San Pedro Politics

Monday…The San Pedro political season is in full swing. Monday on Decision 2012 broadcast by Reef Radio/TV. Independent BRS Area Rep candidate William (Mike) Campbell started his presentation by challenging all candidates to reveal all campaign budgets and sources of funds. Mr. Campbell presented an aggressive plan for San Pedro & BRS. Mr. Campbell proposed that BRS should separated to form a 7th District of Belize, redistricting the constituency to give two representatives to the area and the dividing of San Pedro into geographic wards with each electing its own Town Counselor. In an economic package Mr. Campbell proposed the opening of North Ambergris Caye and the creation of a new community with an International Airport and the development of agriculture on North Ambergris Caye.

Mr. Campbell has proposed that the tour operators should be given duty free fuel as are the cane farmers in the North allowing tours to be more competitively priced and proposed the individual promotion of San Pedro and Caye Caulker as a destination and the creation of non-tourism jobs by establishing an Export Processing Zone to attract new businesses. Mr. Campbell has proposed more autonomy for the new District by transferring control of Police, Fire, Schools and Health to the community with specific plans in each of these areas all to be financed by receiving a proportional share of the national budgets as well as the establishment of a Ministry of Works on Ambergris Caye. San Pedro is the only town without a Ministry of Works.

As an anti-crime strategy Mr. Campbell proposed that San Pedro hire and fire its own police and assure that they are properly trained abroad, are well paid and want to be part of the community. Additional plans call for a member of the bar be hired to act as Prosecutor for our area to help balance the scales of justice.

Educational needs were identified requiring the construction of a new high school and 2 new primary schools providing expanded curriculum, vocational education, technical education and special education for those with learning disabilities and the need for education to be both mandatory and free as a national priority. Health needs were identified as first to reestablish emergency medical evacuation service by installing emergency runway lights at Municipal airstrip allowing Wings of Hope to operate at night. Second, the Polyclinic needs to be upgraded to provide 24hr emergency medical service, followed by the addition of an ambulance and ending with a full-fledged hospital on the Island. Mr. Campbell also expressed unequivocal opposition to offshore drilling and a strong commitment to sustainable development and a commitment to unity and full community participation in the government and stressed his ability and willingness to work with either party for the good of BRS. Eiden Salazar conducted the interview.

Tuesday…Tuesday night on Decision 2012 Independent Mayoral Candidate Melanie Paz (no relation to Elsa Paz) presented herself and some of her team. Ms Paz stressed her impartiality and commitment to transparency and financial responsibility. Ms Paz stated that all Town Council meetings would be public and the press would be welcome. Ms Paz promised to immediately delve into the finances of the Town and work with individuals of both parties to achieve results in solving town problems. She further pledged to at all times to comply with the Town Council Act and hold public consultations on all important matters and all Town financial records would be available for inspection by anyone interested at any time. Ms Paz noted the increase in interest in non-partisan politics and believes she enjoys broad support in the community.

Wednesday Morning…Hilberto Sanchez tossed his hat in the ring as an Independent candidate for Town Council with an announcement on Good Morning San Pedro, Hilberto, who is originally from the Punta Gorda area is a long time employee of Hummingbird furniture. He was accompanied by Bobby Lopez of the V.I.P. Mr. Sanchez is the first Independent candidate to announce for the Town Council race and expressed the desire to have sports as his portfolio.

Wednesday Night…The first round of San Pedro’s first-ever mayoral debate was held at the Lion’s Den at 7pm Wednesday night. The event was co sponsored by the San Pedro Sun and Reef Radio/TV. The Mayoral candidates are Danny Guerrero, UDP businessman, Conchita Flota, PUP educator and Mel Paz, Independent businesswoman. In attendance were all three BRS Area Rep candidates, Patty Arceo PUP, Mike Campbell, Independent and the incumbent Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. All Town Councilor candidates and most Town Councilors were present as was Bobby Lopez, Chairman of the V.I.P. and AIP Dennis Arnold from San Pedro Police. Most San Pedro NGO’s were also represented as well as members of the press.

Each candidate was asked 13 questions and given 3 minutes for their answer to each question. Tamara Sniffin, editor of the San Pedro Sun read the questions and Eiden Salazar served as moderator. Many of the answers given by the UDP and PUP candidates were laced with strongly partisan rhetoric heralding their parties accomplishments in making San Pedro what it is today and their close party ties while the Independent candidate consistently stressed the need for unity and working together to solve problems.

Predictably many questions had similar answers from all candidates. When asked about Central Government all three candidates came out in favor of BRS becoming a separate district. All were in agreement that San Pedro needed an increase of its subvention that is currently $69,000 and a fair share of the tax money San Pedro pays to Central government. Mr. Guerrero stated that the GOB was already giving San Pedro more. All agreed that the Clock Tower should have had consultation and all were opposed to electronic billboards in San Pedro. Only Mrs. Flota said she would knock down the clock if the people wanted while Mr. Guerrero and Ms Paz said to leave it. All had similar views recognizing the need for master planning and environmental awareness. Mr. Guerrero stressed his service and accomplishments in the environmental community and dedication to the environment.

All candidates promised to conduct immediate audits of the town finances with the results being made public. Mrs. Flota and Ms Paz called for independent forensic audits while Mr. Guerrero called for the Auditor-General. All agreed that San Pedro needs a hospital as a priority item. Mr. Guerrero stated that the Minister of Health has promised San Pedro a new hospital as soon as land is obtained. Both Mr. Guerrero and Mrs. Flota said they would make the polyclinic into a 24/7 emergency medical facility immediately upon taking office.

When asked about rising crime and public discontent with law enforcement all candidates stated that they thought the police were doing a good job and just needed more help. Mr. Guerrero stated that residents misbehaving started most police problems. All agreed that San Pedro needed more police and Mrs. Flota called for various police and fire substations to be installed around town and the special constable program to be restarted. All agreed that property taxes must be collected and no one should be exempt from paying and terms should be offered those with arrears.

When asked about tourism and major assets Ms Paz stressed the people as an asset and the need to promote San Pedro as a destination. Mrs. Flota agreed with promoting San Pedro as a destination and also stressed the need to have a clean town and beaches and Mr. Guerrero stressed personal responsibility in keeping the town clean and that he wants everyone in San Pedro to have a job in tourism and when elected would formulate a tourism plan with Hon Heredia.

Asked about traffic congestion and vehicle moratoriums none had solutions to congestion except to consider making all heavy deliveries at night from Mr. Guerrero. Mr. Guerrero and Ms Paz also stated that cargo and taxi drivers loading and unloading and trucks traveling with small loads, caused much of the congestion that could be corrected by personal habit and education. Mr. Guerrero and Ms Paz were in favor of vehicle moratorium while Mrs. Flota said she would give permits to all who applied and had need. All agreed that they would comply completely with all legal requirements to have open meetings every 6 months and all render all reports as required by law and operate completely transparent administrations.

The first Mayoral debate went without incident until the very end when PUP supporters gathered outside the Lions Den in political demonstration contrary to the agreed rules causing a disruption during the closing statements by the candidates, which was noted by Mr. Guerrero whose statement was interrupted.

The final debate will be held Monday, February 13th at 7pm.

Thursday Morning…Barnaby Badillo has announced that he is now an Independent candidate for Town Council of San Pedro. Mr. Badillo was born in San Pedro and is a jeweler/businessman. Barnaby is very aware of San Pedro problems and is willing to help. Barnaby called our attention to the fact we could be pumping water out of puddles and low-lying areas instead of leaving it to foster disease and impede traffic. Mr. Badillo was accompanied by Bobby Lopez of the V.I.P. Bobby is making a special effort to encourage the Independent Movement in San Pedro Town.

Also on Good Morning San Pedro it was suggested that considering the success of the mayoral debate, it would be difficult for the Area Rep candidates to not agree to have their own series of debates. Hats off to reef Radio/TV for their public-spirited efforts to inform San Pedro and give all candidates a chance to express publicly their positions.

by Mike Campbell