Friday, December 9, 2016

Local government yokels

Unlike general elections, local government elections offer the opportunity for citizens to think about the everyday issues affecting their communities. Issues like; how much did the previous government spend on roti?  Or, how many people can Inshan Ishmael insult on his TV show? And of course, just how many outside children does Dr. Rowley have? One issue close to my heart is the tall uncut grass along the river bank near where I live. Despite my numerous letters to my local councilor complaining that it's an eyesore as well as hindering me from disposing of my old fridge, he has yet to respond.

This is why I fully intend to vote next Monday. We should never take for granted the great opportunity we have in partaking in our democratic processes. Even those as meaningless as the local government elections. I must admit though I’m having a hard time deciding on whom to vote for. The PNM and UNC candidates in my area have both made commendable efforts in blaring loud music and being a general nuisance while campaigning in my neighborhood. It’s really hard to choose which one was better.

When the PNM candidate walked down my street, I was really impressed by the unnecessarily loud and incomprehensible jingle blaring from her music truck. It really made me stop and consider the issues. Like what services does my local health centre offer for those with permanent hearing loss? Or how many municipal police officers will come after me if I murder someone driving a music truck?

When the UNC candidate came around though he was blaring Ravi B from his music truck, which disturbed me. As an astute voter who cares about the issues, I think a serious politician canvassing for my vote, would at least have the decency to play some Kanchan and Babla.  Still, I was impressed by the long line of traffic he caused.  

Judging who has the loudest music truck isn’t the only thing the political parties want us to consider though. For instance Mrs. Persad- Bissessar is making local government reform a part of the UNC platform. This is odd considering that the UNC is in opposition and have no real power. And given her track record, why would anyone think Mrs. Persad -Bissessar will win an election? 

Dr. Rowley is also making the PNM’s campaign all about a vote for local government reform. This too is odd, because promising local government reform, in time for these elections, was a major part of the PNM’s successful general election platform last year. Which evidently he appears to have forgotten. If Mrs. Persad –Bissessar can never tell when she’s lost. Dr. Rowley doesn’t seem to know when he’s won.

The reform both parties are talking about has broadly to do with decentralization. Currently our locally elected government officials have much power to fix community problems as someone posting angry comments on Facebook. The PNM is promising that property taxes will stay within regional corporations. Mayors and Chairmen will also have the power to hire contactors. Like those contractors who are currently busy paving roads everywhere; which of course have nothing to do with the election?

According to the UNC manifesto  they are advocating for : decentralization of goods, services and decision making, devolution of power of local government

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