Unattainable hopes, elusive dreams?

City Council round up
with Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
April 30, 2001

The city council's no-tax-increase budget for the year 2001, which was presented last Friday by deputy mayor and chairman of the Finance committee, Robert Williams leaves me with the impression that it is based on unattainable hopes and unreachable dreams.

Using the theme `The Way Ahead' the deputy mayor hopes in his budget speech to "capture" $500 million of the revenue account from areas that legitimately fall within the council's domain ... that have not been captured before.

These include properties which change from residences to commercial businesses and fees for the utilisation of the council's properties and for areas of construction that take place unauthorised.

The responsibilities for dealing with the matters referred to by the deputy mayor rest squarely with the Treasurer's and the City Engineer's departments which have not been spared from criticism over their performance during the past year.

While acknowledging that a number of members of the senior staff have responded admirably and do work well beyond the call of duty, the deputy mayor noted "unhappily, others continue to behave in an irresponsible manner and apparently seek refuge in the out-moded provision of the law as contained in chapter 28:01".

The result is, he continued, "for years no senior officer has been made accountable for their performance or lack thereof..."

In a response to calls from the two unions representing municipal workers for wage and salary increases this year, the Chairman of the Finance Committee has proposed "that employment costs should not be increased". This should only be done after the restructuring plan by the council is finalised at a cost of more than $2m.

In a final appeal the deputy mayor said "I beg those who have been amiss to think, for this is a good time or perhaps the last one for forgiveness and reconciliation - our big concern is to put our city first." The budget anticipates expenditure of $1,969,202,830 and similar revenue.

Councillors' performance

While taking pot shots at some members of the council's senior staff over the work performance and in many instances these are justified, the budget speech was silent on the performance or non performance of the city 'fathers' and 'mothers' including mayor Hamilton Green and his deputy. This is a sad omission. But I believe that councillor Williams wanted to avoid finger pointing against his colleagues who sit around the horseshoe table. Although he admitted in his presentation that "there is a perception that it is the mayor and councillors who are responsible for the state of affairs in the city when things go wrong or things are not done, the media and the taxpayers understandably look to and quite properly chastise the chief citizen and the city fathers and mothers as they are sometimes called."

Although it might not have been politically correct for the deputy mayor to have commented on the stewardship of his colleagues at least those of us who pay taxes are entitled to a report as to how at least the 28 councillors excluding the mayor and his deputy have performed over the past year under review.

After all each councillor with the exception of the `chief citizen' and his deputy receive a monthly allowance or stipend of $20,000 with some even asking for payment in advance. This was the deputy mayor's 4th budget presentation and it was the first time in the history of City Hall that the final document was presented hours after it was fine-tuned by councillors.

The Ramsaroop affair

People's National Congress REFORM councillor Rameshwar Ramsaroop was among the handful of councillors from the two main political parties represented on the council, who attended the Williams Budget presentation last Friday.

At the last statutory meeting he was also present but wise counsel prevailed and he left before the meeting was convened by Mayor Green. The Guyana Labour Union and the Guyana Local Government Officers Union (GLGOU) have called for the removal of the PNC REFORM councillor after it was alleged he slapped a female employee attached to the Town Clerk's office who had retaliated. The Local Government Officers union had threatened to call out its members most of whom are senior officers of the council, if councillor Ramsaroop was allowed to take part in the statutory meeting of April 23.

However, the PNC REFORM councillor sat through the budget speech on Friday afternoon. A spokesman for the GLGOU told me that an exception had been made on that occasion because it was a special sitting and not a statutory meeting. Mayor Green and the GLGOU have sent letters to the leader of the PNC REFORM Mr Desmond Hoyte, seeking his intervention in the matter.

Et cetera

While I sympathise with the chief constable over the shortage of personnel at her disposal, it seem as though vendors have begun to take up places on the pavement, on Robb Street between Savage and Wellington Streets. Your attention please.

This is for the city engineer Mr Cephas James, Sir may I draw your attention to the unsightly and unhealthy situation which now exists in the avenue between Church and Quamina streets.

Maybe the road building materials being stored by the contractor for the rehabilitation of Robb Street can be utilised in levelling that part of the avenue.

And please Mr James what is preventing your department from acting rather than re-acting to the city's drainage problem whenever it rains? Remember your S.O.P's.