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Measuring yardstick: Former Petaling Jaya mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad (centre) together with MBPJ’s Lee Lih Shyan (left) and former councillor Cynthia Gabriel showing the Green Apple award the council received in 2013. – filepic

Measuring yardstick: Former Petaling Jaya mayor Datin Paduka Alinah Ahmad (centre) together with MBPJ’s Lee Lih Shyan (left) and former councillor Cynthia Gabriel showing the Green Apple award the council received in 2013. – filepic

LAST week, StarMetro posed a very pertinent question in its article LA21: Success or a failure?

About three days later, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) organised a stakeholders’ consultation to evaluate the results of its LA21 programmes.

The following questions were posed to the nearly 100 residents’ representatives present at the forum:

1. What is Local Agenda 21 to you?

2. In what ways has Local Agenda 21 and working with MBPJ benefited your community?

3. What kind of activities and programmes has your community found useful or effective?

4. How could LA21 PJ be made more effective?

5. What new areas should LA21 PJ expand to and what new stakeholders should be included?

MBPJ should be applauded for helping remind its residents about LA21. Even though it has been more than 20 years since the framework was introduced at the Earth Summit in 1992, it has remained relevant to help us face the challenges of the 21st century.

LA21’s main thrust is to achieve Sustainable Development by ensuring a balance between economic, social and environmental activities and about two­-thirds of its 2,500 action items relate to local authorities.

This means that the liveable cities we aspire to be are influenced tremendously by the actions and decisions of the local authority. The success or failure of LA21 equates directly to our ability to create such cities.

Is Petaling Jaya a liveable city? Is its liveability measured by the accolades Petaling Jaya receives at the international level where judges do not experience the traffic crawl endured daily by residents or should the feedback of residents be the ultimate measuring yardstick?

For LA21 to succeed in Petaling Jaya, resulting in a high quality of life for the residents, it is important that not only feedback be sourced from the residents but also that the departments which are supplying services to the residents hold to the same understanding of LA21 and work towards the aspirations of sustainable development.

This concept is called “shared vision” and it asks the question whether the aspiration of a liveable city from the residents’ perspective is consistent with what the local authority thinks it should be.

Therefore, it would be very revealing if the same question posed to stakeholders were asked of the individual departments and employees of MBPJ.

This will help determine if the council’s vision of a Livable City is a “shared vision” or a “divergent vision”. However, the questions will need to be rephrased and I suggest doing it as follows:

1. What is Local Agenda 21 to you?

2. In what ways has Local Agenda 21 and working with MBPJ benefited your community?

Do all MBPJ departments and employees understand what Sustainable Development is? Or is it driven by a few enlightened members of the staff while others just parrot the phrase?

When measuring benefits, are we measuring activity or impact? Do we take note only of the large number of residents that come for the T-shirts and lunches during gotong­-royong, or do we go back to see if the site remains clean because the mindset of the residents had been transformed?

3. What kind of activities and programmes has your community found useful or effective?

4. How could LA21 PJ be made more effective?

Does MBPJ measure how many activities it has carried out in a year or does it measure how many activities it has helped facilitate? Is social capital being built up and can MBPJ recognise more new leaders it can partner with to achieve the dream of a liveable city? Is MBPJ “competing” with the residents or is it focused on capacity building of the communities?

Are MBPJ departments working in an integrated manner or are they compartmentalised and carrying out their duties without seeing the greater good?

5. What new areas should LA21 expand to in Petaling Jaya? What new stakeholders should be included?

How can PJ move on towards the substance of LA21 and step away from practising its form?

Are residents the most reliable source of ideas towards a liveable city? For many years, MBPJ has been measuring LA21 based on activity instead of impact, and promoting form over substance.

With the appointment of a new mayor and deputy mayor, there is an opportunity to bring in a paradigm change and move away from the “business ­as ­usual” mode.

There is a chance that LA21 will find its rightful place and Petaling Jaya can continue to head towards a liveable city status.

An exhibition on “Livable City­The People’s Perspective” will be organised in conjunction with the Kota Damansara Community Forest Community Care Carnival 2015 and KD­Rain Forest Music Festival in front of SMK Kota Damasara Seksyen 10, Persiaran Mahogani, Kota Damansara on May 23.

For details, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1680090435552074/

   

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