Candidate Responses – Ryan Portelli

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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?

    It is the local council’s (hereinafter referred to as the “LC”) duty to duly inform the Community of Marsascala (hereinafter referred to as the “Community”) about the advantages and disadvantages of the development, especially considering that here we are speaking about a very large-scale project. In light of the aforesaid therefore, my primary suggestion to the LC would be that of creating a mechanism in order to facilitate communication with residents (for example, through a suggestion box and/or via social media) to ascertain that the resident’s views and wishes are always kept at the heart of all discussions and more importantly, at the core of each and every decision made in this regard. This would serve as the most relevant guideline for both the private developers and the LC (in representation of the community), to achieve the best possible outcome i.e. that of designing the project in such a way that the natural flora in general and the residents’ interests are safeguarded.

    On a personal level, I am in favour of having a commercial and touristic resort. I believe that Marsascala longs for such a type of activity. A negative consequence brought about by the non-operative Jerma Palace Hotel is that for the past years we have been witnessing a lack of dynamic and losing out on tourist potential of our locality. Thus, it is time that as representatives of the Community, the LC should collectively and actively strive to address this shortcoming in our locality.

    On the other hand, I am strongly against the development of residential apartments because in my opinion, the main issue for residents living in the Siberja area (hereinafter referred to as the “Area”) is being bypassed completely. During an Annual General Meeting when the public had the chance to meet the developers and raise its concerns, I had put forward the suggestion that the complex should provide adequate parking spaces most of which will be reserved for the residents of the Area so as to compensate for the lost parking spaces in the streets due to an increased number families inhabiting in the Area. We need to strike a balance between private commercial interests, and the interests of the local community.

    Should the majority of the local council members are granted another vote, and the majority vote in favour of this project as it is being proposed, I would strongly insist that the private developers and the LC enter into contractual agreement, wherein it would be stipulated that basic rights such as access to the sea and all public spaces are granted to the Community. Moreover, the private developer shall be contractually-bound to duly complete the public spaces around St. Thomas Tower by a stipulated date and in case of default, a penalty will be imposed on the said private developer.

  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?

    I categorically object to such a project where a large area of land with such a huge environmental potential would be destructed.

  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?

    Since there is little control over private developments, the LC must at least monitor the developments’ heights and make sure that the local plans are adhered to. The LC must ensure that if the government brings to a discussion the possibility of raising the height limitations, it will oppose to such a proposal. The LC is obliged to tackle such

  4. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park?

    I am against the construction of a petrol station primarily because same is in an ODZ area. Moreover, I believe that such a project does not correspond to and address the locality’s present needs (especially when considering that there are five petrol stations within five minutes of Marsascala). While acknowledging the importance of petrol stations during our daily and economic life, we need to bear in mind that same may be regarded as a threat to the surrounding media i.e. the surrounding land (including the soil and any living organisms inhabiting therein) as well as users (i.e. particularly those individuals living close to the area and families visiting the Family Park). Research on this subject-matter clearly demonstrates that petrol stations are a source of soil, air and noise pollution. In turn, these may lead to very serious health and environmental issues. Due to the gravity of the risks imposed by virtue of this project, I believe that go-ahead cannot be granted in this respect.

    When dealing with particularly complex proposals as this, I believe that the LC should also carry out its own research and also, seek guidance from independent and impartial professionals and/or authorities on the subject prior to taking a position. Such decision-making should be fact-based and not politically oriented.

  5. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it is phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?

    The present LC and voluntary organisations state that there is a lack of space for operating their duties. I believe that this could be one of the alternative solutions that I have mentioned in question four above.

    Given that here we are speaking about a very large area of available land, we will also have the opportunity to explore the possibility of embarking on an afforestation project.

    Something else that I envisage to have in the area under discussion is a cultural and social hub for local voluntary organisations. I believe this is lacking in our community and would like to give such organisations the space wherein civillians may cultivate their talents and work for the local community at large.

    The Sant’ Antnin area is a potential for the creation of a green sustainable communal-oriented hub. This means that it could also consist of the provision of a park-and ride facility, in which visitors (nonMarsascala residents) will be able to park their car and make us of a shuttle-service which will take them to the centre of Marsaskala.

    This would give us the opportunity to give back the parking spaces to the residents, by adopting a system in which only residents are allowed to park in the centre of Marsaskala; by using a system just like Valletta’s parking strategy. This strategy would keep cars from entering the village core, provide a good service to the visitors, and provide adequate parking facilities to the residents.

  6. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?

    Firstly, I will do whatever is needed to limit noise disturbance as provided under the Maltese Code of Police Laws and any other relevant regulation. Moreover, in the event that any person who ever s/he may be, exceeds the rights granted to him/her by virtue of the law in this regard, then I would take the necessary actions to ensure public peace.

  7. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?

    In addition to what I stated in previous questions, I believe that in order to promote a healthier lifestyle for citizens, we need to focus more on youths and sports. We need to establish fresher ideas and incentives to attract more children as well as youths to increase physical activity, sportsmanship and activism in general.

    Should I be granted the opportunity to serve in the LC, I would definitely work with national sport organisations and collaborate with same in order to organise sport activities for the community at large.

    Improving the quality of the air surrounding us is also vital. We need to look into the idea of carrying out infrastructural changes to the landscaping so as to plant more trees and bushes. Another issue which was not given its merited attention is the fact that the bicycle lane along parts of the promenade was removed to increase parking. While I do understand the rationale underlying such a decision, I believe that the parking issues should be addressed by adopting more permanent measures. One of my proposals would be that of re-introducing the cycle lane back to the promenade from Jerma to Zonqor and change the time of parking so that during the weekend (particularly in the evening), there will still be parking spaces available.

    I would also look into the possibility in collaborating with Inspire to offer residents the incentive (and also attract new guests), to use their facilities with a reduced price.

    We have a good number of elderly in our community. I would work with related organisations in promoting healthy lifestyles by organizing informative sessions and discussions on various topics of interest to this age group.

  8. Parking is increasingly a problem, yet measures to promote active means of transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged. What are your thoughts about this?

    Further to the ideas provided in my answers above, as many touristic localities in Malta, I would also like to introduce the Rent-a-Bike facilities. There is no shame in adapting positive strategies which have already been tried and tested in other localities and establish same in our locality.

    Furthermore, we also need to encourage the use of public transport by educating the public about the positive outcomes of such usage and organising discussion-meetings (especially for students and the elderly citizens) in order to clarify any possible misconceptions and hear out concerns that civilians might have.

    Environment and litter

  9. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?

    We definitely need more dog litter bins around our locality, not just the promenade. We also need to promote the family park facilities close by since it is more adequate for dogs. Having said that I understand that if not continuously taken care of, such an area may be a source of infection and disease for our pets. Consequently, it is the LC’s duty to ascertain that pet areas are cleaned and treated properly on a regular basis.

    With reference to domestic waste, in my opinion the LC had every chance promote the new collection days and times by distributing literature in households and via social media. I believe that such campaigning should remain constant. Enforcement should commence with immediate effect and the LC must cooperate with the authorities to fine whoever breaks the law. In this regard, the LC members must work together as one and avoid exonerating persons from the aforementioned fines (as a political favour).

    The local council can also work with the authorities such as the Cleansing Authority, to clear major rubbish from our locality. Some voluntary organisations organize cleanups around the year. The local council needs to endorse these organisations and promote their work, in order to engage more people in working for the benefit of this community.

  10. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?

    The collection of rubbish from restaurants must essentially be more efficient. I would suggest increasing the frequency of rubbish collection, especially during the weekends. The promenade can also have designated areas in which the restaurants have their rubbish gathered together in such a way that the aesthetic impact of same on the surroundings will be kept at a minimum.

  11. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

    I will work thoroughly with the enforcement authority to firstly educate when needed and fine if and whenever deemed necessary. I will give priority to enforce environmental laws and construction laws.

    Citizen Involvement

  12. 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?

    In the past, LC members had sub-committees to consult on different topics. It is of utmost importance to not only restart these sub-committees but give them the authority to inject new ideas and work in achieving better communication and work. As an example, the LC can get the youths LC involved in applying for funds in relation to youth projects and exchanges.

    Another sub-committee could take charge of the organization of cultural and social events.

    Another strategy could be that of organising independent focus groups to be requested to provide their feedback regarding ongoing and long-term projects. This not only gives residents more chance to speak but also, to actively participate and contribute towards the embetterment of the community. We cannot have only politicians running the locality. We have a lot of valuable people in our community whose input would greatly help us to make the most of our locality’s potential.

  13. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, official FaceBook page, and any other means?

    It is of utmost importance to relaunch the website and keep it as informative as possible. This is one of the ways in which voluntary people can engage in (as mentioned in question 13), with the help of technical support. We need to create an interactive and user-friendly website to attract users from each and every age-group.

    We need a system in which forms are easily downloadable and the public can monitor what is being done in the local council. Live streaming of the LC meetings was a good start, but it is not enough. While I do acknowledge the great impact of Facebook and similar social media, I believe that these do not give the website its deserved prominence.

    When the website is launched, the Facebook page has to promote the website. Having the mayor using his personal Facebook account to publicize what is being done in the local council is not the right strategy in notifying the community. We need to standardize this approach by having the local council website and official Facebook page to circulate information, and the councilors would have the duty to share and promote the said pages.

    This would reduce partisan opportunities for politicians and citizens would be given the adequate knowledge regarding what is going on in Marsascala.

    The LC magazine cannot be published whenever the LC members decide to. The issuance of same must be streamlined (for instance, on a quarterly basis) and distributed in every household. This would also give the opportunity to both the LC as well as communal voluntary organisations to promote their activities, work and upcoming projects to the community at large.

    Generic

  14. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala

    As I will be outlining in question 18, for the past three years I have been working closely with the local community through various voluntary organisations. From my experience, I have learnt that people deserve to be heard. This is my primary goal: that of being a true and genuine representative of the residents. People’s concerns, opinions and ideas are key to unlocking the full potential of our locality.

  15. 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?

     A green locality, where infrastructure is also given environmental priority;
     A touristic get-away having a balance between commercial and residential sustainable
    development;
     An active community having voluntary groups working together in synergy.

  16. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?

    After gathering feedback from residents during past door-to–door meetups, I will publish 20 proposals in the coming days, and if elected, I will work to achieve what I will promise. These results, together with ongoing support to the residents’ needs, is the result I want to achieve.

  17. What can we hold you accountable for?

    I do not hold a political track record since I will be contesting the election for the first time.

    However, in the past years I have been involved in various voluntary organisations. I was a member of the cultural subcommittee in the LC through which we used to organize frequent events such as Arti filBeraħ, Iljieli Skalin and the Chinese Festival.

    I have also been a member of the Douzelage (a town-twinning organization between twenty-eight localities i.e. one from each European Member State), as a Vice-President of the youth committee, where I actively applied for Erasmus+ projects and hosted youths from the European Union.

    For the past three years, I have served as the secretary of Saint Anne’s Band Club, during which years we have increased popularity amongst members, improved teaching practices and applied for various cultural funds.

Candidates and their responses

Following up on our previous post with the questions asked to prospective new councillors, we approached the candidates via e-mail on 18th April. This page will list the candidates we approached. Those whose name is a link will point to a post showing the answers given by that candidate. The order of the candidates’ names is indicative of when each candidate replied with his / her answers:

Respondents

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Ryan Portelli
Daniel Desira
Janice Falzon
Patrick Camilleri
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John Baptist Camilleri
Errol Cutajar

Not replied

Mario Calleja

Carmel (Charlot) Mifsud

Sandro Gatt

John Schembri

Mary Rose Mifsud

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: