Councillor Kevin Taylor of the Duhaney Park division has put up a stout justification for this weekend's municipal retreat at a luxury north coast resort, in the process flaying colleague councillor Duane Smith for dismissing the venture as a waste of scarce resources.
In a letter to this newspaper, Councillor Taylor says, "It is difficult to do the focused visioning required for the retreat to be successful while remaining in the work environment." He added that senior staff and policymakers "away from the regular grind and interruptions from minor emergencies and incessant cellphone calls will sit and formulate the strategy for the way forward".
The nonsense of this argument is apparent. Surely, the councillor is not suggesting that if an emergency arises in the city, the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) management could escape responsibility because they are ensconced at a north coast resort? The fact is that the city's responsibility continues round the clock. And there is an easy remedy to deal with incessant cellphone calls - by simply turning off the instruments.
Mr Taylor went on to advise the first-time representative on what he needs to do to become a successful councillor. Essentially, the Duhaney Park councillor is suggesting that Smith will reap success by falling in line with the status quo.
The agenda made public by Mayor Angela Brown Burke's office includes discussions on revenue generation, financial management, increased efficiency, effectiveness in service delivery, and measures to improve image and increase public awareness. Although there was no mention of environmental management, the agenda seems a reasonable one.
smith's argument valid
However, Councillor Smith argued that this agenda could be tackled at any one of several venues in Kingston. And we believe he is on good ground when he suggests that the roughly 40 municipal officials could reduce cost by getting together at a Kingston hotel to focus on these matters and plan the way forward.
Too often we have heard the KSAC lament its lack of resources to carry out the delivery of essential services that impact on public safety. The degradation of Kingston's ageing infrastructure is regularly tested and found wanting. Rat infestation, blocked drains, stagnant water pools, lack of street lights are among some of the difficulties that citizens of Kingston face each day. Over time, urban decay has transformed Kingston city into a dirty, rat-infested, ugly place.
By spending thousands of dollars on a weekend retreat, presumably in all-inclusive luxury, is the KSAC compromising its ability to deliver core services to some of Kingston's most vulnerable communities? If the answer is yes, Mr Smith is correct in taking the stance he has.
Frankly, we must applaud young politicians like Mr Smith for daring to suggest a fundamental shift in the way the country manages scarce resources. We are living in very tough times. Rather than castigate Mr Smith for speaking his mind, Mayor Angella Brown Burke and her councillors should be more responsive to his concerns and be prepared to embrace new thinking.
Citizens of Kingston will be anxious to see whether the salubrious surroundings of the north coast property would have stimulated the intellect of the KSAC management sufficiently so that they emerge from their parley with a comprehensive plan to revitalise Kingston neighbourhoods and make the capital more attractive to investors.
For it is critical that development be channelled into the city to increase the tax base and provide the resources to deliver services to the citizens.
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