Mayor on warpath
Manchester Municipal Corporation head warns of sanctions after being angered by Observer editorialFriday, June 11, 2021
BY KASEY WILLIAMS
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Angered by Tuesday's Jamaica Observer editorial focusing on the rampant chaos and total lack of regard for public order that now exists in Mandeville, Mayor Donovan Mitchell yesterday defended the municipal corporation's management of the town and warned of sanctions for breaches of regulations.
Mitchell, in a near 30-minute tirade during the corporation's monthly meeting, rejected the points made by the editorial and scoffed at a subsequent social media debate which alleged corruption being the root cause of the current disorder in the town.
“A member of the public [tweeted] 'A root of this corruption. Planning authority officials and their political backers take money to allow buildings to go up where they should not. Mandeville is a painful example of failed urban planning and public disorder' and it came from the editorial in the Observer,” said Mitchell.
He read a Twitter thread which alleged that the public continues to be harassed by employees of the municipal corporation, despite former employees being found guilty of corruption, one of whom is now serving five years' imprisonment.
“This is just one set of the many correspondences and tweets and things placed on Instagram and in the media that is before us,” the mayor said.
“I just want to say, on the record, that I don't know if anybody is taking money from anybody... When I entered politics it wasn't because of money, it was because I wanted to serve,” he said.
“I don't know which of the political backers this person is talking about in terms of us allowing buildings to go up. As a matter of fact, for the last year or so we have served over 30 stop orders, breach notices, and taken people to court. I think it was just last month that one person paid a fine,” he added.
The mayor announced that buildings that are being constructed without the approval of the municipal authority have 60 days to be regularised.
“Persons who know they have illegal buildings going up, you have a 60-day grace period. After the 60 days expire, then we will begin and collect the breach fees… The breach fee is that when you start building and you don't have any permission, we'll charge you 150 per cent of the regular fees,” he said.
The mayor also said people who are building and have construction material on the roads have seven days to move the material.
The owners of billboards have 30 days to regularise with the municipal corporation, while owners of old cars and roadside garages have 14 days to remove them from the roads.
“We have the wayside garages and mechanic shops. We have car marts. We have the rearing of animals in residential areas. We have people using a lot of containers to do business. We have people putting up a lot of advertisements or billboards without permission,” said Mitchell.
He said the corporation will be enhancing the cadre of enforcement personnel in the coming weeks.
He also disclosed that the town managers are in discussion with a law firm “to take on some of the local government issues” in court.
“Too many people [are] getting away with too many things,” said Mitchell.
He also told councillors that he's not afraid to die.
“The other day I was talking to somebody and they said, 'Mayor Mitchell, you nuh fraid people kill you?' Let me make it clear for the records, I'm not afraid to die… I keep saying to people, anything you are going into and you are afraid to die for its cause, don't go into it. The earlier you die, the longer the rest,” he said.
Mitchell stressed that the congestion and poor urban development in the town are decades old problems.
“The parish of Manchester came into effect over 200 years ago. Eighty per cent of the problem in this town and in the parish was not caused by any of us sitting in here. None of us!” he fumed.
“When the building at the corner of Perth Road, Ward Avenue and Caledonia Road was being done, it was the same persons who sat and watched the building go up in the middle of the road and couldn't say anything,” he said.
Mitchell also pointed to a building that is a part of Bank House Mall, saying that it was only after a former government minister saw it and realised that “half of the building was being built in the road”, that the decision was taken to take a piece of it down.
“When Elethe Mall was being built, one [building officer] was transferred because of it, so it is not that we are not doing anything in this council. We are doing a whole lot,” he added.
He also said there are matters before the courts involving the rearing of animals in residential areas.
“When residents rear cows and goats and pigs and chickens in residential areas, we take responsibility. We now have two persons who we are going to court with because they decide that they are not taking the chicken coop out of the residential area,” said Mitchell.
He also said the laws with which the council has to work are ancient.
“When we sit in here as a council we don't take the people's business frivolously; we do what we have to do in here, but one must understand that the laws that govern some of the things we do are outdated,” he said,
“The New Building Act, we have an Act, but there are no regulations and anybody who is bright knows that you cannot act on anything without the regulations. We are going to be using the existing laws to deal with the things that we have to deal with,” he added.
He urged councillors to desist from getting involved when the municipality enforces regulations.
“I don't want no councillors call me to tell me seh 'Listen, the man a poor man', it won't happen. Because in the media nobody calls any councillor name, they ask for Mayor Mitchell, and who a eat a food and who naah eat nuh food,” he said.
He reiterated that approval for any construction requires the permission of the municipality.
“Since poor people not reading, mek it easier for them; the law says if you are building a cow pen or a fowl coop, a container, a board house, a big house, a hospital, a school, an apartment building, you need permission from the planning authority,” he said.
Mayor Mitchell said some of the matters before the municipality, based on advice, may have to be taken to the Supreme Court.
He also threatened to publish a list of non-compliant developers in the national newspapers.
“We have the list, and if it continues, we are going to be publishing it so that people understand,” he said.
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