Maintaining rule of law within the city has to begin within M&CC

Dear Editor,
It seems to me that no matter what you do or what you say, some people and some places will just simply never get it right. The Georgetown City Council happens to be one of those places. Following local press reports, we see and hear the new and inexperienced acting City Treasurer opting to use the proverbial ‘Big Stick’ to terrorize and intimidate dilatory property owners with threats of harsh legal and other actions in what is being dubbed a campaign to recover some nearly 9 billion dollars in outstanding rates, rather than seeking to inspire and encourage them to honour the sums due.
There continues to be peddled in this one-sided arrangement, the twisted view that only the property owners have an obligation and duty to the Council whilst the Council has none to the citizenry but rather is doing them a big favour when they provide some meager service to them.
Is the new acting Treasurer aware that the Council is bound by law to serve demand notices on each property owner as part of the collection process? Is the new acting Treasurer aware that the charging of interest is tied to the overdraft the Council has with their bankers and should not be charged willy-nilly as is currently being done? Is the new and inexperienced Treasurer aware that Solid Waste fees are already included in the property rates charged and should not be charged again separately as is currently done and which is double taxation. In fact, it was because of the burdensome refuse collection costs due to the services being contracted out that was used as the justification for jacking up property rates on commercial properties from 40% to a whopping 250%. The introduction of separate solid waste charges and container fees now, when the Council does not fix a single road is just simply duplicitous and shameful.
It would seem to all and sundry that the administration of the Council has already swept under the carpet and is hoping that the citizenry has forgotten the very serious and damning findings of the Commission of Inquiry. Is the Council seriously expecting citizens to go rushing down to City Hall with bags of money to pay property rates without completed forensic audits in years? Without all of the other slack senior officers that were named in the report being dealt with, without the recovery of all the assets that were squirreled away? They must be joking.
But it is the immorality and unfairness of the Council that is most troubling, where they think it is quite ok to beat up underprivileged persons including old indigent pensioners over their heads to come in and pay up their property rates promptly or face exorbitant interest, whilst their friends are allowed to owe the Council tens of millions of dollars over decades and then are rewarded  with an amnesty which wipes away all of that interest. A case in point occurred not so long ago when a senior Councillor from the last batch proudly announced that he got someone who owed approximately forty million dollars in rates and interest to come in and pay less than a million dollars during one of these disgraceful amnesties.
I would like to plead with the Mayor not to be duped by the Council’s Administration into going down the road of leading a ‘Name and Shame’ campaign against these purported recalcitrant commercial property owners or else, like some of his predecessors he may be the one to find himself and his Council in the awkward position of facing litigation from persons and companies whom they will wrongfully name as recalcitrants. This has happened many times before and is because the Council’s financial and other records are in a complete mess. Properties have changed hands several times and yet still the original owners still appear on their records, properties listed as residential are in fact commercial and vice versa, some properties were illegally granted waivers of interest by persons who were not authorized to do so, and some properties have the incorrect valuations attached to them.
Maintaining the rule of law within the city has to begin within the City Council, where the COI showed that several senior officers and even some Councillors disregarded with impunity all the financial and other regulations of the municipality. Then and only then will persons feel justified in paying up their property rates promptly.

Jermain Johnson

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