‘Accumulation' versus flooding

City Council Round Up
by Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
January 4, 2000

The aftermath of the heavy and consistent rains in Georgetown over the past few days has been given a new twist by both Mayor Hamilton Green and his deputy Robert Williams.

At last week's statutory meeting both men pronounced that "there is no flooding in the city, but an accumulation of water over a period of time," The 'chief citizen' also added that even in the 'good old' colonial times the Guyana capital used to be flooded. The 'accumulation of water' in the city caught the attention of councillors Desmond Moses of the People's National Congress and the People's Progressive Party/Civic councillor Rocky Mann.

The PNC councillor said it is unfair to ask people to pay rates and taxes when it is obvious that there has been "no serious approach by the city council to drainage within the capital...."

He called on the administration to come up with a plan by April for a "proper drainage system .... We are only talking," he added. Councillor Moses said there are citizens who are willing to help, but the council must have a plan.

Councillor Mann held the view that one of the reasons for the flooding in the city was the deliberate blocking of the existing drains by some residents and vendors who are bent on defying the city's by-laws by throwing garbage including empty boxes and plastic containers anywhere and everywhere. He pointed to the Camp Street avenue where already "people are not using the bins that have been placed at the newly constructed site..."

Councillor Mann who contends that the council does not get value for the wages and salaries paid to its workers urged Mayor Green, who he described as an 'action man' to retake the city's streets and pavements from the vendors this year.

Deputy Mayor and chairman of the Finance Committee, Robert Williams, has said in a document, which I have seen, that for this year drainage is to assume priority.... "We propose to treat with all secondary drains and alley-ways in the city..."

The Deputy Mayor noted that the Urban Development Programme-funded Drainage Project which is to cost $100M will be in harmony with the council's proposed works and will be made to synchronise with the overall programme. He also wants to acquire suitable equipment for servicing all kokers and culverts.

This year's road programme It is unlikely that the council would be carrying out any major rehabilitation of roads during this year with funding from the upcoming budget to be presented by the chairman of the Finance Committee before month-end.

Instead, emphasis is to be placed on maintenance of some roads, and the implementation of the development rehabilitation project, which will cater for about 14 roads at a cost of $275M.

Government-Council relations The document authored by the Deputy Mayor, also deals with government grants and subventions.

He has suggested that the council approach the government before the completion of the national budget to ensure that sums for the running of the Day Care, Maternal and Child Welfare departments and solid waste be included in the subvention for the city for this year.

If these talks fail, councillor Williams argues, the council will have to make decisions on privatisation and/or other non-governmental organisations investing in its operations.

The council is asking for an additional $11M for the Day Care centre, $5M for the Maternal and Child Welfare department, with an allocation of $25M for solid waste.

The chairman of the Finance Committee wants the council to send a high-level delegation to begin talks with the government on other issues including new taxes. The Deputy Mayor's document which has been handed to all councillors, is asking for some or all of the money collected from the container and fuel taxes, the transfer of the environmental tax to the council, municipal parking fees and a percentage of the registration or licence fees for vehicles.

Postscript During last year several persons both inside and outside City Hall sought my impressions of the performance of the current council comprising councillors from the Good and Green Guyana, the People's National Congress and the People's Progressive Party/Civic.

To do so, comparisons will have to be made with past councils even though over the years councillors were appointed by the government of the day and not elected. Consideration must also be given to the short stint of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) led by university professor Dr James Rose.

It is my considered opinion that the councillors who served under former PNC Mayors Robert Williams and later Compton Young, by and large, displayed a better grasp and understanding of matters municipal while at the same time keeping a tight rein on the work performance of the council's senior officers.

This present council with the exception of just a few councillors from all three parties... totalling about eight, including one woman under Mayor Green, who has had two terms in office and PNC's Mr Ranwell Jordan, a one-termer, has not lived up to expectations.

I would like to see more councillors raising issues which affect the taxpayer, while at the same time, pointing out deficiencies in the administration and not taking political positions with an eye to elections. Come on city 'fathers' and 'mothers,' let's have more cut and thrust debates around the horseshoe table, while displaying your abiding interest in Georgetown and its citizens....

A peaceful and fulfilling New Year.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples