Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Working formally with the TCs

I just got back a while ago from the post office.

I spoke to a caregiver this afternoon and she was wondering whether it'd be able to get her TC to agree to the TNRM programme and working with caregivers in writing. I told her what had happened at the meeting yesterday. While I completely understand why caregivers would like the programme to be more formalised, I do worry that it's going to be very hard to get that assurance if the town councils are pursuing an official 'no stray' stance that their Chairman has set out. The TCs may feel they cannot go against what is official 'policy, while deciding to continue to work with caregivers unofficially. It makes things very tentative for the caregivers since they have no formal agreement, but at the same time, it may be difficult for the TC to come out and endorse the programme officially too. The caregiver also agreed that she could see this might be difficult in view of the meeting.

It's also very sad - here are residents willing to help out and TCs willing to work with the residents. This should be a prime example of the sort of co-operation and active citizenry that we have been trying to achieve. Instead there seems to be a sort of clandestine nature to the co-operation when it should be acknowledged and even held up as an example of citizens working hand in hand with their TCs.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the head does not know what the hands and feet are doing - there is probably paralysis of the body. A no-stray policy would make many residents unhappy - but the head lives in la-lah land (out of touch with that kind of pay). If the heart does not feel, there is no gracious society.

29/5/07 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say how much I admire your dedication, passion and perseverance in working towards helping our community cats. Don't be disheartened by HDB and the TCs' stubbornness and lack of empathy. Keep up the good work!

29/5/07 8:05 PM  
Blogger Surferket said...

How about getting the chairman to actually witness the final "solution" of the cat problem? He's a paper pusher and so might not realise that his decisions actually result in these strays being put down. People who live in ivory/crystal towers need those towers to be shattered and torn down. Well, I'm just a closet socialist activist.

29/5/07 8:18 PM  
Blogger VeganCatsg said...

When the economy strains under the aging baby-boomers and hospitals and nursing homes get filled to the brims with residents who are no longer productive and becomes "parasites" to continuing prosperity, there might a new policy of "Zero Useless Old People"!

29/5/07 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So these are the ingredients of heartware.
They are individual pieces. They are not all organised top-down plan, but they show people who care, they show people who are doing things, and they show people who will get together and will feel that S'pore is a place where I did these things and I belong because I contributed and I made it happen and I made it different.

29/5/07 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Straits Times,
July 3, 2006
Reach out to more residents.

By Tan Hui Yee

THESE days it seems that you can't walk around a public housing estate without coming across new void deck seats, pavilions, sheltered linkways or landscaped gardens.

Most of the 16 town councils have five-year workplans which they roll out methodically, at a pace which may have caused more than a few residents discomfort.

Several of them wrote to the Forum Page of this newspaper recently, questioning what they felt were examples of wasteful projects - an eco-pond which was an eyesore, cycling tracks avoided by cyclists, as well as pebble paths built and later taken apart.

Town councils, in turn, have scrambled to explain that the projects were carried out after consulting residents, and the money was spent after careful consideration.

Still, the doubts remain.

Some residents contacted by The Straits Times felt they could have offered better and cheaper solutions to certain problems in their estate if the town councils had bothered to get their feedback.

Others felt that town councils were trying too hard to tart up their estates when all they really wanted was for their precincts to be spanking clean.

One observed that complaints of wasteful projects seemed to be directed solely against town councils run by the ruling People's Action Party. He wondered if this was because they were flush with cash from the government grants they receive, compared to opposition-run outfits which get far less.

Underpinning it all was the sense that town councils, which are helmed by elected Members of Parliament, were not being transparent enough about the way they spent public money.

But a look at the annual reports published by all town councils shows otherwise.

There, town councils run by both the PAP as well as opposition parties list down the exact sums they pay for town improvement work, cleaning and electricity, as well as how much they pay their managing agents.

Residents who bother to scrutinise the audited financial reports will also be able to know exactly how much the town council collected in service and conservancy fees as well as the size of its surplus and sinking funds.

The question to be asked, rather, is how accessible these reports are to residents genuinely interested in finding out.

Town councils say the reports tend to be distributed to government bodies and libraries, not to residents directly. Few residents, they say, ask for them anyway.

While that may be true, more can be done to widen their reach. A simple way would be to put the reports online on the town councils' websites. Only a few town councils do so now.

Another way would be to publish key data of annual reports in four languages instead of sticking to English. Only two town councils did so for reports for the year ending March 2005.

A common lament from town councils is that it is hard to please everybody; that having to deal with demands from thousands of households living in close proximity requires a constant balancing act. They stress that the improvement projects they do almost always fulfil the needs and wants of the majority of residents.

But it would help if they gave more information about their decision-making process, just like the way charities are opening themselves up to greater scrutiny now. It would also help if they open up more avenues for feedback instead of limiting them to just a few sources.

Residents' committees are one example. For many town councils, 'consultation with residents' appears almost equivalent to 'consultation with residents' committees'. In so doing, the town councils miss out on valuable insights from individuals who for one reason or other cannot volunteer their time in these set-ups. The situation would be better if members of residents' committees went out to seek residents' views systematically and comprehensively, but it is doubtful if many do.

Residents, meanwhile, need to do their part to understand how their town councils work and get themselves heard. And that need not mean poring through annual reports.

It could mean getting in touch with members of residents' committees, taking time to answer town council surveys, getting hold of town council staff or contacting their MPs to pass on any ideas that they may have.

The key words are 'be constructive': Highlight things that can be done better rather than criticise a shortcoming without bothering to understand the constraints.

In a sense, the debate over town improvement projects is timely. It gives town councils a chance to relook the basics, away from the noise of the recent general elections when the provision of each park bench or playground was heavily politicised.

It has been almost 20 years since town councils were formed, partly to devolve estate management from the HDB to the local authorities and give residents a greater say in how their surroundings turn out.

Over the years, the constant redrawing and enlargement of electoral boundaries - and, along with them, the town councils' boundaries - have eroded this sense of ownership among residents.

The West Cost Town Council today, for example, has morphed from 'West Coast-Ayer Rajah Town Council' as well as 'Tanjong Pagar-West Coast Town Council' in the years before.

It is therefore all the more critical today - when there is much talk of residents feeling increasingly disengaged - that town councils give more heed to negative feedback from residents. For, minority or not, they are still residents.

29/5/07 10:43 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks anonymous.

Surferket - I think if everyone (complainants too!) saw what their complaints resulted in there would be much less killing. It would be great if every person who makes a complaint is made to watch the cat being put down (not that it would ever happen).

Vegancatsg - sigh.

Anonymous - very interesting articles, thanks.

30/5/07 3:20 AM  
Anonymous No Deal said...

show the culling process, a special museum to showcase the brutality and souless TC newest policy on how to improve residents' lives through ' no-stray ' policy.

Overpaid politicians with no heart running my estates? No deal.

30/5/07 10:40 AM  

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