Chairman of the St. Michael East Community Council, Craig Archer, has stressed that he is not a politician and has no aspirations to be one.
Archer cleared the air last night while addressing a meeting of the Council at St. Giles Primary School, the Ivy, St. Michael. He told the crowd, which included parliamentary representative for the constituency, Kenny Best, former representative, Trevor Prescod, and Director of the Rural Development Commission, Randolph Outram, that he accepted a position on the council because he thought that its introduction was a “fantastic idea”.
He pointed out that since being launched on March 26, 2011, the council has held 17 meetings and has disbursed just under $20,000.
Archer pointed out that the $100,000 allocated to each constituency was being disbursed in tranches of $16,000 every two months.
Stressing that council members are volunteers, Archer said: “We on the councils are volunteers. We do not get paid for the service that we do. The stipend we get is just $120 per month. It is a lot of work to be done. We try to rely on the Department of Constituency Empowerment, our programme officer and our programme assistant who have been assigned to the council.”
He maintained that the concept of constituency councils was a “tremendous one if it works as it is intended to”. The chairman pointed out that the members of the council had to work with the pool of skilled persons in St. Michael East.
He suggested that on weekends the more fortunate members of the communities need to look around their neighbourhoods to see what needed to be done. Archer maintained that the unavailability of a constituency office had been one of the major challenges confronting the council over its year-and-a-half existence.
“I am told that the constituency office has been recently put in place in the Ivy Community Centre. As recently as Friday I was given the office number, which seems to be a cellular phone number. Without an office our calls and mail were going to the Department of Constituency Empowerment,” Archer said.
Noting that the constituency council of St. Michael East began with a council of 13 members, he argued that a quorum of nine members presented a major challenge to the council and therefore suggested that a quorum should be reduced to seven or eight persons.
Archer complained that some members of the wider community held erroneous perceptions of the council’s role.
Play specific role
He said: “Former chairman of the council, Lennox Chandler, who does not mix words, said it right up front: we are not an extension of any branch office. We have a specific role and responsibility and we are trying to do what we do in an apolitical manner. Any attempt to do something differently will automatically lead to the demise of the whole concept. It will not work if only half of the people in the constituency want it to succeed.”
Archer said the Department of Constituency Empowerment had identified eight core functions which each council was asked to meet. He said each council was expected to establish a database of skilled persons and resources in the community; support sports programmes based on a principle of reciprocity; educational assistance; clean up and beautification of common areas in the constituency; parenting programmes; support minor infrastructural projects; annual awards to outstanding community members and volunteerism.
He however warned that the councils did not have the wherewithal to respond positively to every request.
Archer told the gathering that over the past 18 months, the St. Michael East Community Council had received just over $32,000. He suggested that more public relations programmes needed to be put in place to inform the public on the role of constituency councils and their eight core functions. (NC)