Connexion: Let Ratepayers have a 4th Vote

By Joachim Ng

Eager to cast your ballot again? It’s almost certain that local government elections — the third vote — will be called. But the reality is that an elected mayor or town chief will still have little time for you. On average, one town chief looks after 200,000 people. One city mayor looks after 2 million people. Can he focus on your problems?

“If you want anything done quickly and efficiently, do it yourself.” These words of Richard Soo, a KL Rotarian, came to mind in March 2018 when powerful winds uprooted many trees in Petaling Jaya. A resident who found his old car and house roof damaged couldn’t get the MP or ADUN to come round, but the residents association chairman did visit. Residents associations are DIY outfits that spring from the ground and many have scored bull’s eye in getting things done. Another example of grassroots democracy is the management committee that runs each strata-titled housing area, usually a condominium.

Hence our Pakatan Harapan MPs should innovate something fresh in the New Dawn: legislate for neighbourhood self-governance within these 100 days, using RAs and strata management committees as prototype models. These neighbourhood committees should consist of ratepayers elected at an AGM (the 4th vote), and professional civil servants. Instead of cloistering our public servants at city headquarters far away, these “servants of the people” ought to set up base in the neighbourhoods so they can be close to the folks they serve.

What’s the primary issue faced by most neighbourhoods? Neglect of basic infrastructure and chronic lack of maintenance. The litany of complaints all around the country and over the years as highlighted by Ipoh Echo and other newspapers may be summarised as follows:

  • Clogged drains resulting in water overflowing onto roads and homes
  • Stagnant pools and school toilet cisterns that breed Aedes mosquitoes
  • Public playgrounds with broken equipment that become danger zones
  • Road potholes that get bigger and deeper with each passing month
  • Abandoned cars that are home for myriad pests
  • Unpainted speed bumps that make your vehicles ‘fly’
  • Litter almost everywhere and flagrant dumping of rubbish
  • Sloppy grass cutting and garbage collection

Empower ratepayers to fix these problems in their own neighbourhoods, and give them a budget for hiring and firing contractors. It’s their tax money.

(See Ipoh Echo Issues 276-279 for more details)

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