Sociologist, activist, local councillor, drummer from Malta

Friday, May 22, 2009

For a smarter Sliema

Michael Briguglio

Article in Sliema Local Council magazine May 2009

I am proud to have served my second term as Green Local Councillor in Sliema. It was a pleasure working with all other Local Councillors and with the hard-working staff of the Sliema Council. In particular, it was a pleasure meeting so many residents who voiced opinions, proposals and complaints for a smarter Sliema.

In this article I would like to share some successes achieved by the Sliema Local Council in the past years, in which I had a direct role.

-A culture of public consultation has been introduced in Sliema Local Council, whereby residents are frequently consulted on various matters relating to the environment, transport, etc..

-A culture of objections to unsustainable development has also been introduced in Sliema Local Council. The Council is frequently supporting residents and NGOs in their objections against development which runs contrary to planning regulations or is unsustainable. This has increased pressure on Malta’s Environment and Planning Authority, and in certain instances, developments were stopped (Pjazzetta, Chalet, Manwel Dimech Street). In other cases, developers were forced to carry out Environmental Impact Assessments on certain projects (such as Fort Cambridge), even though in the case of the latter, MEPA has totally ignored the Council’s proposal for a proper social impact assessment.

-Victory against the Qui-si-sana carpark. The informal alliance made up of some Sliema Councillors in support of NGOs such as the Qui-si-sana and Tigne’ Residents’ Association against the development of a carpark and commercial centre under a public garden on the Sliema coast has had tremendous effect, to such an extent, that it is now an open secret that Government has shelved its plans for such development.

-The promotion of ecological practices such as the Sliema circular bus route (which has been retained); the installation of photovoltaic cells (provided that Sliema Council’s project will be selected by central Government); energy-efficient practices within the Council premises; the installation of various bicycle racks, improved maintenance of public gardens, soft areas and beaches; the installation of bring-in sites for recycled waste; the introduction of Environment and Animal Welfare Sub-committees;

-The necessary work for the introduction of Residents’ Parking Zones. Sliema Council has done all necessary work in the past 6 years, including analysis of all roads and consultation with residents and with businesses. All that is now required is the final approval of the central Government through the Transport Authority.
Improved relations with civil society organisations such as NGOs and local organisations, resulting in increased public activities in Sliema.

-Constant support for improved workers’ rights within the Sliema Council itself.

On the other hand, there are areas where more needs to be done. Amongst others, these include

-Having better and more accessible pavements and less potholes in our roads. The Council is fixing pavements in partnership with the central Government, and Council also does force contractors to fix broken pavements, but surely this, together with the state of Sliema’s roads, is an area which requires more immediate attention, even because the Council’s funds and enforcement powers are limited.

-Having more accessible public transport. In reality this falls under the responsibility of the Government, but Sliema Council can make more pressure to ensure that public transport is improved.

-Having more constant management of Sliema’s contracts such as waste collection and maintenance of soft areas. The engagement of a contracts manager can surely help in this regard.

-Taking stronger measures against pollution. Sliema Local Council should make more public pressure to authorities (both national and European) for concrete action to be taken against pollution resulting from traffic and construction, which is detrimental to people’s health.

-Having more public presence through activities such as press conferences whereby the work done and the position of Sliema Local Council on various issues can be better communicated to the public.

-I hope to have the privilege of remaining a Local Councillor in the next three years. In this regard, I am committed to keep working in the areas referred to above, and also in other areas such as

-Showcasing Sliema as a vibrant town whereby commerce, though promoted, does not lower the quality of life of residents, and whereby culture and community life are given the space they need.

-Ensuring that Sliema is equipped for today’s needs in terms of Information Technology, by providing free internet access not only at the Council premises and in the Sliema Library, but also through facilities such as WI-FI in public spaces. Sliema council has already started working on this and it has been decided to have free WI-FI access at Independence garden.

-Constant vigilance on day-to-day realities that cause difficulty to residents such as inconvenient construction practices; broken pavements and damaged roads; lack of access in public spaces such as beaches and gardens; and security from crime and vandalism.

-Ensuring that the concerns of different social groups (such as the elderly; parents with young children; the disabled; workers; consumers; residents in general etc..) are given the importance they deserve

-Having more civil society and life-long educational programmes, whereby, for
example, Sliema’s government school premises are made increasingly available for Sliema residents for purposes such as education, training, sports, culture and other civil society activities.

-Ensuring that partisan politics are kept out of the Local Council. It is healthy to have different opinions and political beliefs, but one should not be in favour or against something simply due to partisan reasons.

I would like to thank all civic-minded residents for your trust in me and in all other Local Councillors and staff. Let’s work for a smarter Sliema!

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