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A release coming out of the Mayor’s Office yesterday stated: “From the inception, up until now, we remain sympathetic with the majority of vendors, particularly in circumstances where the existing socio-economic conditions are certainly not ideal.”
However, City Hall has said that, “While the Mayor and Councilors stand ready to assist the vendors, especially the females, many of whom are single parents, the Mayor is not prepared to compromise with indiscipline, lawlessness and disorder.”
Through the years, street vendors and City Hall have traveled a bumpy and sometimes thorny path, punctuated ill-advised and irrational decisions, hastily entered into by the vendors.
Albeit, they have now reached common ground – that being the Court Order demanding that as of June 9, 2003 the structures from which vendors sell should be removed at 18:00 hours each day. Both sides have an obligation to honour the law on this matter.
In his release yesterday, Mayor Green contended that some vendors throughout the episode have been guilty of breaking the law, hurting the City with their environmentally unfriendly behaviour, such as the defacing of traffic islands on Water Street. He affirmed: “The Court has now ruled. Likewise we are duty bound to abide by that decision.”
According to City Hall, this approach which demands the removal of encumbrances after 18:00 hours would “reduce or eliminate the chances of criminal elements using them as seclusion zones to pounce on unsuspecting customers.”
The exercise, which began in Water Street, bounded by Brickdam and Robb Street, will spread to other sections of the commercial community where vendors ply their trade, said Public Relations Officer Royston King.
Simultaneously, Council will commence remedial drainage and road works in the Water Street area, for the comfort and convenience of all citizens, whilst allowing Council to better manage its cleaning programme, King said.
Mayor Green, who is urging all stakeholders to work together for a safe and healthy environment, traced the development of the Water Street vending issue back to September 12, 1994 when he first took office as Mayor.
Mayor Green recalled the initial meetings he held with the vendors in 1994, at which time, he pointed out: “The vendor issue is not a simple, ‘move them out’, ‘charge them rent’, ‘lick them down’ matter. It is a phenomenon which we should try to understand,” he urged at that time, whilst trying to impress on their minds that “orderly vending could be a tourist attraction.”
Some of the immediate actions he took included arranging for meetings to be held with the vendors every week. During these well attended meetings he stressed the need for ‘order’ in the pavement vending scenario.
He admonished the scores of almost desperate young bread seekers who, on such occasions overspilled City Hall’s Chambers: “Vendor activities must not leave your streets untidy and dirty, nor impede legitimate business operations. Like any other business, the vendor must accept full responsibility for their surroundings, and not create mini shantytowns.
To date the position of the Mayor and Councilors remains unchanged.
Even then, he stressed the need for a proper plan to organize the activities within the Council, and with the cooperation of Central Government and assistance from the commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation; this Plan was completed in 2002. The Greater Georgetown Development Plan was submitted for Cabinet’s approval in November, 2002.
Between November 28, 1994 and May 2000, several meetings were held in an attempt to resolve the street vending issue and foster a better and more harmonious relationship between the vendors and the Georgetown Municipality.
At these meetings His Worship reiterated Council’s position, with the result that the administration and vendors involved on a menu of measures, according to City Hall:
• That the vendors should maintain their surroundings clean and tidy; conduct their activities in a manner that would enhance the appearance of the City and not detract from its beauty.
• That they should not block the entrances and exits of shops and other legitimate business places
• That they should not encumber or block the pavements, thoroughfares, corners, intersections, and other walkways, so as to prevent or deny citizens the use of these public facilities.
• That they should judge the amount of goods they can handle daily and spare themselves the trouble of transporting excess merchandise that poses an inconvenience to the vendors and occupy extra space.
• That they should use pleasant and appropriate materials for their selling facilities. He admonished them not to use plastic strips and old cardboard boxes.
• That they should establish a committee to deal with bulk purchase and storage.
• The vendors also agreed that they would monitor the situation so as not to allow additional persons to vend in the areas in which they operated, because since 1995 the numbers had blown out of proportion.
Other interventions on behalf of the vendors included:
** Attempts by Council to acquire the old Guyana Stores Bond to relieve congestion
** Attempts by President Bharrat Jagdeo to acquire a plot of land at the southwesters junction of Water and Robb Streets for use by the vendors
** While in the People’s Republic of China recently, as part of the ‘twinning arrangement of the Cities of Fazhou and Georgetown, Mayor Green said he explored the possibility of having the Chinese supply collapsible koisks to be used by vendors. However, this did not get the desired response from the vendors.
City Hall said that “in the midst of a dialogue, a group representing the Water Street vendors, in an un announced decision, moved to the Courts, and in May 2000, the Court ruled, restraining the City hall from ‘touching’ them, or even collecting the ‘minuscule’ cleansing fees’, according to a release from City Hall.
According to the release from City Hall yesterday, Mayor Green and Councillors stand ready to assist the vendors, especially the females, many of whom are single parents.
However, it pointed out, “The Mayor is not prepared to compromise with indiscipline, lawlessness, and disorder.”