Sociologist, local councillor, activist from Malta

Friday, February 17, 2012

Greening the councils

Michael Briguglio

The Times, February 17th, 2012
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120217/opinion/Greening-the-councils.407171


It was a pleasure to announce that Alternattiva Demokratika – the green party will be fielding 10 candidates for the upcoming local council elections in March. Indeed, this represents an increase in green local council candidates compared to recent local elections.

Our candidates are Ralph Cassar (Attard), who is already a councillor); Yvonne Arqueros Ebejer (St Julians); Simon Galea (St Paul’s Bay); Solange Sant Fournier (Swieqi); Leonard Schembri (Gżira); Michael Bajada (Munxar and Xlendi); Henrik Piski (Qormi); Robert Callus (Mosta); Andrè Vella (Balzan) and myself (Sliema).

All localities have their own characteristics, needs and opportunities. For example, Mosta has a failed local council characterised by internal feuds and lack of decision making on important issues. A case in point is the absence of the local council in the legitimate opposition to the destructive development at Wied il-Għasel. Interestingly, both the Nationalist and Labour parties are also dead silent on such development.

Readers can check out www.it-tarka.com/ and join the thousands who have signed a petition being raised by NGO Ħarsien Patrimonju Mosti.

If elected, AD councillors in Malta and Gozo will ensure that residents, both Maltese and foreign, who want their quality of life safeguarded will have a legitimate voice in their local council. Issues such as sustainable development, public transport, infrastructure, accessibility, public consultation, social inclusion and residents’ rights will be given priority by the greens.

The AD local manifesto focuses on social, environmental, cultural and economic priorities, among others. For example, it gives due importance to the need of community-building through sports, open spaces and accessibility of vulnerable persons to various services.

As regards waste management, AD is emphasising that recycling schemes should be further extended, coupled with waste reduction in general.

Safe and fully-equipped public gardens will be given the importance they deserve. The same can be said as regards the need to have an infrastructure that is fully accessible to persons with disability, the elderly, children and their parents. This includes not only the need to have professional works on pavements and roads but also to have lower speed limits in residential roads as is the case in various European localities.

As regards infrastructure, various localities are in an abysmal situation. Unfortunately, a number of local councils and authorities such as Transport Malta are allowing developers and contractors to carry out inferior road and pavement works without proper enforcement. This results in potholes, uneven roads and inaccessible pavements.

As I argued in a previous article (January 6), one main reason for inferior works lies in the fact that the correct mixes of required materials are not made when resurfacing. Another reason has to do with the weight of trucks used for construction, frequently being overloaded.

For the umpteenth time, I publicly invite Transport Malta to publish reports on such inspections and on enforcement carried out.

Judging by house visits carried out in different localities, I sense a feeling of disillusionment in local councils. Other residents will toe the party line while some will not vote in a bid to earn favours, given that PNPL gather data on people who do not vote, with the blessing of Malta’s perverse data protection legislation.

More optimistic and non-partisan residents may believe that, irrespective of one’s political party, the work of a local councillor can be beneficial to residents. I have no doubt about this.

At the same time, however, one should also keep in mind that, unlike other political parties, AD has no obligations to interests such as those of big business developers. Hence, my appeal to voters is to use one’s vote rather than waste it. On a personal note, if elected to the Sliema local council I will continue the work I did when I was councillor between 2003 and 2009. Then, a culture of consultation with residents was introduced and the council started objecting to unsustainable developments.

The strategy was successful in the victories against development at Il-Pjazetta, Chalet and Qui-si-Sana to the benefit of residents.

I also played an important role – often starting the process – for the introduction of alternative energy and renewable energy measures in the local council, bicycle racks, a cat’s cafe’, free Wi-Fi and other initiatives. I also gave importance to sustainable budgeting and value-for-money tenders.

If elected, I look forward to work with other councillors, irrespective of their political background, and with local NGOs.

As AD chairman, I give my best wishes to candidates – green, blue, red or independent – contesting the upcoming local elections.

Maltese society should be grateful to those who offer their services for the benefit of their respective locality.

At the same time, I thank the 10 AD candidates who are standing up to be counted for the greening of local councils.

I invite readers of The Times to check out AD’s local council programme at kunsilliad2012.wordpress.com/.

Mr Briguglio, a sociologist, is chairman and spokesman for economy and finance, Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green party.

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