City stumped over Vendor fees dilemma

City Council Round Up
With Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
September 25, 2000

City Hall has found itself between a rock and a hard place over its inability to collect additional revenue from some pavement and roadside vendors.

Because of politics and administrative sleight-of-hand the council is now faced with a situation in which it dare not approach some roadside and pavement vendors seeking any form of payment for the occupancy of the city's roads, footpaths, parapets and pavements for fear of legitimising their operations.

This dilemma came into sharp focus at the last statutory meeting of the city council, when Good and Green Guyana (GGG) councillor Harold Kissoon asked "who gave permission" to the fruit seller, who now occupies the John Ford car park on East and Church streets, and whether he was paying a rent.

It will be remembered that the John Ford car park which was named after a former mayor now deceased, was intended to be used by owners of vehicles who wanted to do their shopping at Bourda market. The idea never took hold and over the years the park has been used for holding political party meetings especially around election time.

Back to the fruit stall. Councillor Kissoon's question stumped the deputy mayor, Robert Williams! who was presiding at the meeting in the absence of Mayor Hamilton Green. He then advised his GGG colleague to put the question formally on the Order Paper for the next statutory meeting when discussions will take place.

Councillor Kissoon also made a similar query about the operations of a tinsmith's shop in the vicinity of the Charlestown Post Office.

People's Progressive Party/Civic councillor Victor Sobers wanted to know if by seeking payments from these operators now, the council would find itself legitimising these businesses thus giving them the green light to continue. The chairman of the City Works Committee attorney-at-law and GGG councillor C.M.L. John, making an intervention warned, "if you legalise them, you are looking for a host of problems..."

This column has been informed that many pavement vendors on Water and Regent Streets do not pay like other sellers, cleansing fees and there is no proper system in place to ensure that every pavement and street vendor contributes to the council's revenue. And what about those persons who could be seen all over the city pushing music carts to the disgust of law abiding citizens and creating a nuisance outside businesses such a Demico House on Croal Street. Do they pay any fees or taxes if not why not...?

Let me deal with the `politrics' around the horseshoe table. With the general elections not too far away none of the three political parties represented on the council dares advance any proposal aimed at dealing with the vendors in this city. It could be political suicide and the vendors know this.

With Christmas just around the corner, which politicians aspiring for office would fail to heed... the well-known refrain... "We gah fuh mek a living..." It's worth noting that the council under city businessman, Compton Young had taken a decision in 1991 to remove all vendors from Water Street. This decision did not go down well with the then government who had appointed the thirty councillors, because elections were in the offing, and so the council backed off.

In 1992 when the PPP/Civic came into office the vendors who had been given notice to remove were again given a reprieve by the then Prime Minister Mr. Samuel Hinds who had responsibility for municipal matters, thus opening the flood gates for the chaos and mayhem in the city's main shopping areas.

Passing the buck The administrative sleight-of-hand is evident in the manner in which the vendors on Bourda Green have been treated... over the introduction of increased stall fees.

Some of these vendors have been forced to move to the courts.

They are contending that the market's administration failed to discuss and explain the rationale for the $1,000 increase per stall, which was transmitted to them by way of a notice. These small vendors argue that they were not given an opportunity to present their case to the administration.

Although the High Court in an earlier ruling said the vendors should pay the new stall rents from March this year, many of them continue to refuse to abide by the decision and have appealed. The main objection is the quantum of the increase.

Le Repentir cemetery is another case in point. Although the sad state of affairs there had been brought to the attention of the council some two years ago by councillor Harold Kissoon, resulting in the setting up of a committee headed by former PNC mayor Ranwell Jordan, the situation has deteriorated to the point where even the dead are not allowed to rest in peace. Many tombs and vaults are overgrown by grass and the roads and pathways are in a deplorable condition. To get to some of the burial sites is just as difficult as navigating along the Water and Regent Street pavements.

Knocking Mr Nokta What has become of the decision to appoint a commission to enquire into the operations of city hall... the council and the administration. Now that the Minister responsible for Local government has returned from London in the company of mayor Hamilton Green after attending a conference on local government the process should be stepped up before the end of this week.

Why the delay Mr. Minister, since I understand that a former chancellor of the judiciary, who has been approached to head the commission has already accepted the government's terms?

Councillors have publicly declared that they have nothing to hide and privately some department heads have expressed similar sentiments... it's time to get the ball rolling... Mr Minister.

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