Com­mu­nity devel­op­ment, our re­spon­si­bil­ity

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT -

From left: Por­tia Simp­son Miller, leader of the Op­po­si­tion; Des­mond McKen­zie (cen­tre), min­is­ter of lo­cal govern­ment and com­mu­nity devel­op­ment; and Den­zil Thorpe, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Lo­cal Govern­ment and Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment, ex­am­ine bulky waste for re­moval as they par­tic­i­pate in the Na­tional Clean-Up Pro­gramme. Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie (in plaid shirt) con­vers­ing with ven­dors at the Santa Cruz Mar­ket on one of his vis­its to St El­iz­a­beth. MY FEL­LOW col­leagues, ladies and gen­tle­men, I greet you well.

The theme for this year’s Lo­cal Govern­ment Month is most ap­pro­pri­ate: ‘Re­build­ing Civic Pride in Your Com­mu­nity and Mine’.

This theme is the mantra of the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and the As­so­ci­a­tion of Lo­cal Govern­ment Au­thor­i­ties (ALGAJ) as we work to­gether to main­tain civic pride within our com­mu­ni­ties, places of work, ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and places of wor­ship. The pub­lic health unit was once a depart­ment of the parish coun­cils with di­rect con­trol and su­per­vi­sion, en­sur­ing that the com­mu­ni­ties were al­ways in­spected, by pub­lic health per­son­nel. The cit­i­zens knew their roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as it re­late to keep­ing their homes, com­mu­nity, and by ex­ten­sion, their en­vi­ron­ment clean. It was also once the re­spon­si­bil­ity of landown­ers to main­tain their prop­er­ties and com­mu­nity spa­ces as acts of vol­un­teerism; com­mu­ni­ties would also come to­gether and main­tain com­mu­nity spa­ces, in­clud­ing road­ways. The proper prac­tice of waste dis­posal and con­tainer­i­sa­tion of solid waste by separat­ing com­pose garbage from re­cy­cling items was once a com­mu­nity prac­tice. These were age-old prac­tices un­der­taken by our grand­par­ents.

How­ever, cur­rent com­mu­nity be­hav­iours and ac­tiv­i­ties in­di­cate that we no longer ex­er­cise civic pride in how we live, do busi­ness and in­ter­act with each other. The rain­fall we have ex­pe­ri­enced re­cently re­sulted in mas­sive flood­ing in parts of the Cor­po­rate Area, fur­ther re­sult­ing in se­vere block­ages to wa­ter­ways due to the cur­rent ha­bit­ual prac­tice of some res­i­dents to dis­pose garbage in gul­lies and drains. This re­sulted in the dis­rup­tion of the nor­mal op­er­a­tions of busi­nesses, ex­posed com­muters to de­lays and caused in­con­ve­niences and dam­age to prop­er­ties. Too of­ten, we see garbage been thrown from ve­hi­cles along high­ways and by­ways with­out any con­cern about civic pride.

In pre­vi­ous years, cit­i­zens were more pro­tec­tive of the en­vi­ron­ment and how they dis­posed of their garbage. They had civic pride and main­tained their sur­round­ings. The spirit of vol­un­teerism is no longer be­ing prac­tised to­day; nei­ther is the habit of keep­ing the im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings at work or home clean. The prac­tice of burn­ing garbage that emits poi­sonous sub­stance in the at­mos­phere is a cause for con­cern.

The dis­charg­ing of waste­water on to road­ways or nearby drains; the block­ing of wa­ter­ways by garbage or other ob­jects; over­grown lots and open spa­ces; poorly pack­aged and un­col­lected garbage are all con­tribut­ing fac­tors to an un­clean en­vi­ron­ment. The lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, through their en­force­ment units and sup­port from the Na­tional Solid Waste Man­age­ment Author­ity (NSWMA) and other re­lated agen­cies, have im­proved their op­er­a­tions and are en­act­ing fines on per­sons who are found uri­nat­ing in pub­lic places, car­ry­ing out il­le­gal dump­ing, con­struc­tion, dis­play­ing in­de­cent con­duct in pub­lic places and dis­turb­ing the peace. Their col­lec­tive ef­forts have re­sulted in de­ter­rence of these il­le­gal prac­tices and the cre­ation of a sense of civic pride. The lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and ALGAJ will con­tinue their col­lab­o­ra­tive ad­vo­cacy ef­forts for the de­liv­ery of ef­fi­cient ser­vices from the NSWMA, the author­ity that has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to col­lect garbage and keep the streets clean. We will earnestly pur­sue the mat­ter of mu­nic­i­pal courts be­ing estab­lished in each mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion to speed­ily ad­dress mat­ters per­tain­ing to pub­lic or­der. While we fo­cus on sanc­tions, we will aim to en­sure that the cor­rect in­fra­struc­ture and en­abling en­vi­ron­ment are in place to sup­port this sys­tem and that pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is done to change the so­cial be­hav­iour of our peo­ple, with an aim to re­gain and main­tain pub­lic or­der and civic pride in com­mu­ni­ties.

It would be re­miss of me not to recog­nise the ef­forts of the parish dis­as­ter com­mit­tees re­cently chaired by may­ors, with sup­port from other agen­cies, in their roles as co­or­di­na­tors as we pre­pared for the pas­sage of Hur­ri­cane Matthew. As we are still in the hur­ri­cane sea­son, let us be mindful of the dis­as­ter as­so­ci­ated with such sys­tems and en­sure that we con­tinue to ad­here to the re­quired best prac­tices.

This great col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort points di­rectly to the close­ness of lo­cal govern­ment to the peo­ple, and it is for this rea­son that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties need to be given the full au­ton­omy to man­age the af­fairs of the peo­ple in their re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions.

Ladies and gen­tle­men, let it be your re­spon­si­bil­ity as well as mine to keep our sur­round­ings clean and healthy as we col­lec­tively work to­wards ‘Re­build­ing Civic Pride in Your Com­mu­nity and Mine’.

It was Dr Nel­son Man­dela who once said, “A sus­tain­able fu­ture for hu­mankind de­pends on a car­ing part­ner­ship with na­ture as much as any­thing else.”

I wish you all a suc­cess­ful Lo­cal Govern­ment Month of ac­tiv­i­ties. MAYOR SCEAN BARNSWELL Pres­i­dent As­so­ci­a­tion of Lo­cal Govern­ment Au­thor­i­ties

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