Questions for Marsaskala Local Council Candidates – Elections 2019

Development

  1. What is your stance on the Jerma proposal as it currently stands? Should the LC be asked to vote on this in the future, how would you vote if the residential apartments remain part of the proposal?
  2. What are your thoughts on the takeup of public land to build the Żonqor branch of the AUM? If you had to vote again in the future, would you be in favour of, or against the irreversible destruction of that area of Żonqor?
  3. What are your thoughts about excessive development in general in Marsaskala? Our infrastructure is struggling to cope – how will you ensure that Marsaskala remains a residential village for families, as opposed to becoming another Sliema?
  4. What is your opinion on the preservation and creation of public open spaces in Marsaskala? What do you think about the building of new LC premises in Ġnien Sant’ Anna in the face of residents’ opposition?
  5. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park?
  6. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it it phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?
  7. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?
  8. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?
  9. Parking is increasingly a problem, yet measures to promote active means of transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged (e.g. removal of the cycle lane along Triq is-Salini). Will you actively encourage cycling and walking in Marsaskala? How?

Environment and litter

  1. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?
  2. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?
  3. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

Citizen Involvement

  1. Currently, groups of residents are only allowed to speak at local council meetings once a year. Will you consider the possibility of engaging more publicly with groups of citizens during local council meetings once in office? How would you do this?
  2. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, offical FaceBook page, and any other means?

Generic

  1. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala
  2. If you were granted three personal wishes for Marsaskala – no limits, everything is possible. What would those wishes be? What is your vision for Marsaskala?
  3. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?
  4. What can we hold you accountable for?

Update 2: Jerma doublespeak

Well, that’s rather disappointing, to say the least. Following this morning’s Environment and Planning Review Tribunal meeting (more info on the meeting here and more info on the politically appointed EPRT here), developers have been given 30 days to present a method statement aimed at “minimising” damage caused by the Jerma site to Marsaskala’s coastline.

As reported on MaltaToday, “While confirming the legality of an enforcement issued by the Planning Authority against developers in which it decried the state of abandonment of the Jerma site, the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal has modified the notice giving developers more lee-way in addressing the situation.

In its decision, the tribunal insisted that due to the large size of the development, the extent of the damage, and its location on the coast, the original enforcement notice implementing the enforcement notice as originally issued (i.e. removal of the ‘damage’ within 16 days) veered on the impossible.

And that’s it folks. No mention of penalties, no discussion of what measures to mitigate/reduce the damage would be considered to be ‘satisfactory’ by the EPRT; in short, little accountability, if any at all.

To be clear, this is a step forward for Marsaskala residents. At the very least, the irresponsible owners are now obliged to actually propose measures and presumably carry them out eventually, rather than just leaving the site as it is. However, the Tribunal’s change in wording (a good chunk of the 18-page document outlining the decision is dedicated to explaining the difference between ‘mitigation’ and ‘removal’ of the abandoned building) means that developers are NOT obliged to dismantle the building, as the PA originally requested. We’ll keep you updated – more on this next month.

#ħawwadniħanifhmek #wearenotstupid #greedwins #ownerspopthechampagne #30days






Update: Jerma – the end of the line?

In August 2016 the Planning Authority issued an enforcement order against Jerma site owners Jeffrey and Peter Montebello, requiring that the “injury to amenity” be addressed after years of complaints by the local council and residents over the dangerous state of the site.

Two years later, the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal upheld an appeal by the owners and annulled this enforcement order. In the latest twist to the sage, the PA went to court to appeal the decision of the EPRT and won it.

Today, at 13:00, the EPRT will discuss the matter again and hopefully decide in favour of the residents, considering that everyone (including the owners) agrees that Jerma must be demolished.

We’ll keep you updated.

Concert and exhibition organized by St. Anne’s Band Club

St. Anne’s Band Club will be organizing 2 events this April 2019 to mark Easter festivities.

The first one is a concert, Sanguis Amoris, to be held on 7 April, 19:00, with details as per below:


A second event is In hoc Signo Vinces, an exhibition of various statues, paintings and works of art related to the sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ, starting 11 April, 19:00. The exhibition is going to be in the hall beneath the parish church. More details in the official poster below:

Get to know your candidates: Marsaskala Local Council Elections 2019

A little bit of perspective…
Did you know that voter turnout for local council (LC) elections in Marsaskala has ranged between a low of 56% in 1997 and a high of 84.9% in 2003? The last LC elections, held in 2013, saw almost 80% of MSK’s 9,371 registered residents turn out to vote. On Saturday the 25th May 2019, thousands of Skalin will once again make their way to the local Primary School to exercise their right to vote for their favourite LC candidates.

Local elections are often dismissed as being “irrelevant” elections with little at stake. This is not helped by the perception that local councils have relatively little power, or when it becomes apparent that many LCs are effectively dominated by the same political party, year after year. Turnout can often be low, although holding LC elections alongside European elections probably guarantees that this won’t happen in 2019.

Marsaskala Voter turnout, 1994 – 2013

Why Bother Voting?
In our increasingly materialistic and individualistic world, duty and service are unpopular words. But little in public life would get done without them. People should be proud of where they live and take an interest in their community. Elections provide voters with a choice of competing candidates, platforms, and parties. They provide a mechanism for holding representatives to account for their performance in office and allow residents a degree of control over their elected representatives. If you don’t like what they are doing, don’t just stay at home, get out there and vote for a candidate who may do a better job.
In Malta, people may know their councillor personally, and despite all its harms, social media has proven to be a boon when it comes to putting residents in direct contact with their elected representatives. Political parties care about who controls local councils: this is why they spend time and money standing for election to them. Holding them accountable for their performance is vital, as the control and leadership of a council can lead to very different public policies being pursued. Think about what is happening elsewhere on our islands – LCs in towns and villages across Malta and Gozo – from Żejtun to Pembroke to Gżira have been instrumental in helping to defend towns and villages from rampant overdevelopment and destruction of the natural environment; in mitigating negative effects of poor planning and policy; in the provision of services, the organization of cultural events, the embellishment of village cores etc. In Marsaskala, the track record is rather mixed. Without going into too much detail about who voted for what, the council has at various times asked for a holistic plan to curb overdevelopment in our village, fought to prevent restaurants from taking up valuable parking spaces, opposed an ODZ petrol station extension, objected to ODZ greenhouses in Munxar, came out against a car park proposed in St. Anne’s Garden and insisted that the abandoned Jerma Hotel be demolished…. yet a majority of councillors voted in favour of building new offices within a public open space in St. Anne’s Garden (a move opposed by many residents as it will remove precious open space in the centre of the village), voted against a motion asking the government to give back Żonqor land to the public (instead voting in favour of the infamous AUM project), removed a cycle lane in Triq is-Salini… there’s quite a lot going on in Marsaskala!

It’s just one vote…what difference will I make?
Councils respond to policy demands expressed during elections. Public pressure matters, and voting in elections is a key part of that. Local elections also provide voters with a chance to pursue change. Fed up with how one party runs the council? Then vote for something different. Unfortunately, voting in Malta has always been along party lines, but we’re hopeful that there will be an independent candidate or two running for the Marsaskala LC election. Failing that, we look foward to seeing a healthy mix of fresh and experienced, young and old, female and male councillors from all parties. More detailed information on the results of past elections can be found here.

Where does Marsaskala Community & Friends come in?
Following our last blog post on how to register to vote, we believe that all Skalin should be able to make an informed decision about their preferred candidates. With this in mind, over the coming weeks each candidate, from all parties, will be sent the same list of questions related to their vision for Marsaskala. The final list of candidates will be available on the 15th April, but in the meantime we will be sending this list of 18 questions to those candidates who have already come forward. Some questions are generic. Others are hot topics. All are important, because they help residents hold their representatives accountable, now and in the future. They are designed to lead to candid, straightforward answers as much as possible, rather than politikspeak. Candidates will be asked the following:

Development

  1. What is your stance on the Jerma proposal as it currently stands? Should the LC be asked to vote on this in the future, how would you vote if the residential apartments remain part of the proposal?
  2. What are your thoughts on the takeup of public land to build the Żonqor branch of the AUM? If you had to vote again in the future, would you be in favour of, or against the irreversible destruction of that area of Żonqor?
  3. What are your thoughts about excessive development in general in Marsaskala? Our infrastructure is struggling to cope – how will you ensure that Marsaskala remains a residential village for families, as opposed to becoming another Sliema?
  4. What is your opinion on the preservation and creation of public open spaces in Marsaskala? What do you think about the building of new LC premises in Ġnien Sant’ Anna in the face of residents’ opposition?
  5. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park?
  6. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it it phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?
  7. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?
  8. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?
  9. Parking is increasingly a problem, yet measures to promote active means of transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged (e.g. removal of the cycle lane along Triq is-Salini). Will you actively encourage cycling and walking in Marsaskala? How?

Environment and litter

  1. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?
  2. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?
  3. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

Citizen Involvement

  1. Currently, groups of residents are only allowed to speak at local council meetings once a year. Will you consider the possibility of engaging more publicly with groups of citizens during local council meetings once in office? How would you do this?
  2. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, offical FaceBook page, and any other means?

Generic

  1. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala
  2. If you were granted three personal wishes for Marsaskala – no limits, everything is possible. What would those wishes be? What is your vision for Marsaskala?
  3. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?
  4. What can we hold you accountable for?

One last thing…
Getting out to vote shows an appreciation of what representatives do – which is mostly unpaid and on our behalf. It confers legitimacy on the local council and shows how much residents care about what goes on in their local area. Voting can be habit forming. It can also make a difference. Be that difference.

Il-Magħluq Clean-Up – 7th March 2019

Il-Magħluq Clean-Up - 7th March 2019

Thursday being a normal day of work and with only 24 hours previous notice, was not highly conductive to expect a good number of volunteers in an organised clean-up session for Il-Magħluq. It turned out that Rio and Marianne from our group Marsascala Community & Friends were the only two who could make it. Admittedly not the most able-bodied within the community, but well, we did our very best.

James Gabaretta from Nature Trust and a few of his younger colleagues transmitted the energy needed to immediately roll up our sleeves. We were provided with gloves, huge brooms, garbage bags and spade. A good amount of plastic and rubble was swept and collected, an unsightly skip removed, large stones were turned into seats and in less than a couple of hours we could look back and appreciate the now clear space which made the area look much cleaner and bigger. We had a couple of visitors asking us what we were doing, and showed their appreciation. It was a good advert for our group. Ducks came along too. Admittedly cute, but in no way did they help us in our venture. In fact, unfortunately, il-Maghluq is certainly not the place for them as they contribute very negatively to the area in many ways.

Answering our question with regards dredging the waters, which was in the news only a few days before, our high hopes were instantly lowered when we were told that although permits were issued, it wouldn’t be until a year, or maybe more, before the work would really start. The media does not help when it raises people’s expectations and promises are not delivered until months or even years later. Hence the negative effect on people’s morale and the perception that nothing ever gets done. Perhaps an explanation to the public about how things will be conducted will be in order.

We are happy that our group was, at least, represented. We certainly would appreciate better timing next time so that more of us may be able to participate in further improving several areas around Marsaskala. Clean-up sessions are just one way of participating. More ideas from the general
public through our website and/or facebook page are always welcomed and much appreciated.

Il-Magħluq’s fish fauna – The Common Eel

An article published yesterday on MaltaToday speaks about the killifish re-population in the Marsaskala marshlands, known as il-Magħluq. Killifish is not the only fish fauna to inhabit the Magħluq area. Here is some very interesting information about the common eel, brought to our portal by Mr. Rio Sammut.

File:FMIB 51807 Common Eel, Anguilla chrisypa Rafinesque Holyoke, Mass.jpeg

Here is some info about the common eel; a predator found in the Magħluq of Marsaskala. It is a natural inhabitant of the fishpond as much as the killifish.

70. Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus) E. Common European Eel I. Anguilla Europea M. Sallura

Max length: 1.4m

Max. weight: 3kg

Characteristics: Typical elongated body with a smallish head; inconspicuous pair of eyes set over the mouth; large jaws, lower slightly longer than upper; minute concealed scales making the skin proverbially slippery; the dorsal fin starts far back and blends with the caudal and anal fins all around the tail end; may be silvery grey or yellowish above with a white underside.

Elvers are called leptocephali and appear small, leaf-like, and transparent, with a minute head.

Habits: The adults slip gracefully and effortlessly between rocks and weeds at the bottom of shallow water. They often conceal themselves in rock crevices, or in soft mud, with only their head exposed, expecting any small creature to pass by and be devoured. They occur quite frequently in all muddy inlets.

The elvers start life in the Sargasso Sea and swim thousands of kilometres across the ocean while feeding and growing into the adult shape. The journey may take up to three years. On arrival at inshore waters the young eels swim up streams or rivers to find a fresh water lake or pond where to spend the greater part of their adult life, about seven years for males and twelve years for females. On approaching sexual maturity they migrate back to the sea for spawning. In the Mediterranean Sea there are seventeen similar species. The Common Eel is edible and so it is extensively fish-farmed in many countries.

Marsaskala Community & Friends would like to thank Mr. Sammut for his contribution. Should you be interested in more information about this topic, you may check out his book entitled “Mediterranean Sea Fishes – (Central Region)“.

Marsaskala Local Council Elections 2019: your right to vote.

A recent Times of Malta article stated that over 18,000 EU nationals are registered to vote during the European Parliament (EP) elections in Malta. What does that have to do with Marsaskala, you might ask? Well,  Local Council (LC) elections are due to be held on the 25th May 2019, at the same time as the EP elections . Anybody residing in our locality (be they Maltese or non-Maltese) who has an ID or eResidency card with a Marsaskala address is eligible to exercise their democratic right to vote for one or more of the candidates and have a say in determining the future of our beautiful village.

A good proportion of Marsaskala’s growing population was not born in Malta, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also vote in the LC elections. Indeed, we were always taught that it is one’s duty – as well as one’s right – to vote.  Just follow these three easy steps:

1. Visit the Electoral Registry website and enter your personal identifier details (see screenshot). These should match those on your ID/eResidence card. Click ‘Submit’

Insert your personal information in the fields as requested

2. If you are eligible, you should see a statement like this:
[Name], holder of ID Card Number [1234567M], is registered to vote in the following electoral register/s: LOCAL COUNCILS ELECTORAL REGISTER  published in OCTOBER 2018. You may also be eligible to vote in other elections, as in the example below.

Ensure that you are eligible to vote in the LC elections

3. If you see the above statement and your name is on the register, then all you need to do is wait. Police Officers will attempt to deliver your voting documents to your registered address starting from Sunday 14th April 2019. If no one is at home when the Police Officer calls, you will be able to collect your voting document/s by calling personally at the Police Station (or Local Council in certain localities) of the town or village where you are registered, on presentation of a valid Identity Document (Identity Card or Residence Card) issued by Identity Malta, between Thursday 9th May and Sunday 19th May 2019 (last day till noon). You may also personally collect your voting document/s from the Electoral Commission at the Counting Complex (ex-Trade Fair grounds) in Naxxar between Monday 20th and Thursday 23rd May 2019 (last day till midnight), if you are registered in Malta.

If you do not see the above statement, then have a look at the Electoral Commissions FAQ section. You may also wish to see this list of FAQs for the MEP elections. When one applies for either the e-Identity Card or the eResidence Card, one is automatically applying to be registered as a voter when one completes the relevant application forms.

Happy voting!

Garbage Collection Service – Survey results analysis

54 residents filled in our survey regarding Waste Collection in Marsaskala.

This review analyzes responses given and presents to you tips and (possible) solutions, some of which have been presented by participants of our survey.  

75.9% of respondents find that the current schedule meets their requirements, 22.2% respond in the negative, and 1.9% do not (yet) know. The reactions we received reveal opportunities for improvement.

Main issues reported

  • Many residents anger themselves at the apparent inability and/ or unwillingness of some to adher to collection schedule
    • Various residents have witnessed a number of “so-called temporary residents” and tourists leave their bags outside on the wrong day and / or in the wrong place. Despite being friendly informed that Malta  dictates otherwise, these “visitors” just shrugged their shoulders and did nothing to correct their behaviour.
    • Others angered themselves at some people’s seeming inability to stick to schedule and or contents /bag.

Tip: One respondent took charge of the block where he/she lives, hanging up the collection schedule for all to see, and helping others get the message through.

  • Alternative facilities are necessary for tourists, temporary residents and residents  leaving the country.
    • Good planning and proactivity are just as essential in this part of your vacation as they have been all along. It begins by reducing the amount of waste to be disposed off at the last moment.
    • When that moment arrives Malta offers you the following facilities:
      • Recycables (grey / green bag) can be disposed off at a civic amenity (CA) site but have to be sorted out beforehand into paper / plastic / metal / packaging. In other words the recycables cannot be disposed off in one container. Glass can also be brought to CA site.
      • Mixed waste (black bag) can be brought to CA site provided it does not contain any food. Note that food belongs in the organic bag!
      • Organic bags cannot be brought to a CA site, for this you will have to make alternative arrangements yourself like asking a neighbour or the owner of the appartment / B&B where you have stayed
  • Present schedule does not meet requirements
    • Residents with babies and cats report that their mixed waste (black) and recycable (grey/green) bags fill within a day; in other words, the present schedule does not meet their requirements.

Tip: Kindly go through the three R’s (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) and think of possible ways you can diminish your waste: be creative and think out of the box! Report your successes to others so that they can benefit too.

  • Vulnerable organic bags
    • The organic (white) bag is flimsy and tears easily. When the white bag contains fish, meat and /or bones, cats and rats are attracted to it, tearing  the white bag apart and littering the environment which in turn attracts rats and flies. Coupled with the windy weather this is an issue for both  our health and our environment.
    • Tips:
      • Wrap fish/meat/bones carefully in newspapers before placing them in the white bag
      • Try making your own compost (wormery if you live in an appartment) and “usual” compost / “worm castings” / both if you have a garden with plenty of space. Composting will decrease your amount of organic waste, but above all, composting enriches the soil, renders plants healthier and better able to ward off disease, and can prove a rewarding hobby to self and the environment.
      • In the summer months residents can place “organic contents” in the deep freezer and get them out of the freezer and into the organic bag on the day of collection.
      • Keeping our own pavement clean especially when organic bags have spilled over or the wind has been at play is something all of us can do.
  • What to do with
    • Mixed waste that is neither small nor bulky and
    • A bag of garden waste when you do not own a car
    • Tips:
      • Call Marsaskala Local Council (telephone number 21637171) to avail yourself of the Bulky Refuse Service, offered free of charge. Check also https://www.wasteservmalta.com/bulkywaste
      • Depending on composition of your garden waste:
        • Rotten fruit and vegetables, fruit and vegetable peels, leaves and flowers go into the organic bag, branches do not – branches go to a Civic Amenity (CA) site.
        • Bundle large stems – devoid of leaves – and about one meter in length together with a string or rope. If you do not have a car or are disabled, call Marsaskala Local Council to check whether your bundle can be collected by the Bulky Refuse Service. If not try to find a neighbour or other resident who can and is willing to help you out.
        • Again here think of making your own compost! https://www.wasteservmalta.com/organicwaste
  • Collection times irregular and inefficient
    Residents complain about irregular / too early / too late collection times. Going through and abiding by the tips given above will help solve some of the present issues. Where the timing is too early for you, strike an agreement with a neighbour who is willing to help you out.
  • Skips are in a poor state and always (over)full.
  • What is missing and what the remedy might be as suggested by participants:
    • More intensive education of citizens
    • Abiding by the rules, if necessay enforcement
    • Respect for self, others and environment
    • Personal leadership
    • Accountability for one’s actions

A resurgence of environmental protection advocacy groups

Lately, a number of environmental “pressure” groups have been sprouting up across our lovely islands. These follow the lead of other recent, successful environmental groups such as Front Harsien ODZ and Kamp Emergenza Ambjent. In no particular order, we have heard from:

Inħobbu l-Gżira – This group is advocating for a sustainable plan for Manoel Island that benefits the whole population. This is an impression of what is at stake:

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and text

Xgħajra Seafront Interest Group – The group was re-kindled recently, after original comments about land reclamation in the past were dismissed, only to surface again now. Multiple articles published on the Times of Malta can be read here and here. James Debono also published an excellent piece on MaltaToday about why land reclamation is a bad idea. Renders of this abomination have not surfaced yet; however, here is something interesting to read on the subject from a country which unfortunately has opted to implement extensive land reclamation. The more sensible Dutch counterpart stopped reclaiming land (the Markermeer) in the Ijsselmeer because of the effect on the eels.

Save the North – The group focuses on large-scale development in the North of Malta and how these are detrimental to our life. The proposed Mistra project is one example.

This is what it would look like:

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Marsaskala Community & Friends – Our own group advocates active citizenship, with the environment being one of 3 pillars that are the back-bone of the community. As the dust has temporarily settled on the Żonqor university given the troubles faced by the AuM, it is time for the Jerma relic to be in the news (again), as documented in this MaltaToday article.

This is a 3D render of what 13 to 15 storeys would look like, taken from the applicant’s Proposal for Development:

A render of the proposed development

It is positive that these groups are not only working for their cause. Fund-raising organized by the Save the North group in order to appeal the Mistra project was a success, with documented donations coming from some of the above groups, hundreds of Maltese and even international contributions. Save the North is encouraging followers of their FaceBook page to attend a MEPA meeting on 7th March regarding the Manoel Island Project. Members of our own group attended the Xghajra meet-up last January 2019, where the group was objecting to possible land reclamation in the vicinity. The latter 2 groups also formally discussed possible ways to collaborate in March 2019 .

This type of collaboration is possibly one of the best ways to not only make our voices heard, but also to trigger discussion and change. When you treat behemoth development projects individually, localities and pressure groups feel stranded and many times the sensation that a decision has already been taken regarding a proposed development reigns supreme. This is well known by developers, who count on this feeling of helplessness to help them roll over any individual resistance and exploit the common good for personal gain.

It is easy to see how the general discontent of the common citizen is increasing to unprecedented levels. The people behind these groups are rarely politically affiliated. The environment belongs to us and to our children. It is sad to see how few politicians take a definite stance against any of these projects. Politicians dwell in grey, blurred lines. A favorite quote of theirs that seems to have become a motto is: “Wieħed irid jara sew l-impatt…” (One needs to closely examine the situation“). How about ‘NO’? How about plucking enough courage to tell it how it is? As much as we would like to steer away from the clichés crying foul at the pocket lining of the few at the detriment of the majority, it is the harsh reality.

A sure way to implement these projects seems to be that of proposing outrageous plans, that have no way to be approved in their original format, and then scale them down to pacify the rest of us. Well, nobody is an idiot.

Economic drive is fine, but not at this price. This is not the legacy we choose to leave to our future generations. It is the legacy that those in power are choosing to shove down our throats; cementing our mouths and the little land we have left. These groups, be they successful or not in their battles, will not be erased. “Front Kontra l-Golf Kors” (2000-2004) and “Front Kontra l-Hilton” (1994-1997), both spearheaded by Moviment Graffitti, are two examples of a won and lost battle, respectively.

Someone, somewhere in time, tried to stop this madness. We hope that, looking back, we will also be able to proudly say that we tried – and succeeded – in making Marsaskala, and other localities, a better place to live in.