor might be (and, interestingly, we are told that it is not someone from the community) there might be the potential for a sour relationship – to say the least – with the community but which, or so it appears, will prove to be a source of annoyance to considerably greater numbers. It is precisely for the reason that, in these instances where the knock-on effects of an absence of consultation can be counterproductive that the consultative approach to decision-making becomes the preferable option.
Even if one takes City Hall at its word that the arrangement regarding vending on the piece of land has been done in the best interest of job-creation and in the interest of helping to raise revenues, the fact is that the Mayor and Councillors cannot seriously say that they are more familiar with all of the various social and environmental issues that may derive from placing a barbecue ‘joint’ in a community without, it seems, at least some sort of consultation with the community.
The fact of the matter is that there is a need to bring an end to the tendency that has been emanating from City Hall for some time to taking decisions in a precipitate manner, unmindful of the feelings of others – in this instance, it seems, a significant section of an entire community. The problem is that in circumstances where, increasingly, it appears that City Hall has the leverage to take action solely on its own authority, it may, sooner rather than later, create an untenable situation out of which it may not be able to extricate itself, or the city for that matter. The issue of the proposed barbecue pit should be re-examined in all of its various dimensions and the residents of the area, who, after all, will be most affected by it, be afforded a significant say in what happens next.