Mayor faces tough talk

Patricia de Lille at the meeting last week.

Mayor Patricia de Lille entered the Alphen Centre last week to weak applause. She made it clear from the outset that she would not discuss zoning, land-use or planning issues. Her reason – she now has the ultimate say and is the final appeal panel.

Instead she said she would speak about what she perceived to be the most important problem in Ward 62: traffic congestion.

Held on Wednesday June 8, the hall was packed with about 170 residents, DA members and followers. They had been invited by ward councillor Liz Brunette to express questions or opinions to the mayor in the run-up to the August local government elections.

Ms Brunette’s ward covers the area from Fernwood and upper Newlands to Trovato, Plumstead west and Porter Estate. She is also the deputy chairperson of the Transport for Cape Town (TCT) Portfolio Committee and chairperson of the Road Safety Task Team. Ms Brunette said it is the first time that a City of Cape Town mayor has addressed a public meeting in Ward 62.

Ms De Lille listed the projects undertaken in the ward as part of her five-year 2011 manifesto – the plan the DA puts to the voters and which was supported by 61 percent and was implemented through their Integrated Development Plan (IDP). “I’ve been driving and monitoring this plan and we’ve achieved 97 percent of it with a year to go before its completion,” said Ms De Lille.

She then asked everyone to “lend us your vote for another term”, thanking residents for cross-subsidising the poor by paying rates in order to get services to those who cannot afford to pay, equal to 80 percent of the metro.

The floor was then open for questions which ranged from the C3 service request system to the CapEx budget and housing evictions.

There was a commotion when Alan Maher of Kenilworth asked her if the DA was receiving substantial funding from property developers and, if so, how this was influencing their decisions and how could they be the final arbiter of whether or not to approve plans.

“The Mayor’s office has already manifested clear bias in repeatedly stating her mantra, ‘out with the red tape, in with the red carpet’ among other indications of a clear bias in favour of development and developers,” said Mr Maher.

Ms De Lille refused to answer, instead going on the defensive asking if Mr Maher had proof or reported it to the police.

Mr Maher said residents had requested a meeting with the mayor last year to discuss the large number of developments in that area but she had refused.

Ms De lille then agreed to set up a meeting in her office. The Bulletin sent a formal request to the mayor’s media office to attend this meeting but was denied.

Initially blocked from asking a question by Ms Brunette because she is not in her ward, Sarah Tiffin from Tokai asked for the mayor to make a commitment that councillors who are voted into a ward be allowed to champion their decisions and represent the people and not party bosses.

Ms De Lille responded saying councillors, and other public representatives are bound by the party’s policies and values and are firstly members of the DA.

Mike Picker of Barbarossa spoke of the growing crime in that area (“Private public partnership trail”, Bulletin August 21). He said Suzette Little said in a public meeting that the City is making inroads to addressing the street people problem. “So why has the number of staff for the Displaced Peoples Unit remained at 22 for the last three years,” asked Mr Picker.

Ms De Lille said crime is the responsibility of the South African Police Service which is 50 times bigger than the Citv’s Metro Police whose mandate is to enforce bylaws. “Instead the City works with communities to build neighbourhood watches to help take responsibility for their own security,” she said.

Gordon Chunnett, a committee member of the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, said the C3 system, used to lodge complaints such as about potholes and water leaks, can be improved by getting feedback from residents. “It’s difficult to track the information after it has been lodged, and when and if you do find it, it’s closed with no action taken,” he said to applause.

He suggested that on completion of a task, a follow-up email should be sent to the ratepayer to check on how the complaint had been handled.

The mayor responded saying different departments had set different response rate targets for themselves. “Some were much longer than 14 days due to the nature of the function they perform. I’ve told them the maximum response time across the city would be 14 days,” she said.

Mr Chunnett also had a request for Mayoral committee member for Transport, Brett Herron, who also attended the meeting. He suggested that there is space for a permanently open feeder lane from Rhodes Drive into the M3. This would alleviate the “interminable” build up of traffic, especially early morning. The only time for it to be stopped would be by pedestrian traffic, when necessary.

Mr Herron said he would ask someone to contact him and on Monday, Mr Chunnett said he kept to his word and received a call from a TCT engineer.

Peter Stenslunde asked a number of questions, mainly referring to a video on the launch of the DAs manifesto on Tuesday May 10 where Ms De Lille says, “Why must I put more money in Constantia? They’ve got everything.”

Her response was that the DA has been accused of spending more in Constantia than in Khayelitsha or Delft. “Where they complain of not having street lights but I said look at the people of Constantia, they don’t have street lights and they never complain about it,” she said at the Alphen.

Mr Stenslunde also asked why the City is not spending the full CapEx budget.

Ms De Lille said the City spends over 91 percent of the budget each year but when big budgets, such as the rollout of the MyCiTi bus service, is challenged – the route is being contested in Wynberg – this is unforeseen and affects the budget. When there is an underspend it is rolled over to the following year in order to complete the project, she said.

Mr Stenslunde asked why the City has written off billions of rands in the last five years by not collecting off R740m worth of traffic fines each year. Ms De Lille said 120 000 fines are written each month. These are reduced or written-off by the criminal justice system.

“People ask for more speed cameras but there is no increase in income from fines. We have paid for additional prosecutors to be employed to ensure that our fines are prosecuted and our by-laws enforced,” said Ms De Lille.

Rob Maspero urged Ms De Lille to do something about speeding by drivers passing through the area. He said Southern Cross Drive has become a racetrack and Ms Brunette says there is no budget for speed bumps.

At the meeting Ms Brunette said Transport Cape Town (TCT) is looking at alternative speed control measures and plans to build raised intersections. Asked when, Ms De Lille said wait two days and we will give you the answer.

The Bulletin followed up and the mayor’s spokesperson Zara Nicholson said traffic calming measures have been assessed for circles and raised intersections at Southern Cross Drive intersections with Monterey Drive circle, Duckitt Avenue and Pinehurst Road and TCT will add these to their next financial year’s list of traffic calming measures, which starts on July 1.

After the meeting, Mr Stenslunde expressed displeasure with it. “None of my questions were answered anywhere nearly satisfactorily/properly. It was just a dreary DA roadshow,” he said.

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