In what Solid Waste Director, Mr Walter Narine dubbed a conversation rather than a consultation, several Kitty residents boycotted the meeting scheduled for 5pm on Friday 2nd February 2018 and held their own discussions on the roadside. In other words, they refused to attend since they felt the imposition of the fee of $200 per barrel for the removal of garbage is a done deal with the City Council, which is not interested in genuine dialogue and consultation. They were adamant that that they were not in agreement with payment of the proposed
fee of $200 dollars per week, per household.
As an elected Councillor, I learned of the meeting scheduled for 5 pm from these residents and decided to attend, though not informed. Finally, after a handful of residents turned up one hour later, it was eventually decided to begin the meeting upstairs of the Kitty Market which has been under renovation for some two years now. Discussions began in the dark. We were then moved to an adjacent room where light was available.
Solid Waste Director Walter Narine referred to the meeting as a conversation, rather than a Consultation, because I believe of the poor turnout with only six residents in attendance with approximately eight officials from the council. The Director pleaded with residents to support payment for the collection of garbage by council as a means of widening the much needed revenue base of the cash strapped council. He informed those in attendance that it costs the council as much as $787 dollars to pay private contractors to remove one garbage bin from a household. “A lot of folks are not even paying $787 in rates and taxes”, he reported.
Following Mr Narine’s exhortations, several of the officials spoke while residents were given the opportunity to express their views afterwards.
One resident proposed a method of coming up with a mechanism to calculate the fee to pay per week. Another called for a more competitive system, while another Kitty resident called on residents to pay up, since in his view this is a small sum. He further called on the authorities to enforce the full force of the law to ensure compliance.
I accepted the invitation from Mr Narine who acknowledged my presence as an elected Councillor of the M&CC and asked for my view on the issue of payment. I reminded those present whether the fee is $200 per week or less, the residents are already heavily burdened by taxation by the present regime. Over 200 new taxes had been introduced last year by the APNU+AFC government which the citizens of this country have to pay. Any additional taxation must be viewed in this context. The bottom line is that many residents cannot afford to pay, especially since the economy is in a downward spiral. Alternative means must be found to increase revenue rather than increasing taxes. These include collecting the outstanding rates and taxes from those who are not paying, cutting the top-heavy bureaucracy, the need for transparency and accountability and most important, ceasing to mismanage the council’s resources, among other things.
The fact that only six residents attended, attests to the false claim in one newspaper that residents of Kitty agreed to pay new garbage collection fees. This is clearly out of sync with reality, and needs to be retracted in the interest of the truth.
The announcement of the Town Clerk of first $100 and then $200 dollars per barrel per household per week has already been discussed by council. It was only when Council-lors realized that the Town Clerk had reported this to the press without first seeking the approval of Councillors that the Mayor called for consultations in order to quell any public outcry. Isn’t this another case of putting the cart before the horse?
The attempt to hold at least one public consultation must now be viewed in retrospect. Unable to deliver a people’s budget for the council in 2018 the council is now implementing a policy of Maximum Administrative Delay (MAD) as part of its strategy to present a budget with increased taxes on the citizens of Georgetown, once again camouflaged with promises of a ‘good life for all’ hoping that the present persons will be re-elected in March 2018 since elections are due every year for the election of a Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
Consultation or no consultation, since like the parking meter fiasco where $120 million is already proposed in the new Budget, whether Councillors agree or not it is spelt out as a done deal. This spells disaster for the city as the policy-makers try to convince us that the money taken from families who can hardly find food for their children will result in the years ahead in a city with less traffic congestion which has been modernized so as to compare with any other in the first world. Those in authority and concerned Councillors at the M&CC must take note of this false promise, and re-examine this policy of increasing taxes on an already heavily taxed citizenry as a means of gaining much needed revenue.
Several proposals put up by Councillors to generate much needed revenue have been either shot down, or put on the back burner, before they have even been considered. One such project of a mini waste oil refinery proposed by one concerned Councillor, is just but one such example. Such actions in the face of continued allegations of corruption, wastage and extravagance only serve to further erode and undermine confidence in the authority of the council. This can lead to serious consequences including a crisis of credibility in the present leadership.
My fellow Councillors who support meaningful consultations and discussions on the way forward in finding genuine ways of increasing the revenue base of the council, along with all public spirited individuals, corporations and companies, have a duty to let their voices be heard.
Central government also has a duty to collaborate in joint ventures to find ways to alleviate the present burdens faced by a council which finds it difficult to pay its workers on time, every time.
Madam Mayor, it is time we put aside differences and join hands, and stop blaming others as we strive to support efforts relating to the restoration of Georgetown. This includes City Hall, which is in a sad state of disrepair.
This mirrors the need for all to work together to bring back our city to the green and pristine state we were all proud of in the past ‒ the Garden City of the Caribbean.