Tyrone Reid, Staff Reporter
LOCAL AUTHORITIES are lamenting that the tame and archaic municipal laws which are supposed to help them fulfil their mandate, have become shackles.
As a result, several mayors, backed by the Association of Local Government Authorities (ALGA), are calling for a review of the existing laws, many of which are over a hundred years old.
"You take a man to court and the case sits in court for six, seven, eight months, while the man continues the building until it is completed and all we have to do is write letters and sit down with lawyers," said a livid Desmond McKenzie, Mayor of Kingston, recently. "We need somebody to look at the laws that govern the local authorities and make some adjustment."
A case in point is the long-standing legal tug of war the Kingston and Andrew Corporation (KSAC) has been fighting with Delbert Perrier Sr., managing director of Auburn Court Limited, since 1996.
Even with a victory at the United Kingdom-based Privy Council, the $16 million structure on South Avenue is still standing in defiance of the KSAC's efforts.
Spanish Town Mayor, Dr. Raymoth Notice, told The Gleaner that his council is experiencing problems of a similar nature and joined the call for a review of the existing laws.
"(The parish councils) should be given more power to immediately alter and to immediately act within a given time frame for demolition of buildings," he said.
Milton Brown, chairman of ALGA, advocated the claim made by his fellow mayors that the municipal laws 'lack teeth'.
For quite some time now, more than 60 laws have been under review toward creating the legal framework for local government reform.
However, it is apparent that the loud call for local government reform has been reduced to a mere whisper.
REVIEW UNDER WAY
On the contrary, Mayor Brown still believes that a change is going to come, as he revealed that approximately 17 laws have been under the microscope since last year with the aim of empowering the municipal authorities.
He said Local Government Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, commissioned this reassessment.
"There is a review going on but the process is very slow and tedious. I agree with the mayors that the laws need to be reviewed because local government needs to be given some autonomy and power to deal with issues that affect the citizens that we serve at the local levels," said Mayor Brown.