Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Sliema that I love

A council for the residents

Michael Briguglio

The Times, Friday, March 2, 2012

I feel honoured to be once again representing Alternattiva Demokratika as candidate for the Sliema local elections. Above all, I am happy to be contesting in Sliema because I love the locality in which I have lived for practically all my life, save for two years in England when I was a child.

Certain parts of Sliema – like the promenade and the ferries – may have changed along the years but they remain strongly imprinted in my identity. I have so many fond impressions, from riding my bicycle, to going to the then-Alhambra cinema with my friends, to making so many friends from all walks of life.

I have many memories of my childhood and teenage years in Sliema. Back in the repressive years of the 1980s, I attended the Sliema primary school and remember being bullied by a caretaker because when teachers were striking I was one of the few pupils who did not attend school in solidarity with their legitimate demands and also because my father was contesting the 1987 general election on behalf of the Malta Democratic Party.

I think that such bullying helped form my resolve to act on behalf of the voiceless in society and that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Yet, I have so many positive memories of the Sliema primary school, not least making many friends. I am also proud to be sending my son David to this school and I can assure readers that times have really changed since the 1980s. Indeed, he is having the time of his life learning, playing and making new friends in a wonderful school characterised by both class and national diversity.

The most striking impression of my teens was attending the Salesians’ boys club, playing football on a daily basis. One main reason why, irrespective of my political opinions, I respect the Church as an important institution in Maltese society is because of the care and education we got from this Church-run oratory, inspired by St John Bosco and St Dominic Savio.

Some years later I attended another Church-run club, Villa Schinas, and helped form the Sliema Table Football Club in the process.

As I moved into my 20s, I became active in civil society and was involved in various campaigns on a global, national and local basis.

I have been fighting for the rights of residents since the mid-1990s and, as a local councillor between 2003 and 2009, I had an important role in stopping unsustainable development such as that at Qui-si-Sana, the Chalet and Il-Pjazzetta, even though some thought that there was no way to stop it.

During my local council years, I worked well with mayors Albert Bonello Dupuis and Marina Arrigo and I often bridged the gap between councillors from different parties and different factions within the same party.

One main achievement that I am proud of was ensuring that the Sliema local council objects to unsustainable development. In this regard, we frequently consulted with residents and NGOs and were successful in occasions such as those mentioned above and others.

I also played an important role in the introduction of alternative energy and renewable energy measures in the local council, bicycle racks, a cat’s cafe’, free Wi-Fi and other initiatives, always within the remit of sustainable budgeting.

The Sliema local council between 2009 and 2012 ended up being dissolved due to its implosion. The situation in Sliema is one of permanent construction, often cowboy style, public holidays included, potholes galore, broken pavements. A lack of civil pride has also crept in among some.

One need only look at the mountains of rubbish left over by some inconsiderate persons on non-collection days, including Saturday evenings, and the intolerable amount of dog droppings along the promenade and in inner roads. Does Sliema deserve all this?

If elected to the next council, I will be giving top priority to accessible pavements, roads and infrastructure and ensuring that the Sliema council objects to development that is unsustainable. I will also make sure that, within the powers of the local council, developers and contractors are held responsible for works that they carry out.

Being AD’s candidate, I am not subject to string-pulling by such lobbies and, hence, I can call a spade a spade without having to face the political music.

I also promise to use my experience in Sliema’s politics to act as a bridge between councillors from different parties and to ensure that no one takes the council for a ride. In short, I will ensure that the local council really belongs to its residents.

Mr Briguglio, a sociologist, is chairman and spokesman for economy and finance, Alternattiva Demokratika – the Green Party.

AD Local Councils Manifesto

Alternattiva Demokratika – The Green Party

The Alternattiva Demokratika local councillor promises to cooperate and work with residents and local associations to:

1. promote cultural events, strengthen local identity and foster a sense of community;
2. promote sports, physical activity and a healthy lifestyle;
3. defend open spaces and fight overdevelopment;
4. upkeep public gardens and insist on modern and safe play equipment for children and teenagers;
5. improve accessibility and mobility for persons with disability, old people, children and parents of very young children;
6. improve streets and pavements and insist on good workmanship;
7. plant more local species of trees in public spaces to mitigate the effects of traffic;
8. provide bicycle racks near major bus stops, town centres, squares and gardens;
9. work on a mobility plan for the locality with short term, mid term and long term targets;
10. introduce a low speed limit for residential streets similar to that introduced in villages, towns and cities in Europe, making these roads pedestrian, child and bicycle friendly;
11. work towards the target of a public library and town hall in every locality;
12. monitor and promote recycling banks and insist on proper management of these sites with a zero-tolerance approach towards people who misuse them and undermine the community’s recycling efforts;
13. promote the recycling of different objects such as textiles and clothes;
14. promote and convince council to invest in energy efficient lighting for gardens, streets and council property;
15. promote green jobs such as those related to alternative energy and upgrading of the environment;
16. employ a youth and community worker when possible;
17. promote a sense of solidarity and community amongst residents, including commercial establishments, and to ensure that residents feel safe in their homes from criminality and excessive noise;
18. facilitate access to state services for the vulnerable and people at risk of poverty;
19. promote good neighbourliness between residents and the commercial community;
20. ask for a role for the local council in decisions on trading licenses and operating conditions for commercial establishments in the community.