Monday, January 31, 2011

Goodbye to a good year, hello to a new one

SO, we have already chalked up a month to another year. Last year wasn't so bad, was it? I am sure you will agree that we had more to be thankful for last year than we had the previous years.
For one, there were fewer street demonstrations in 2010 and city folk like you and I could go about earning a living without worrying if we would get to work or home in time because of sudden road closures.

The number of street demons aka Mat Rempit has not gone down but let's keep our fingers crossed that those who escape police dragnets will grow up, repent and ride safely for their own sake and their family's.

As for the morning jam, well, just treat it like breakfast, and with less fuss until the traffic or public transport system is improved.

My side of the city feels a little safer with mobile police beat bases set up in areas where youths like to loiter. Since I have not heard about snatch thefts in the past two weeks, I am going to hope that the police presence is enough to deter petty crime. I know my colleague who stays in Puchong sleeps a little easier with policemen on horseback patrolling her neighbourhood.

City Hall officers have done a good job, too, where discouraging illegal parking is concerned. Last year had been the city authority's year of enforcement, and I am encouraged to see that it had done well. From the windows of Balai Berita, I have observed how often the DBKL men and women came around to issue summonses on illegally parked vehicles -- although some errant motorists are still at it.

Perhaps the authority will just have to work a little harder since the tide of reckless parking has shown little signs of ebbing. Higher fines may do the trick where even towing has failed. But, of course, City Hall has to ensure that there are enough parking lots. It is not fine to fine motorists who park illegally while allowing workshop and eatery operators to hog the parking lots in front of their premises.

Under the safe city concept, covered pedestrian walkways connecting some light-rail and monorail stations (LRT) in the city were constructed. These will be a boon to pedestrians. Once completed, more people will be encouraged to use public transport and fewer will drive into the city. This will, in turn, reduce jam and pollution.

The long-awaited transformation of Brickfields and the massive upgrading of Taman Tasik Perdana are two developments we can be proud of, among others, last year.

Let's hope that this year, urban renewal programmes will make the city an even better place to work, live and play in. Can we trust the city planners to have the foresight to retain traditional charms in the pursuit of modernity?

The best news last year was probably for the poor, when 44,146 low-cost flats from the People's Housing Scheme were offered for sale to them. The extra effort taken by the Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry to set up the Housing Credit Guarantee Corporation to act as bank loans guarantor for those wihtout a fixed income is commendable.

The challenge now is to make sure that the low-cost units go to the deserving and not to those looking to make a quick buck by renting out the flats. And once these properties are handed over, City Hall should ensure that these low-cost housing schemes are well maintained so they do not become urban ghettoes.

So, as we celebrate yet another City Day tomorrow, we have lots to thank for. I am counting my blessings today and possibly over the next few days.

You can join me in appreciating the sparse traffic and improved air quality if you are in no hurry to get out of town like most of the city folk on long weekends.

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