A recent press article, ‘Poor turnout at watch meet’ (People’s Post, 13 February 2014) referred to community apathy and lack of involvement in neighbourhood issues in the area known as ‘Little Mowbray.’

Dean Solomon, a resident of Mowbray for more than 13 years, can certainly not be accused of this. He is a prime example of ‘active citizenship’. For the past 10 years, almost single handedly, Dean has waged a ‘zero tolerance’ campaign in his efforts toward an improved neighbourhood. His commitment and involvement are remarkable. Over the years he has photographically documented and emailed the city via their C3 notification system of problem areas and issues needing to be addressed within the area where he resides. A computer file of several hundred photographs is testament to his dedication.

Dean Solomon of


Neighbourhood ‘warrior’, Dean Solomon of Mowbray

 

“I often feel I am a lone voice in the wilderness”, says Dean, giving credence to the content of the aforementioned press report. “If I see something that needs to be repaired or attended to, I photograph it and together with an A to Z map of the approximate location, email the relevant City department.”

Problems identified by Dean include poor maintenance and repair of street infrastructure such as burst pipes, water leaks, damaged signage, unfinished paving, kerbsides in a poor state of disrepair, unpainted electricity poles, damaged hand railings and piles of rubble left lying for weeks on end. He has also alerted city officials to traffic transgressions, litter and noise pollution, and these are just some of the many problems that he has on record in a very comprehensive file of complaints to the City authorities.

The three “P’s  of patience, persistence and the press” is Dean’s motto. Slowly and steadily chipping away and not giving up, Dean believes, has meant that at least some of the issues have been addressed.  “In the early day”, says Dean, “it wasn’t all that easy to identify the relevant contact person to notify of the problem, but over the years I have developed ‘hotlines’ to some divisions within the City. “This has, however, only been as a result of tremendous tenacity and persistent attempts to contact the relevant city officials,” he declares.

“There is, however, still much work to be done and maintenance to be attended to,” advises Dean. He commends the GSCID’s efforts toward eradicating crime and grime in the area. “There has been a noticeable improvement since the GSCID started operations in the precinct more than three years ago,” says Dean.

He is, however, very frustrated with the way in which the City of Cape Town attends to some of the problems raised. “Very often for example”, says Dean, “City workers will dig a trench for cables or pipes and it is weeks, or sometimes even months before the trench is filled in again and the area cleaned up. There sometimes appears to be little or no internal co-ordination within City departments. Furthermore, administrative/bureaucratic boundaries divide the neighbourhood so it is even more fractured, complicating who is responsible for actions or taking responsibility.”

Dean has a particular focus and enthusiasm for ‘greening’ of the neighbourhood and preservation of the many beautiful old Victorian heritage buildings that are so typical of the area. He has identified four green “spaces” within the precinct which are presently underutilised. His hope is to have them named and at the very least, have trees planted to develop them into park-like public spaces for the community to enjoy.

GSCID CEO, Anthony Davies, is grateful for the input provided. “Dean is our eyes and ears in the community and fulfils an important role in bringing to our attention problem situations that we may not be aware of,” says Davies. “Although the area in which he resides, falls outside of the direct boundaries of the GSCID’s area of jurisdiction, the GSCID is happy to intervene and facilitate the resolution of the problems raised.”

 

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