“The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related that it is difficult to class them separately.”
– Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason (1794)
HAD HE been alive today and following the platform talk in local government elections 2019, Thomas Paine would have easily now uttered the words quoted above.
The campaigns have been generally filled with a lot of irrelevance and robber talk to jockey for positions in general election 2020 and have nothing to do with burgesses preparing to cast an informed vote for a councillor to be their elected representative on their regional corporation for the next three years.
At least the campaigns of the so-called major parties.
Last week a senior party officer and government minister mounted the platform and uttered these words: “Get out your PNM cocoyea broom. Burn incense. If necessary, sprinkle salt and wash down the place with holy water and recite St Michael’s prayer…This is no laughing matter.”
And she was deadly serious. Or at least so we are supposed to believe.
Invoking the spiritual realm has represented another step in the woeful descent in what is supposed to be a serious exercise in what is called “representative democracy.”
Red and yellow platforms have, from their leaders’ offerings, tried to convince electors that one or the other will be the best option to be in government – cabinet and Parliament – in 2020. “We are getting it done” one says. The other, “Put us back in office and we will put TT back to work again.”
Forgive my simpleton’s contemplation, but what exactly does whether either the PNM or UNC forms the next government have to do with who I have as my councillor in my corporation in 2019?
In 2013, the UNC told me vote for a UNC councillor and I will get local government reform. In 2016, the PNM told me vote for a PNM councillor and I will get local government reform. And, having listened to them on both occasions, local government reform has never happened.
Councillors and corporations cannot reform themselves. Governments must amend the laws to make reform of local government happen. And neither of them has. So why should I even think about which of them is victorious in a local government election? Those who will be elected can’t reform local government and those in central government have failed to do so.
In this campaign, the PNM began by spinning a yarn about UNC being against property tax in a mythical tale to avoid explaining exactly why it has, in respect of local government reform promised in 2015 and again in 2016 before this local government election, failed to get it done.
As the law now stands, not one cent of property tax or any other tax can go to the corporations unless and until the Miscellaneous Provisions (Local Government Reform) Bill, 2019 is passed. This bill, in its explanatory notes, says:
“Clause 10 of the bill would seek to amend the Property Taxes Act, Chap 76:04…Paragraph (b) would amend section 10 to introduce a new subsection (2) that would require the residential taxes be paid to the municipal corporation in which the residential land is located.” (Read the Bill: http://www.ttparliament.org/legislations/b2019h13g.pdf)
So the failure to implement local government reform by 2019 has nothing to do with the collection of property tax or any court matter about the property tax. Until the bill becomes law, no tax will go to the corporations.
Failing to account for not getting the reform job done, the PNM has moved from pillar to post in a campaign to demonise the UNC, ending up invoking spiritual cocoyea brooms, salt and holy water.
The UNC, for its part, is nightly trying to tell us, to put it back in government in 2020 and it will implement our master plan to put TT to work again.
Both of them must tell us the truth. Tell us why both of you have failed to reform local government so that my corporation still cannot provide me, the burgess, with the quality and efficiency of basic services that I need.
Tell me why I should elect any councillor to a corporation that can do nothing more for me that it could do up to this day. Tell me why I should vote for any candidate, red or yellow, when nothing has changed about the institution called local government itself.
Instead of trying to catch my vote with irrelevance and frankly nonsense talk, try to convince me that I can expect something different on December 3 from my local government corporation.
And while you are at it, try to convince me that I can expect that my right to safety and security, to an end to the daily slaughter, and the prospect of another 500-plus murder toll for 2019 will not be a reality.
Thomas Pane suggested that the line between sublime and ridiculous, between good and serious on the one hand and silly and unimportant on the other, is very thin.
Try to convince me that you can move in the direction of the sublime.