Candidate Responses – Daniel Desira

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?

There is a consensus that the hotel ruins should be demolished. However, as I have previously written, the proposed 15-storey building would further degrade the view from the nearby Saint Thomas Tower and deteriorate the parking situation. A hotel within the current height of 5 storeys would be a less harmful option, but the developers are obviously not very keen on negotiating about heights. Moreover, authorities have been dragging their feet for too long to order for demolition, which should not turn into an excuse for the proposed monster. The most realistic and positive option is to turn it into an outdoor space. Furthermore, the acquirement of land surrounding the tower including part of the road, should be remedied. While it is true that the hotel has had an important economic contribution in the past, we need to look forward and propose incentives for eco, agro and cultural tourism in Marsaskala.

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 would vote against as Zonqor should remain a natural park. The land transferred to Sadeen should be returned back into public hands in order to assure this, as well as promoting Inwadar Natural Park as an open space where families may enjoy nature.

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?

Unfortunately, the LC only has a vote upon development requiring an EIA. If elected, I would vote against large developments which do not respect Marsaskala’s social and environmental character, taking gentrification, height and environmental impacts into account. I would also make it a point to protect old buildings from demolition. The council should also oppose any attempts to increase the height of the local plan should this be brought up by the central government.

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?

Marsaskala has the blessings of Munxar and Zonqor on its boundaries. Yet, Inwadar Natural Park which was promised years back is still on the drawing board and the council has shamefully voted for the development of a private “University” in Zonqor which would diminish the original plan for the park. As mentioned earlier, I would push for Jerma to be demolished and turned into a public space which may be used for cultural activities and recreation. Regarding Saint Anne’s garden, it is one of the few spaces within the community for children to play and it would be a pity for the new council office to built inside it. I propose that a vacant building is refurbished and used as an alternate space for the new offices while catering attentively to accessibility.

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

Completely against. First of all, ODZ (Outside Development Zone) is ODZ and it will be useless once more vehicles in circulation are electric.

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?

I would like to see multi-storey parking at the place, together with a rent-a-bike and/or park-and-ride schemes. Of course this would require more funding from central government. It would also make sense to build a centre which may be used as a meeting place for voluntary organisations.

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

LCs cannot fine over noise pollution. However, this it is regulated by law as follows:

Should I notice any breach or be informed by residents, as a representative, I would inform the police and the Planning Authority for enforcement.

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

As mentioned below, if elected, I will work to encourage walking and cycling and thus promoting more exercise. I would also work with sport organisations to promote the take up of sports especially among youths. Protecting existing and creating new open spaces, together with the introduction of community gardening, would also lead to an improvement on both physical and mental health of residents. On another note, I would also work to maintain Marsaskala’s open gyms and the swimming facilities. Moreover, the LC should push for the relocation of fish farms and oppose additional cages in order to diminish sea pollution.

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?

I like the way you have framed this question, as policies aiming towards the reduction of cars from our streets are the way forward. I would push to reclaim the cycling path along the coast and add more cycling racks. Moreover, I would also propose to connect Xaghjra and Marsaskala through a cycling path in Inwadar. I would also make proposals for pedestrianisation of the center to Transport Malta, which is likely to result in more revenue for restaurants as more people would be walking by. In addition, I would push for better public transport. It is quite puzzling that people are nowadays almost required to have a car with the expenses that come with it, due to the ineffeciency of public transport.

If elected, I will also come up with initiatives like a farmers’ market or outdoor art exhibitions, practiced in other localities, which would at least provide an experience of pedestrianisation at least a few times a year.

My agenda also includes measures for safer roads through the proposal of tighter speed limits and sleeping policemen in roads prone to accidents and areas frequented by children.

Litter

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

Definitely. I would liase with the respective enforcement authorities as well as push for the introduction of ibins, which as in other localities, would send out a notification for collection when full.

I would also propose that the local council informs residents about collection times more often and in multiple languages.

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

Unfortunately, enforcement does not fall directly under the remit of local councils. However, the council may call for more frequent collection and having bins designated for restaurants.

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

As already mentioned in my reply above, I would cooperate with the respective authorities in order to better deal with littering and dumping.

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?

First of all, given Marsaskala is now host to a number of non-Maltese residents, I would stress that minutes from council meetings should be made available in English so as to enable all residents to follow. Similar arrangements should also be explored for the Annual Locality Meeting.

I would also be working to restart subcommittees and enable residents to take part by making sure that meetings are held at times when more people would be able to attend.

2. 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?

If entrusted to office, I will make it a point to communicate important information to residents through every means possible, even by personal contacts. I would also work with more organisations around Marsaskala, helping them promote their activities through the council’s media.

Generic

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

Coming from civil society and having the best interest of Marsaskala at heart. I have been active in several voluntary organisations related to the environment and social causes.

To name a recent example, I was the only new candidate present for the LC meeting (open to residents) where issuing a PR was discussed and adopted. If entrusted with your vote, I will be a firmer voice for Marsaskala as an elected official and will also keep taking part and/or leading in civil society initiatives.

I am also ready to listen to any Marsaskala resident’s concerns or ideas and act accordingly. Your voice matters.

In other words, by voting for me, you would be voting for one among you.

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?
a) Make Marsaskala more inclusive and help promote active citizenship. Supporting and devising initiatives aimed at improving literacy and courses to learn languages or new skills.

b) Make Marsaskala the perfect place for families with children by promoting and organising activities, as well as better city planning.

c) Make Marsaskala greener and more sustainable. Planting more endemic trees, protecting and creating open spaces.

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

I want to organise new yearly events including a swap shop and a farmers’ market, plant more trees, install cat feeders and shelters and make Marsaskala feel more inclusive, more sustainable and healthier in a general sense. Another one of my proposals, would be to come up with and support initiatives promoting the town’s historic and natural assets, in collaboration with resident organisations and surrounding councils like those of Zabbar and Zejtun. I would also push for the maintenance of infrastructure and firmly stand to keep Marsaskala the quiet and beautiful village I have known since my early childhood.

4. What can we hold you accountable for?

Like I have already pointed out above, I come from civil society and this is the first time I am even contesting an election.

When in University, I was involved in the sub committee of a student association, ICTSA, where I was assigned a major role in a stand for Science in the City, which has attracted many visitors.

Later, I have entered the environmental movement, starting with campaign to ban spring hunting and have then been on the executive board of Y4TE, an NGO focused on raising awareness among young people, for a few months. This experience has taught me a lot about digital marketing.

I have also dedicated some of my time to social causes. A few years ago, I was active in one of Third World’s projects where I have encountered vulnerable children coming from harsh backgrounds. Such an experience has helped me realise and learn about the realities still in Malta today.

Together with a handful other residents, I have also organised a couple of cleanups over the past 2 years, and as stated earlier have also contributed to our beautiful village in other instances.

If given your trust, I would be a voice in favour of environmental sustainability and social justice within the limits of the local council.