June 25, 2017

A city in crisis: An open letter to Councillors

Dear Editor,

Permit me the space in your pages for an open letter to City councillors.

Eight months ago we assumed office as councillors of which a large part of our mandate is to consider the general welfare of the whole municipality, the Capital City, Georgetown.

We were already working in our various constituencies and sought to amplify our efforts by aligning with an organisation whose vision and mission closely resembled ours.

We, perhaps, had laboured with utopian hopes that with the added legitimacy a new dynamism would be affected in the communities we inhabit. But such hopes as we harboured remain unrealised, and as our national poet says ‘those miseries you cultivate as yours as well as mine’.

I am certain that you were surprised, as I was, the issues that should have found ventilation before the Council were decided on beforehand and little more than tacit acceptance was required of us, on other issues the body Council was entirely circumvented or ignored; public trust diminished.

What remains an anomaly is that we are a repository of so much talent, experience, and training as councillors that our City should have been on a growth path for success and excellence, less reliance on Central Government, yet before us is a City in crisis on every front.

We have sat at Council in disbelief at what we saw transpiring before our eyes, we have spoken in corridors in hushed tones, or with words whispered in phone calls of the little interest expressed by those in command to chart a different course. Yet, time would have the final word, which brings us to this moment in the history of our Council, and a chance at something great.

As I said to my sons, Jon and Ethan, on the eve of LGE: “The services of a city are essential to its human dignity, whether infrastructure: roads, street lights, drains or essentials like health and fire services or police protection etc. They all have to work effectively and efficiently, geared toward the good life for the citizens who engage them.”

I was hopeful that by the time they grow up they would “appreciate that the things you now freely enjoy were bought these many years ago at a high cost and a long arduous struggle.”

I am afraid now that on our present trajectory your children and mine, your family and mine, the next generation of City councillors, and inhabitants, will only inherit all the struggles we now face. If you are in doubt ask yourself are we better off than we were in April?

My dream and my ardent hope for us as councillors is that we have a greater say in the management of our constituencies, that we are given the tools; empowered to make the changes that are necessary.

My wish is for us to have a City administration that carries out the directives of the Council and for a leadership that listens to our voices; leadership that is both master and servant, transparent and accountable.

Moving forward, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana David Granger sets out his administration’s vision for capital towns as engines for economic development of the regions of which they are the nucleus. This is the framework for success that is worthy of our acceptance.

Finally, I call to your remembrance when His Excellency visited with us at City Hall he told us in no uncertain terms that we are not on the City Council to represent our political parties but to represent the people.

In all that is to come we have to represent the interests of the people of Georgetown and the quality of service and leadership we offer them.

There are hard choices ahead of us; we have difficult decisions to make but I have every confidence that when future generations of city residents look back they will say this was our finest hour.

Sherod Avery Duncan,