The non-payment of employee deductions isn’t the only concern for councilors; the other hot button issue at Monday evening’s caucus was a proposed salary cut. This was first floated publicly by Prime Minister Dean Barrow last week Wednesday. The P.M. said in an interview with News Five that the councilors should consider taking a pay cut since the Council has been unable to meet many of its expenses, including paying for the city’s garbage collection. But by the end of the caucus, several councilors left with different portfolios. Of note is that three councilors, perceived to be close to the mayor, were untouched. The garbage headache is now being split between the camera ready councillors Philip Willoughby and Roger Espejo. This afternoon News Five asked Deputy Leslie about the reshuffle and the proposed pay cut.

Dion Leslie, Deputy Mayor
“Well when the councilors met yesterday one of the topics we discussed was the pay cut, which took all the councilors by surprise when we hear it from the PM. Rumors, I heard rumors circulating for a while but nothing legitimate until the PM had made the statement on Krem and later on on Channel Five. You had some people who were for, some against. So what we decided to do is we will try to meet with the PM—as we know the PM is out of the country right now—but we’ll try to meet with the PM or whoever possible to get down to the bottom of it and find a way forward with the pay cuts, if we should do it and basically sketch out a plan on how we can move forward with it. But as of this moment we’re still looking at it and seeing our way forward with the cut.”

Jose Sanchez
“How many were in favor of the cut?”

Dion Leslie
“I won’t say the exact number but in favor… let’s just say it wasn’t the majority. The reshuffling came about from the mayor. The latest Act amended last year, gave the mayor the authority to choose portfolios and when we met, part of the topic on the agenda was the portfolio shuffling. The four councilors who kept their portfolios that being the mayor herself revenue, finance and H.R. Councillor Kevin Singh kept Markets and Security. Councillor Wayne Usher kept Traffic, Tourism and Public Health. Councillor Dean Samuels kept Works Streets, Southside, zoning and planning. The major shuffles would be the sanitation. Sanitation for the first time was split into two; one part being with Waste Control aspect and the other councilor would deal with the BML aspect of it. Phillip Willoughby kept the Waste Control Aspect and Roger Espejo got the BML aspect of it. So I think by that happening now we have two councilors to identify and look in debt into each company and to be behind them to making sure Belize City gets value for money for both contracts.”

Jose Sanchez
“Phillip Willoughby has been very vocal about garbage in general. Does this show that it was too much for him to handle? Is that the message?”

Dion Leslie
“I wouldn’t say there was too much for him. I don’t think by him having the Waste Control aspect of the sanitation portfolio, he’ll only deal with that. I think him and Roger will work together. The two of them have been more vocal than most councilors as you know on the T.V. I think so I think both of them will work better together and will have a better effort for the sanitation and we’ll see change in the coming months. I feel very confident about the changes for the sanitation portfolio and I think Belize City should see better things coming ahead. Eric Chan who had parks and beautification now has Works and Streets and Drains, north side, which councilor Espejo gave up for sanitation. Councillor Espejo, like I mentioned before has sanitation the B.M.L. aspect including investment and small business initiatives. Councilor Esquivel has sister city relationships, liaison for NGO’s and civil society. Councilor Andrew Faber now has youth, sports and after school programs. Councilor Peyrefitte now has parks, medians roundabouts and beautification.”

Another change in portfolio was that of Culture. It was initially given to Laura Esquivel Frampton and it was passed over to Leslie. The deputy mayor said that tonight the council is having a town hall meeting at City Hall and that residents should attend and voice their concerns.

Channel 5