The parking meter controversy


From all indications the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) seems bent on proceeding with the controversial parking meter project despite calls from several stakeholders for the authorities to relook at the situation or possibly scrap the contract altogether.

Over the past few days, several commentators, politicians and ordinary citizens alike have expressed concerns regarding the total lack of transparency surrounding the project. More particularly, questions were raised regarding the legitimacy of the company contracted, the fact that no prior public consultations were held with stakeholders, and the overall secrecy surrounding the undertaking.

It should be pointed out that from the beginning, even the Deputy Mayor had raised questions in relation to the contractor, cost, and the overall transparency of the project and had signalled his non-support for the initiative.

One would think that because of his position and the fact that he is from the ‘inside’, his views would have been taken on board. However, rather than even acknowledging the Deputy Mayor’s views regarding the legitimacy and transparency of the project, the Mayor quickly sought to shut him up, saying he does not speak on behalf of the Council.

This however did not prevent the various stakeholders from making public their views on the parking meter project, in fact, the Mayor’s treatment of her deputy prompted a wave of criticisms from several other persons on the initiative.

For example, former 1st Vice President of Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc (TIGI), Christopher Ram, said that it is very troubling indeed that for a project of such magnitude, information is hardly available.

Additionally, commentator and transparency advocate Ramon Gaskin had described the entire controversy as “very, very fishy”, stating that the only information available is what’s in the press.

Also, former Speaker of the National Assembly and commentator, Ralph Ramkarran, had said the undertaking seems to be nothing but a “get-rich-quick scheme”, given the capricious and tenuous strategies and justifications provided for some aspects of the project.

These views were in addition to those expressed by quite a few other politicians, letter writers and ordinary residents who will certainly be impacted by this undertaking. These views cannot and must not be ignored.

Further, citizens have the right to ask legitimate questions, especially in cases when certain policies and programmes affect them directly.

In any democracy, leaders are expected to pay attention to what the people have to say. In essence, effective and successful leaders take seriously the views of the various stakeholders and even ordinary citizens as they play a great role in helping to shape development policies and programmes.

The onus is on the Mayor and City Council to explain why proper consultations were not carried out in the first place with the necessary stakeholders so as to get ‘buy in’ as this was necessary if citizens were to really accept and understand the rationale behind such initiative. As expected the implementation/installation of the parking meters in the city was met with outrage and dismay as stakeholders were not satisfied that the project will be transparent or will be of any benefit to residents.

More importantly, it is no secret that citizens are already burdened with so many expenses in an already troubled economy, hence any new initiative which would see them spending more will certainly have to be properly explained and justified.

On its part, the Council is justifying its position by saying that there is need to increase revenue collection in order to run the city effectively. However, it is necessary that the Council first identify and address the factors that have influenced the current poor collection of revenue.

For example, it should come up with solutions that will remedy the issue of huge sums owed in rates and taxes.

One would think that considering this is a relatively new Council, it would have a desire to operate in a more democratic and open fashion; more so considering the mountain of criticisms the previous Council received regarding the manner in which the City was being managed.

However, judging from the actions of the City Council recently, first, with the issue regarding the relocation of vendors and now the parking meter controversy, we are forced to ask if the elected officials are really serious about improving the style of governance we have witnessed over the past two decades at that institution.