'Chief Citizen' in name only City Council Round-Up
By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
January 27, 2003

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The recent 'blow up' between Mayor Hamilton Green and two senior officers including the City Engineer, Mr Cephas James, has brought into focus the greatest flaw in municipal governance... It's that the 'Chief Citizen' is in name only and has no powers.

Any action by the holder of this officer must be sanctioned by councillors at their statutory meetings twice monthly or by round robin. This means that the mayor's job is to preside at these meetings and attend ceremonial functions.

While mayors of this city in the past were content with this arrangement, the present holder of the office has bridled at such a restriction arguing that in this era of rapid change and a new thinking on how cities are managed the old way of doing things cannot continue.

Last week during the demolition exercise of the Demerara Shipping Company's fence on Water street which the City Engineer's Department claims was an unauthorized construction, the assistant city engineer Mr Lloyd Alleyne was right when he pointed out to reporters that Mayor Green's ordering of personnel from the department to stop the operation was in contravention of the Municipal and District Council's Act.

He further said it was only the administrative head of department or the Town Clerk who could halt any operation in progress.

The quick response by the City Engineer's Department in breaking down the Demerara Shipping Company's 'unauthorised' fence is commendable and shows that heads of department are prepared to act against anyone who breaks the city's by-laws.

But what about those people who on a daily basis flout the various by-laws apart from unauthorized buildings, and the erection of no parking signs, the blocking of the pavements and parapets and the setting up of food stalls with drinks - including alcoholic beverages stalls - and other commodities all over the city.

My attention was drawn last week to the presence of a mobile food bar on Croal Street, south of Campsite which is part of the Banks DIH complex employing scores of Guyanese and paying taxes for its operations.

It is open season on Hadfield street on the southern side of the Brickdam Police Station where there is a gas station and side by one could find a snackette, offices and a newly constructed scaffold renting service whose offices are accommodated in a refurbished container. All these businesses occupy the city council's reserve.

Citizens now await the council's wrecking crews made up of members of the constabulary and the City Engineer's Department to move into top gear in the weeks ahead.

The Mayor's proposal

This is now the right time for the 'chief citizen's' proposal advanced some two years ago for the city engineer, the chief constable and the medical officer of health to work out and implement a plan in which an area in the city is identified and developed or sanitized - to use the mayor's own words - as an experiment for bringing order to a disorderly city. It was a good idea then and still is today ... why not go for it, Messrs James, George and Dr Shury.

Outstanding debts

While deputy mayor and chairman of the council's Finance Committee Robert Williams agonises over a budget for 2003, councillors have been expressing their concerns over the inability of the administration to collect outstanding monies owned to the municipality.

At the last statutory meeting, People's Progressive Party/Civic councillor, Victor Sobers, and the Good and Green Guyana councillor, Harold Kissoon, raised a number of questions dealing with outstanding sums owed.

Councillor Sobers asked why more than $9M could not be collected from persons who owe rents for the use of stalls at Stabroek market.

He said if the rents could not be collected then the stalls should be repossessed by the Clerk of Markets.

Mayor Green spoke about the many violations of the by-laws by people around that market and not for the first time defended the city police noting that they are stressed out and short of personnel.

Councillor Kissoon once again enquired about the 'Kissoon' affair in which AH&L Kissoon had entered into an arrangement sometime ago for the supply of goods including furniture as part payment for outstanding taxes.

When it was discovered that some of the items supplied by the company to City Hall could not be accounted for, an investigation was ordered. To date no report has been forthcoming.

The GGG councillor is also unhappy with the way in which the Local Government Ministry has handled a request from the council for the mounting of an enquiry into the working of the City Engineer's Department.

To Mash or not to Mash

Councillors have been told by the chairperson of the Social Development committee, Mrs Pat Chase-Green that a shortage of funds may restrict the council's involvement in Mash this year.

It's been proposed that the municipality restrict its participation by only taking part in the steel band competition, leaving out the float parade.

A suggestion by the Town Clerk that the committee seek funding from the government through the council was roundly rejected by councillor Chase-Green, "such a suggestion is shameful..." was her response.

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