One day after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the date for Local Government elections, Chaguanas residents interviewed by the Sunday Guardian said they were ready to vote.
The residents also agreed, however, that they felt Local Government elections were useless as councillors still had no power without MPs.
Most residents also said they never saw their councillors and did not see any improvements to their community.
Still, they are ready to vote, and their voting will be based on party politics rather than the development of their communities.
Zena Mack, a resident of Ramgoolie Trace, Chin Chin, Cunupia, said she would definitely be voting on November 28.
Asked why, Mack said it was because it was expected.
Asked if she knew her councillor’s name, Mack, like many other residents, said no.
Asked what Local Government, in Mack’s case the Chaguanas Borough Corporation, had done for her recently, Mack’s answer was nothing.
Her property is well-kept, grass cut low, walkway swept clean, chores done by her son.
The makeshift drainage leading from her property to a main road was created by family members.
“We do everything for ourselves. I don’t even think having Local Government councillors makes sense for most people because I never see them. I don’t know who they are,” Mack said.
While her property is well-kept, free of litter and stagnant water ideal for mosquito breeding, Mack can’t enjoy the benefits.
Next door to her house is an abandoned lot.
“I want to say it is abandoned but people built a foundation the other day and then didn’t come back for three months.”
In those three months, the lot has flooded, taking on a swamp-like look, complete with caimans, rodents and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
From Mack’s point of view, the regional corporation should be enforcing laws to ensure residents of the borough are not faced with these dangers.
What the regional corporations should be doing and what is done, however, is vastly different.
Bishnu Ragoonath: People
vote party not community
In a telephone interview yesterday, political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath agreed that the majority of voters in the Local Government elections vote based on party politics.
“It is unfortunate but that is how our politics evolved. It has evolved in a way where we focus more about party politics and not community issues,” Ragoonath said.
He said in this way, Local Government elections were no different from the general elections.
He agreed, in theory, that Local Government elections should represent an opportunity to choose candidates based on their ability to make community improvements but said this was not the reality.
In Chaguanas, unlike many other regional corporations, the votes are spread among three political parties, the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM), the Opposition United National Congress (UNC), and the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) started by former National Security minister, currently facing criminal charges, Jack Warner.
In the last elections, the PNM won three electoral districts, Edinburgh/Longdenville, Enterprise North/Esmeralda and Enterprise South.
The UNC also won three districts, Felicity/Endeavour, Montrose and Cunupia, while the ILP took Munroe Road/Caroni Savannah and Charlieville.
Despite the tie between the UNC and the PNM, it is the UNC that controls the borough corporation and its resources, after an ILP candidate crossed the floor.
It is also the UNC-held areas that seem, on the surface, to benefit the most.
While residents in Chrissie Trace in Enterprise sometimes do their own community upkeep, each cutting the grass on the sidewalks outside their house, residents in Lange Park saw a new pavement and walking track along La Clave road.
While another green space was given lights in Montrose, residents say they had to pool together and fix a four-foot wide pothole in Longdenville.
Residents on Ragoonanan Trace must walk a few hundred metres to place garbage in a dump, while residents of Edinburgh 500 have their garbage picked up in front of their gate.
It seems no one electoral district has everything they need and no resident is completely satisfied with their representatives, even when work is being done.
Keith Sampson, of Welcome Road, near Esmeralda, has no intention of voting for anyone.
“I see what they do. Look,” he points.
“You see we are getting the road repaired. You see the drain there, we got the drain upgraded late last year. I think they are doing a good job with that.
“But I don’t want to vote. I’m just not interested.”
Sampson’s answer is paradoxical but typical of many Chaguanas borough residents.
Either they see no improvements and are still willing to vote or they are seeing a lot of improvements and are apathetic about Local Government elections.
We distribute equally
In an interview yesterday, Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan said there was no discrimination in terms of development in the borough.
“Every budgetary year, the money is shared equally between every single councillor regardless of party they belong to. Our policy is equal distribution on roads, drains, the market, and all development projects,” Boodhan said.
Despite this, Boodhan is aware of the challenges faced by borough residents: frustratingly poor traffic management exacerbated by frustrated and inconsiderate drivers, potholes which always crop up in the same place despite several quick fixes, and in some areas badly inconsistent garbage collection.
Some of these issues were created because of Chaguanas’ history of often unplanned development, resulting in streets too narrow for some vehicles to navigate, a high number of unpaved roads and streets that all merge, meander and confront each other in an unrestricted maze.
“We started to have smaller trucks and smaller vehicles going into the area. We are conscious of the fact that when people leave all the garbage in one area, stray dogs tear it apart and it becomes a hazard,” Boodhan said.
He said the borough also started an aggressive beautification and environmental project.
The borough also regularly celebrates educational achievements, with 27 SEA students from primary schools in the borough placing in the top 200 this year, and over 50 scholarship winners either attending school in the borough or living there.
Safety and security is still a challenge in the area. Repeated calls for a police post in the Enterprise community have not yet been answered.
“All in all, in all areas of life, we have done work in all areas,” Boodhan said.
He said the fact that people complained of not seeing their councillors was a historical complaint but added that all councillors from the corporation continued to work as hard as possible.
“I apologise if people are not seeing them but I encourage them to call us. You don’t need an appointment to see me at the corporation. People can call and I will visit,” he said.
Boodhan encouraged the Sunday Guardian to share his mobile number 779-7343.