Editorial | Frustration making councillors bow out
The idea of a politician withdrawing from representational politics is at odds with the reality of the Jamaican situation, where overwhelmingly, politicians tend to keep going until forced out by scandal, illness or death.
That is why the story about two Trelawny councillors announcing that they will not seek re-election in the 2022 Local Government elections got our attention. What is even more striking is the fact that both councillors appeared to have done some self-examination and concluded that they had failed to deliver on promises to constituents. Essentially, they blamed their inability to deliver on essential services because of lack of funding. Their frustration has seemingly boiled over.
In the case of three-term councillor Philip Service, his greatest disappointment was his inability to secure land titles for persons in his Zion division. He explained that he had been making representation from day one, but nothing had been achieved. He also complained about inadequate funding to undertake essential infrastructure work.
Meanwhile, Dr Pauline Foster-Grant also stressed lack of funding, which she called a councillor’s worst nightmare. Her biggest disappointment was not being able to establish a sustainable water supply for the Ulster Spring area. She said four years ago, she was promised that a Quashie River system would have been installed. It has not happened.
‘All politics is local,’ is a well-worn phrase coined by an American politician who wanted to illustrate the point that folks care deeply about having their issues and concerns addressed at the local level. Implicit in that phrase is the ability of politicians to use their influence to find solutions for the concerns of their constituents.
HARDER TO ACCESS RESOURCES
But as we see in this report, citizens are being seriously short-changed. Sadly, this may not be unique to Trelawny. Both Service and Foster-Grant belong to the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) and it tends to get harder to access resources when your side is not in power. That’s just the way our politics work. However, in that same story, it is noted that Opposition councillor, Garth Wilkinson, listed a number of achievements while vowing to soldier on to address other long-standing concerns. Mr Wilkinson, a former mayor of Falmouth, may be able to explain the secrets of his success to his frustrated colleagues.
No doubt some of the priorities championed by politicians on the hustings are unrealistic and are mere pipe dreams. But to have a reliable water system and get titles regularised after decades of occupation sound like projects that should be undertaken in a timely fashion.
Self-examination, as we have seen by these two councillors, is rarely observed at any level. Instead, politicians tend to become entrenched and grow adept at the darker political arts such as deception, hypocrisy, cronyism and enlightened self-interest, with the aim of remaining in power. These are the qualities that breed apathy in the electorate, who have been increasingly withholding their votes while declaring “it makes no difference”.
More and more organisations have begun to assess leadership performance through written appraisals. Politicians are usually appraised at the ballot box.
To hear the same promises being repeated every election cycle is what helps to shape constituents’ assessment of whether they can expect prompt attention, or even trust government to find solutions to their problems.
We have no doubt that the frustrations of Service and Foster-Grant can be found in other municipalities across the country. Municipalities have a vested interest in providing the kinds of service that will advance communities, in terms of economic development and social prestige, to the benefit of all citizens.