SHOULD the heads of local corporations be called mayors?
And should town halls be built in every electoral district?
These were among the questions asked during the first consultation on local government reform at City Hall, San Fernando, on Tuesday evening.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was the feature speaker at the event, attended by Minister of Local Government Suruj Rambachan and members of city, borough and regional corporations.
Persad-Bissessar said: "I do recall in the recent past that local government elections were postponed time and time again. What we are hoping is to make the necessary changes so that no government can be capable of disrupting the local government elections."
Persad-Bissessar, who began her political career as an alderman in 1987 at the then St Patrick county council, said her involvement in local government "allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the problems faced by local government practitioners and the staff of the corporations".
She said, "The reality is that wherever people are alienated from the process and structures which determine their governance, there is likely to be a loss of community energy and frustration, often leading to conflict. The flight/ fight syndrome becomes a real possibility.
"And so when people are allowed to create a shared destiny, they work harder to achieve it and, also, to protect and sustain it."
She encouraged citizens to become involved in nation-building.
"What I have found missing at times in our country is commitment to nation-building. Too many of us are observers at what is happening and have become commentators.
"There is absolutely nothing wrong in being a critic. However, if we are to succeed as a people, if we are to build a quality nation, one that is globally competitive, we must move beyond being mere critics and join the movement for a better Trinidad and Tobago."
She said local government must be given the materials and human resources to effectively perform, and one of the main problems was lack of resources.
Other topics discussed at the consultation were allowing corporations to borrow money for projects, allowing municipal police officers to fall under the office of the Commissioner of Police and creation of full-time local government representatives.
A copy of the local government policy document is available on the ministry's website and hard copies are available at the corporations.
There will be 13 similar consultations throughout the country.