Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Ugly Side of Misused Public Funds

Taman Desa has plenty of good points. But there's an ugly side that we sometimes can't ignore. It seems we have our own White Elephant to add to the list of the many that exist in Malaysia. White Elephants are abandoned buildings of course, and I'm referring to this school just across from the Plaza Danau shops.

When it was being constructed almost a decade ago it seemed like an avant garde school, perhaps of even international grade. It certainly didn't look like your typical sekolah kebangsaan. There was a buzz about it from residents who had something to look forward to as another bragging point for our suburb.

Sadly, the school never was completed and it stands today as another monumental reminder that our civil service is lacking in planning an accountability. It's been used for filming by production crews lately, but that's about it. The disrepair is amazing and the photos say it all.

The ironic and saddest sight would be the one showing a homeless man who obviously made one of the classrooms his makeshift accommodation. To block out the sun's glare he has used this banner below.

I hope someone reads this and can do something about it. It has all the potential for a useful public or even private enterprise. Not it just stands as a reminder of waste of the highest order.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Election Matters

Police making their presence known right after dawn

The rush was on at 7.45am for the 'early birds'

5 minutes to 5pm and this couple get their chance to finally cast a vote'

Taman Desa was full of life just after dawn this 5th of May. A crowd of people joined me to line up at SMK Perdana Taman Desa as we waited impatiently to make one of the most important choices of our lives.

I was up even earlier.

As an eager, first time volunteer, I had already arrived at 6am in the morning to get the DAP pondok panas ready for action. A small group of us were involved and we helped point people to the right voting stations around Taman Desa (as the stations are mainly in schools, people inevitably got lost finding which of the 3 schools in Taman Desa was which). By 7.20am there were enough people to form a 50m queue outside the gates of our school. I joined in and at 7.45am the gates opened.

My vote was cast and I was on my way out by 8.15am, passing by a couple of familiar faces on the way out.

The shop-lot eateries up the road were full of people who had either just voted or were about to. There was a lot of hopeful chatter - we were sure Seputeh, of which Taman Desa is a part of - would continue to carry as a DAP stronghold - but there was fear about how neighbouring constituencies would perform.

It was back home to Casa Desa for a short nap. Then back to the pondok at lunchtime to continue my duties. Surprisingly, voters continued to arrive in sizeable numbers. Even one of my close buddies from work dropped by. Coincidentally, he was also registered to vote and did his bit in no time. Throughout the afternoon folks idled around to chat with us and share updates from our smart phones every now and then. Even a thunderstorm didn't dampen voters and they continued to trickle in right up to the last few minutes before 5pm.

Taman Desa continues to be the staunch home of DAP supporters, there's no denying it. A lot of us were hopeful of the future that day, even though the results were ultimately disappointing. But life goes on in Taman Desa. As it always will.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Guarded and Gated: Taman Desa's Lock on Safety

I don't know about you but it's been a long time now since the first controversial 'pondok' sprouted a few doors down our condo and 'guards' appeared manning its boom gate. I thought Taman Desa was relatively safe so this was a surprise. But I should have seen it coming. Back in 2005, we already had motorcyle-bound security that provided 24-hour patrols to some effect (they weren't very helpful as some roadside car burglars would break windows, steal stuff and then easily out-speed them with faster bikes). I hoped the patrols would be better-equipped but I certainly didn't expect permanent structures, barriers and a plethora of booms that barred your entrance to what is essential a public space.

The alleged illegality of the actions don't trouble me as much as the fact that people do accept them. We've become tolerant of the fact that crime is not abating. There is a perception that we don't feel safe anymore to trust our fate in the police.

But seriously? Boom gates?

Anyway, they are almost everywhere in Taman Desa now and the quality of the work by the attendants has been patchy. In the last couple of weeks, they suddenly improved and took down registration plate numbers religiously before letting cars pass in-bound. The funny part is that out-bound cars only need to press a button that allows the boom gate to open automatically. I don't know about this last part as, if I were an escaping burglar, this means I would have an easier time getting away from my victim's suburb!

I don't know if anyone has stats to show that this whole scheme has helped drive crime rates down in Taman Desa. The truth is that things have traditionally been very quite here. People were careful and supportive of neighbours. They still are, I'm sure. However, the act of gating our suburb's many entry points is communicating a perception that we fear for our safety enough to act this desperately. We've lost the art of the old Rukun Tetangga or Neighbourhood Watch. We've almost stopped becoming the vibrant community we were a long time ago. Don't get me wrong. Taman Desa is still a great place to live in if you're in Kuala Lumpur. But now we're like other similar communities. And it's sad that we lost our unique identity.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Security Matters in Casa Desa

Casa Desa is more than four years old now - I know because I got married at about the same time we moved in - and we celebrated another AGM and more milestones. As one of the best managed condominiums in Taman Desa/Seputeh district (ask any property agent in the area) we've manage to run our community prudently and keep it safe. Credit goes to the JMB and Izrin & Tan for really turning things around after the developer's initial bad management.

On the safety aspects, we really only had one bad episode a year ago, where a fellow resident got attacked in a work-related incident. Apparently, he was a victim of jealousy and the assailants got through unnoticed or without due diligence from the guardhouse. It was messy. The ambulance and cops came. We made the national news.

The next day, the residents rallied around as the JMB called for an emergency 'town hall' meeting. There and then, we decided that the best way to start safety was to really police visitors from the guardhouse and put in more stringent controls. Using my own workplace experience, we formed a Security Sub-Committee and drafted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that we felt could be used by the new Security Management firm we hired.

Working amongst us, we fleshed out several key areas of concern and shared our proposal with the JMB. After feedback, we introduced it to the Security firm and its designated supervisor for our condo.

A year later, I can proudly say that Casa Desa can look back and see this as a landmark. We've not only steadily updated our SOPs but the security guards have managed to get residents to comply peacefully 99% of the time. Next to come are the CCTVs that will control security from within, especially around our carparks. Obviously, the best security will always be vigilant residents who care about safety in the community.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Taman Desa's Perfect Storm

If you happened to be in Taman Desa on the 25th of January this year, you would have seen something pretty amazing at around 6.30pm. Out of nowhere, a storm hit Kuala Lumpur and Taman Desa seemed to have borne the brunt of it. Picture a scene from the movie The Perfect Storm (George Clooney's epic battle against an Atlantic storm) and simply take out the waves. What's left were hurricane-like winds that literally tore roofs of buildings and uprooted trees. I only realized it after driving home to find my preferred entrance to Taman Desa (via the Waterpark) blocked by trees. Then I found the lakeside entrance also blocked. Finally, I had to enter via Taman Bukit Desa and navigated my way through the main street - Jalan Desa Utama - as a drizzle continued unabated. The sight of huge trees uprooted and leaning on house walls was humbling. Then came the sight of felled lamp-posts and low-hanging cables. Trees criss-crossed the road, making the journey look more like an off-road trail in the rainforest. Here's a glimpse of what I took:

Rain made navigating a real challenge for motorists

Cables and debris forced cars to slow down

Inevitably, we all encountered a jam as we made our way closer to Casa Desa

This guy had a very lucky escape

The other down-side is that - with the time it took to get home from work - a planned attendance with some other relatives for our CNY dinner had to called off. Here's a glimpse of the wreckage the day after. It was taken on the same street as I made my way to work:

Small trees weren't spared the damage

The scary part was seeing lamp-posts bringing down live cables with them on the road

I used to buy fruits from this seller. Thankfully, it was business as usual a couple of days later

One of Taman Desa's best-known features is its leafy ambiance. Large trees can be found all over the place, providing a useful shade for pedestrians and a welcome verdant view that few KL-ites would enjoy (you'd have to reside in the fringes of the city to really see something better). The recent windy calamity highlighted an obvious weakness. But I doubt anyone will be spooked by this. The trees will continue to be a part of the suburb, and nature will continue to sometimes mete out a forced trim or two.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Getting Caught in the property boom

Is Taman Desa part of the Property Bubble?

I was in the Casa Desa gym today and I overhead two guys talking excitedly in Cantonese. Now, I know a little Cantonese but by the names these guys were mentioning it was clear they were talking about properties worth buying nearby. And about property prices in general. Go around town these days and you'll pretty much hear the same topic being discussed at mamak stalls, office canteens, family gatherings and meeting room small-talk. Everyone is either keen on investing in property - both commercial and residential - or keen on attending a property investment seminar. Some, naturally, are into both.

It goes without saying that Taman Desa comes into the conversation due to the rapidly appreciating property prices here. Our own condo has nearly doubled in price since we moved in three years ago and real estate agents keep spamming my mobile with SMSs about 'potential' buyers. It's annoying about I'm not the only person getting such attention. Check out the Absolute Taman Desa Facebook page by the way, where you'll see similar complaints.

Anyway, condos are now launching in KLCC reaching the RM1,500 p.sq ft threshold selling price already, while in the inner suburbs a luxury condo can already fetch RM1,000 p.sq ft. Don't even dream of landed properties being less than that. Simple terrace houses within the KL and PJ area can go from RM600,000 upwards and the general price for an average semi-D will break the million mark. You have to go to Shah Alam to find cheaper semi-Ds under a mill.

Bubble or not, I think a smart colleague of mine who works in Finance said the simplest, smartest thing about surviving your investment. What will withstand the test of the bubble being burst and speculations gone bad are three simple things: location, location, location. Just get the best location you can find. Unless, you plan to make it your permanent home.

Thus, spend wisely. And that means you'll probably end up investing in Taman Desa! But who knows how much the prices are going up? It's your pick. I already made mine.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Another Great Reason

No hypermarket opening is complete with the directional buntings

This place is huge, and the residences are yet to come too

I'm not a huge fan of Tesco but I do admit that as far as hypermarkets go, they've got a good brand and a good service offering. (I prefer Cold Storage but that's only because they've got a wider range of gourmet foods).

Thus, what started out as just rumours apparently became true when I saw what an advertising balloon in the sky above a huge building under construction near the Taman Desa intersection. It then dawned on me that Tesco was well and truly in (our part of) town. It opened for business this March in the Scott Garden mall.

Previously, Taman Desans had two choices: the local supermarket in nearby Danau Desa known as Sri Kota (which my parents always mistakenly refer to as 'Kota Raya') and the other choice, Carrefour or Jusco, in Mid Valley. Most people would try to avoid the latter due to the jam on weekends and the long queues at the check-out lanes. You'd really only want to go there if you had other things to do in 'one shot' as well.

But we checked out Tesco and it seems to be convenient in so many ways. Firstly, the parking is free. For now. Secondly, the carpark has great indicator lights for vacant lots that you can spot a mile away and even tells you which areas to find your vacant spot in. Thirdly, Tesco is famous for their generous number of lanes which reduces waiting time. Fourthly, Scott Garden is just mere minutes from our condo - you could even walk there if you wanted. Finally, it offers a tremendous breadth of goods that you just can't get in the smaller supermarket.

Granted, many of us will still use Sri Kota if we only want a couple of items. For now, Tesco has made a difference for those of us in Taman Desa.