Community development, our responsibility
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