UDP Election Committee and Candidates:
Mayor Elsa Paz took the floor first and thanked the Chamber for
inviting her today. She then stated that she is a person dedicated to the
island and that the UDP has a strong united group running for Town Council.
Mayor Paz then introduced Pablo Ico who is a candidate in this upcoming
election. Ms. Paz then introduced Yolanda Parham as Chairperson of the UDP
Election Committee, Harry Longsworth as the UDP election committee campaign
manager and the Honorable Manuel Heredia. She went on to say that the Town
Council has the vision and the desire to continue with the current
operations they began three years ago and accomplish more and more projects.
Mayor Elsa stated that trying to please everybody is the hardest
part of being the Mayor but she will continue to do her best. Mayor Paz
stated that she has worked with Tom Vidrine, the president of the Chamber of
Commerce and asks for support from Chamber Member voters to help reelect her
as Mayor so she can finish what she began three years ago. Mayor Paz said
that the Town Council needs help from all organizations such as the
Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce, the Lion's, Salvadoran Committee and the
Honduran Committee as well as all active organizations in San Pedro..stating
that together we can accomplish all our goals in making San Pedro the best
it can be.
Pablo Ico then took the floor and said he has been living in San
Pedro for fifteen years now and it is now his home. Mr. Ico then went on to
say that the reason he wants to be on the Town Council is because he wants
nothing but the best for all residents. The streets, traffic and condition
is definitely one of the most important issues that must be taken care of
and that the benefits of correcting these problems will go to all the people
in San Pedro. Pablo then thanked the Chamber for the opportunity to
introduce himself to the Chamber members and promised to do all he can for
The Honorable Manuel Heredia then thanked Tom Vidrine and the
Chamber for the opportunity to address the Chamber and to work together with
the Chamber. Mr. Heredia stated that the streets and the new marina are the
major focus of the Town Council but that it always comes to the issue of
money and politics. Mr. Heredia says he only cares about getting things done
and doesn't care who gets the credit as long as the projects that make all
of our lives better get accomplished. The cobble stoning of Pescador Drive
was done thanks to the business community. We did receive $150,000.00 from
central government but they promised a million. Central government said that
they have the will but not the money. We must continue to fight for our
needs but we need support from the community. Central government receives
about $50 million from taxes collected from San Pedro and gives back about
$3 million in services. It is time that we get our fair share. All town
councils should get more autonomy. Central government has too much control
and we have little or no say in obtaining the needs for our town.
Mr. Heredia then went on to say that the Town Council has
seriously looked into making Ambergris Caye the 7th District with the help
of Senator Ambrose Tillet. We should incorporate other islands into the 7th
District because of our unique problems with Ambergris Caye being the
central island because of our population. We currently have no
representation in the Belize District and Belize City decides where funds
for this district go. In becoming our own district, we would have proper
representation with members who are concerned about the well-being of
Ambergris Caye and the tourism business here which supports the entire
country of Belize. As the 7th District, we would not gain much autonomy wise
but the representation would be much better than we are now. No resident of
San Pedro should oppose this idea.
The Area Representative and the Town Council are working hand in
hand. The island can not profit from a split party Town Council. The GOB
should support the Town Council because it is doing a good job regardless of
party affiliation. We need to get together and fight for our rights.
Hon. Heredia also stated that he has also talked to the barge
owners are they are willing to get together to make things right to be able
to use the new port. Then the Area Representative stated that the new bridge
will be for bicycles, golf carts and pedestrians only for now. Basically,
the same as the traffic that currently uses the ferry.
Mayor Elsa Paz took the floor again and spoke of the regular mayor
's meetings she has attended the past three years when all the mayors of
Belize get together to share their concerns and problems. All the mayors are
currently lobbying for more revenues and autonomy. The president of these
meetings is the mayor of Belize City, David Fonseca. Mr. Fonseca said sorry
to say this but you have to go back and work with the present budgets
because the Government of Belize has no money.
Ms. Paz then spoke of the Citizens Committee which was formed so
the committee could obtain funds from Central Government because Central
Government would not give the funds to a UDP town for cobble stoning the
streets. This committee was made up of the mayor, the area representative,
Tom Vidrine, Jim Janmohamed, Nadia Berthome and the previous PUP mayor,
Alberto Nunez. Prime Minister Musa and Ralph Fonseca then promised a million
dollars for the cobble stoning of the streets to the Citizens Committee
after a year of lobbying by the Citizens Committee. This is when the
$150,000. was given to purchase the cobble stones. Mr. Fonseca then promised
to give $300,000. in three months time and then again in three months after
that and then the remainder after another three months. This promise was
never fulfilled and when asked, the Committee was told that they have the
will but have no money.
What happened to the money was simply our San Pedro PUP
politicians heard that the Prime Minister had promised a UDP town a million
dollars. The very next day they went to Belmopan to stop the project so as
to not let the UDP Town Council get credit for the cobble stoning of
Pescador Drive. Mayor Paz then went on to say that she puts people and
country first and the party second. Democracy is about fighting for our
rights. Projects should be for the benefits of everyone. Pescador Drive is
Mayor Elsa then said she gets many letters from tourists. Their
main concerns are too much traffic, too many vehicles and bad streets. We
must unite and fight for the town's fair share of revenues. She then stated
that she had a friend from the US who knows much about town planning and
that friend did a study on revenues and expenses in San Pedro. The result of
that study was that Central Government obtains $48 million in business
taxes, income taxes and hotel taxes. The expenses which include the Fire
Department, the Police Department and other Government Departments in San
Pedro amount to $3 million. We must stand together to fight for what San
Pedro deserves to benefit everyone.
Tom Vidrine then thanked the mayor for addressing the Chamber and began a
question and answer session. Questions were asked by chamber members and
answers were from Mayor Elsa Paz and the Honorable Manuel Heredia.
Q. Is there anyone specifically to work on physical solutions to the street
and traffic problems?
A. Yes, there are changes coming into place with the new S.I. However, the
town doesn't control traffic. Central Government controls traffic and they
will not do anything until the elections are over so as not to make any
improvements which might make the current UDP Town Council look better to
voters. We need a responsible party in power that has all the people in mind
and not just the people of their own party.
Q. Why can't the Town Council enforce regulations for building codes such as
parking availability in the town core?
A. The mayor is an ex-officio but there are no meetings held for approvals.
If we complain, the ministers do not believe his appointees are doing
anything wrong. We still owe Mr. Medina $290,000. for streets. We make noise
and we argue but it just doesn't help. There was the sale of the Mar de
Tumbo land which caused an outcry from the people. That sale has gone
through and the funds collected over three months ago. The town was promised
the money owed to Mr. Medina for the streets once that sale was complete.
However, from the sale of Mar de Tumbo, $100,000. was immediately given to
the PUP election committee rather than the amount that was agreed upon to go
to the town for the streets.
Another example is that the chairman of the ACTCC is responsible
for new vehicles on the island and there is a moratorium stopping new
vehicles on the island. We look around and see all the new vehicles and we
are told over and over again that these are replacement vehicles. We all
know that all these new vehicles are not all replacement vehicles.
Q. Has the height limitation on buildings increased because a four story
building is now being constructed?
A. There was a meeting held and the Master Plan is being revised but not
legislated. Cabinet has given consent and it is a legal mandate. The
majority vote was made in favor of raising the height restriction from 38
feet to 44 feet but only outside of town and not in the town core.
Q. Andre Perez, PUP councilor candidate and Chamber Director, stated that
the sale of Mar de Tumbo street was initiated by the UDP Town Council and
not the PUP as the UDP had stated when it was noted that it is a local
landmark. This was started to obtain funds for cobble stoning. Is it okay to
sell a local landmark if it benefits the town and the Town Council?
A. Yolanda Parham stood up and objected to the question, stating that this
is not a debate. Tom Vidrine then took the floor and pointed out that the
UDP panel was invited guests of the Chamber on the basis of introducing the
candidates and for stating their manifesto. They were not invited to a
debate. Mr. Vidrine then stated that he would be very much in favor of a
debate but that would have to done at another time and all guests would be
informed in advance that it would be a debate.
Q. Is the information about the meeting on changing height restrictions
A. A cross section of people were invited and the majority of the people
accepted. Belize Bank is 44 feet.
Q. If the majority of the people agree or disagree with a decision made by a
committee, can that decision be changed?
A. Yes, if there is enough of an outcry by the people. This is why we need
to be united in everything that we do. The majority can and will decide what
is best if they speak up and demonstrate.
Chamber Director Pat Stiley then thanked the UDP panel for addressing the
Chamber and congratulated them on the cobble stoning of Pescador Drive.
He then stated that the interaction is a great idea and the Chamber offered
the forum during the last election period but nobody showed up.
Q. Is the UDP strongly against anything bigger than a golf cart being
allowed over the new bridge?
A. Definitely as the infrastructure of the road on the north is not capable
of handling heavy traffic. This can change in the future if the
infrastructure is put in place or another administration is put in power and
Q. Is the UDP willing to do anything to stop the influx of more and larger
vehicles onto the island?
A. Yes, unless the need is there and the parking is available. We do need to
limit the number of golf cart rental companies. We do not need anymore golf
cart rental companies. However, I know that we will get more right after
elections. Central Government will not allow it before elections because
that would make the PUP look bad and could effect how people vote.
Q. The Chamber made a registration of all vehicles and introduced a weighted
point system. All those records are gone now. Is the UDP in favor of a
weighted point system in obtaining vehicles?
A. Everyone must have the same rights. Anyone who knows me from the time
when I used to be the mayor knows that I fight for fairness and the same
rights for all. Fairness, honesty and anti-corruption are the most important
things for me.
Q. There are bigger and more barges now that dock in the front of our island
instead of docking at the new port and causing more and more damage to our
reef. Since the Town Council has the right to charge for docking at the
municipal pier, why not charge more to dock at that pier than the charge for
docking at the new port? Does the UDP feel smaller barges are necessary?
A. Smaller barges are necessary. The new port was done with the intentions
of smaller barges. The new port needs about $350,000 to make it useable to
larger barges. The Port Authority came to a Chamber meeting and showed all
their plans to improve the port and stated that the first part of the
project would be finished by now but nothing has been done. They are waiting
for the elections for the same reasons that were stated earlier. Barges
should have been sent to the new port already. People have donated $60,000.
to complete that road. We tried to stop the barges from using the municipal
pier. We sent out a letter telling them they must move their operations to
the new port in one month. One month passed and we closed the street. The
owner of the barge came and said he is willing to move but the marina is too
shallow and too narrow. He then promised to be the first to move once the
port was made useable. I believe that a higher fee is not the solution
because they will just pass the charge to the consumer. I have to consider
that he has 52 employees. They will have no job and that not only affects
them but their families as well. The only solution is to lobby Central
Government to make the marina useable or force the barge companies to only
use small barges.
Q. Why aren't all Town Council meetings open to the public?
A. Once a year we have a public meeting where we give a report for the
previous year. The attendance is always very low. The Chamber and all its
members and all the public are invited this Monday, January 30 at the Lion's
Den. I hope this will give us more attendance.
Q. Would you consider making all Town Council meetings public?
A. No, but we could and should have a public meeting every quarter instead
of yearly and I would be happy to give a copy of the minutes to the local
newspaper to make it public. She then showed the copies of the last two
yearly meetings reports and gave them to the Chamber to look at. These
reports show all finances and activities of the Town Council.
Q. What are the debts of the town?
A. The answer will be in our report on Monday at the Lion's Den.
Q. What can be done about the barges dredging canals at every new project on
A. The fine is small and local authorities have no power and get no support.
The Chamber had invited a minister as a guest speaker who said that just
taking pictures of this act was no good and that they must be caught in the
act by someone who is never here. It just seems impossible with those
Q. What happens if there is a mix of PUP and UDP in the Town Council?
A. We currently have one PUP councilor on the Town Council and she doesn't
attend our meetings and only reports to the PUP. This is not a good thing.
Everyone should vote all one party so as to maintain a unified group in the
Town Council. Last August there was a law signed to give local authorities
more power in town planning but that will not be respected until after the
Kevin Gonzalez then took the floor and spoke of the Master Plan. He stated
that the height limitations crept up from 38 feet to 44 feet. What is the
next creep? Both parties must come together on a referendum and a Master
Plan to decide what is best for the town in buildings, sewerage and streets.
Iffy subjects are not good for the Master Plan. A referendum is the
majority. We must decide these things now and finalize them so our future is
safe for all of us and our children.