THE Mayor of Kuala Lumpur is not only one of the most high-profile positions in the country, but it is also one of the most political.
The “supposedly” most powerful “man” in the city has the enviable task of taking care of almost two million KLites (or eight million people who reside in the greater metropolitan area of our capital city). “Supposedly” because in reality, the Datuk Bandar is subservient to the Federal Territories Minister and “man”, simply because we have never had a female mayor.
And both these facts aren’t about to change.
Speculation is already rife that KLites will get a new head honcho as the term of the current mayor, Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan’s contract ends on Oct 2.
Talk is that if Nor Hisham’s contract isn’t extended, the powers that be have already identified the candidate to become the 13th mayor of Kuala Lumpur.
The decision ultimately lies in the hands of Tan Sri Annuar Musa, the FT minister, who is also the big boss of the mayor.
KL’s mayoral situation is different from many of the big cities in the world.
For example, both the London and New York mayors are career politicians who were elected to their posts.
But both of these men, Sadiq Khan and Bill de Blasio respectively have autonomous powers to run their cities.
The Datuk Bandar on the other hand is answerable to the FT minister who calls the shots.
This begs the question, is the post of the Datuk Bandar redundant?
If you look at the previous 12 KL mayors, the majority of them have been civil servants who have been appointed the post after reaching or being close to retirement age (the current mayor is 64).
Several have been director generals of DBKL first and then assumed the higher post.
All civil servants in DBKL (an estimated 10,000 employees) report to four executive directors.
In terms of operations, the removal of the mayor’s post would mean that these four would then report directly to the FT minister.
The other scenario would be if the government abolished the FT ministry altogether.
After all, Kuala Lumpur was declared a city in 1974 while the ministry was only established in 1978.
Abolishing the ministry, albeit not an easy task, would allow the agencies under it – KL City Hall, Putrajaya Corporation and Labuan Corporation – a certain amount of independence in the areas within their jurisdiction.
Personally, I feel that there are overlapping functions between the ministry and DBKL.
I think that the final say in matters concerning KL should best be left to City Hall and the mayor.
And as for the mayor himself, there have been calls in the past to allow KL residents to elect their representative, just like in other developed cities.
Local government elections should allow for a more transparent and accountable system of governance at City Hall.
But these elections are not new.
The first of such election in Kuala Lumpur was held on Feb 16, 1952, where 12 out of the 18 councillors in the then Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council were elected, with the remaining six appointed by the Sultan of Selangor.
The last local council election was in 1963.
In 1976, Parliament passed the Local Government Act which only provided for appointed councillors abolishing local government elections altogether.
Bringing back local council elections would hopefully mean a City Hall that would only be accountable to the people of KL.
And if we were to do away with the post of FT Minister, this would also mean less interference from politicians.
As the likelihood of both of this happening in the present time is remote at best, I would like to suggest that the new mayor – if Nor Hisham isn’t given an extension – focus his energy on the following three important areas to ensure our capital becomes a truly liveable and world-class city.
A visit to Ipoh showed me the stark difference in terms of cleanliness in Perak’s capital compared to KL.
It’s not only the streets, drains and suburbs that are kept clean, the level of hygiene in the coffeeshops and restaurants are also better.
The mayor must crack down hard on dirty eateries.
He should also work with Residents and Business Associations to regularly organise gotong-royong, especially in commercial areas.
We have got some great parks in the city, but preserving them is a different matter altogether.
Green lungs are a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
These green lungs must be gazetted and protected to ensure that KL continues to have large swathes of green that break the monotony of its high-rise, concrete buildings.
The long-term solution to notorious city traffic jams is simple: improve public transportation and you will give commuters a viable option to leave their cars at home.
The MRT has made a difference, but connectivity is an issue with the lack of links to suburban areas from train stations.
Once we have an efficient public transport system, City Hall’s proposal some years ago to introduce congestion charges in the city centre should be implemented.
These charges will force people to leave their cars at home and use other means of transport to get into the city.
Brian Martin, executive editor of The Star, would like to come clean. He has vested interest in the proposed assessment rate hike since he’s a resident of Kuala Lumpur.
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