2001 budget mired in controversy

City Council Round Up
with Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
April 9, 2001

The city council's 2001 budget remained mired in controversy up to the end of last week. The two major issues are strong opposing views from some councillors to the approach being taken by the chairman of the Finance committee, deputy mayor Robert Williams and what seems to be unbridgeable differences between himself and the city treasurer, Mr Roderick Edinboro.

At an extra-ordinary meeting last week the deputy mayor presented councillors with a draft setting out his budget proposals for the new financial year.

In the draft, councillors have been told that "it is important that your views include a reflection of your groups' position on issues outlined in the document."

The council is made up of 12 councillors from the Good and Green Guyana, led by mayor Hamilton Green, 10 councillors from the People's National Congress REFORM (PNC/R) and 8 councillors from the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic.

Seldom do these city `fathers' and `mothers' as three diverse groups speak with one voice, on matters municipal as councillors take political positions, which in many instances lead to bitter arguments with no clear cut and meaningful decisions being taken.

The chairman of the finance committee has set the cat among the pigeons, by telling the leaders of the three groups, one of them being the PNC/R general secretary, councillor Oscar Clarke, to get their members together and work out a plan as quickly as possible so as to arrive at a consensus.

If the past deliberations around the horseshoe table can be used as a yardstick, a final document may not be ready until year-end.

The other issue is a disagreement between the chairman of the finance committee and the city treasurer, over his methodology in dealing with city hall's accounting procedures.

Mr Edinboro has even called for a review of what he described as "the old system".

A money crunch

City Hall is expected to make a second request to the government for permission to access more funds to keep the municipal wheels turning until a budget is approved.

At the last statutory meeting of the council, the deputy mayor complained about the lack of crucial information coming from senior officers, insisting that his finance committee wants to complete a policy document on the 2001 budget as early as possible for consensus by the entire council.

An unhealthy situation

A visit to the council's dump site at the back of the cemetery last Saturday has left me convinced that something must be urgently done by the council about the way in which it disposes of the city's garbage.

What I saw was at least a dozen scavengers, all young men, converging on one of the garbage trucks, which had just arrived at the site. As the contents were being unloaded mechanically, the scavengers began the selective process putting what they needed, including bottles, cans and boxes into `salt bags'.

The lone member of the constabulary looked on passively as the scramble continued uninterrupted.

Let me sound a `wake-up call' to the medical officer of health and the chief constable, you must act now... to stop this lawlessness and despicable behaviour by these young men whose actions are a threat to the health of all citizens.

The cemetery

The current work being done by the city engineer's department at Le Repentir cemetery needs honourable mention in this column.

Workmen are clearing about 3 1/2 acres on the eastern side of the burial ground to make way for more burial sites. The clean up exercise there is also moving apace with the roads getting some attention.

Street vending

A decision by Chief Justice Desiree Bernard on street and pavement vending on Water street is eagerly awaited by both the vendors and city hall, not forgetting we the citizens. With her record of dealing with matters expeditiously the judgment from the bench could come sometime this week. With the proposed rehabilitation of the Stabroek market soon to take place, the vendor issue will again take centre stage.