Vendors remain intractable problem City Council Round-Up
By Cecil Griffith
Stabroek News
September 2, 2002

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The twilight zone mentality displayed by some of the 30 councillors who sit around the horseshoe-shaped table at City Hall was again in evidence at last Monday’s statutory meeting.

The issue at hand was vending on the pavements of Regent and Robb streets.

It was obvious during the debate that after nearly eight years the majority of city `fathers’ and `mothers’ by their silence and apparent reluctance to engage in such a discourse, left no doubt that they are yet to find a workable solution to the vending phenomenon. Looking back to the time when city businessman Compton Young sat in the mayoral chair with the People’s National Congress-controlled council comprising persons who the then president Mr Desmond Hoyte had described as citizens of quality, this vending phenomenon could have been nipped in the bud.

The then mayor Young from 1989 always adopted a hands-on policy in dealing with matters municipal, not only when councillors were involved but more importantly senior officers of the council in treating with the vendors.

Unfortunately, he became the victim of the existing political environment which was exploited to the hilt by the street and pavement vendors and saw the birth of the Good and Green Guyana (GGG) led by former PNC Prime Minister Hamilton Green which now occupies 12 seats on the present council.

After all, general elections were in the offing and these vendors were of voting age.

It was mayor Green who first raised the vending issue when he told the meeting that the situation is chaotic... “People believe they could set up shop anywhere...” He related how someone had “set up shop” by the back gate of his residence.

People’s National Congress REFORM councillor Desmond Moses drew councillors’ attention to the `lawlessness’ on the Regent Street pavement which is being taken over by the vendors... ‘This situation is becoming frightening’. He related how some storeowners are claiming that they have a right to display their goods outside their premises.

Councillor Moses among the few councilors who has knowledge about what is happening on the `ground’, called on the Town Clerk and the Chief Constable to explain why the city police seem impotent to handle what is taking place on the city’s pavements and streets, pointing out, however, instances in which constables are not allowed to do their jobs because of interference from certain quarters.

GGG councillor Patricia Chase-Green supported the remarks made by councillor Moses and referred to those sellers who place chairs and boxes on the pavement while their goods are on display. She also mentioned vending on certain parts of Robb Street where the pavements are blocked off from pedestrians.

The GGG councilor took the constabulary to task for not being more vigilant and pro active.

The `chief citizen’ suggested that a special meeting of councillors be summoned to look at a number of matters including the list of `appropriate vendors’ and to identify spots in the city where people could vend. It should be noted that a committee comprising councillors and officers from the municipality is in existence.

Not so fast

As the mayor attempted to move on to the next agenda item councillors Moses, Harold Kissoon of the GGG, Fitz Agard and Rocky Mann of the PPP/C and Ranwell Jordan of the PNC/R objected to the apparent haste to cut off the debate on the pavement sellers.

The PNC/R’s Moses wanted the Town Clerk, Mrs Beulah Williams and the Chief Constable to explain why no action has been taken to clear the pavement on Regent street, while councillor Agard who leads his party’s faction on the council asked “why the haste we have to something to hide...?” The PPP/C’s Rocky Mann said he had become tired of raising the vendor issue at statutory meetings, to no avail.

The GGG’s Harold Kissoon and the PPP/C’s Rudolph Harris drew councillors’ attention to a ruling by the High Court that vending on Regent Street is illegal. They were all of the view that it was a waste of time referring the issue to a committee of councillors.

No explanation was forthcoming from the Town Clerk or the Chief Constable because they were not asked to do so by the mayor and so the debate fizzled out... with the `chief citizen’ concluding that “vending in the city has socio-economic implications...”

Solid waste

The council’s solid waste project which has been on the drawing board for more than two years drew some harsh comments from councillor Kissoon when it was discussed last Monday.

Councillors had before them a memo from the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Vibert Shury recommending that an officer from his department and the assistant Town Clerk who has responsibility for certain aspects of the project, undertake a visit to Trinidad and Tobago to observe that country’s solid waste operations, including the recycling of plastic bottles and crematorium operations. The visit for two days will cost the taxpayers $195,000. Councillor Kissoon claimed that officers attached to the MOH department including Dr Shury were travelling to several countries at taxpayers’ expense and the council is getting nothing in return. The council and the Inter-American Development Bank have been in negotiations for over a year on the implementation of a solid waste project in the city. Meanwhile the landfill site in the Lodge area continues to pose a serious threat to residents. Next week I’ll be dealing with the mayor’s medal.