This is an interesting letter I received, and my response. Would like to hear comments. Either on the Message Board or my email [email protected]
Dear Mr. Tom Vidrine:
This is concerning the post you have on the Ambergriscaye message board in regard to the vehicle registration and other traffic problems in San Pedro.
I do understand that the traffic problem is a serious matter not only in San Pedro, but the entire country. Althought, I agree with any type of support to improve a community, I find it difficult to understand why do you need donation. I do not agree with "paying off-duty Policmen, Transportation Officers, Traffic Wardens to perform inspections and recording," to enforce the law. I really don't see the need to donate money to have these government employees do the jobs that they are already being paid to do. In fact, their job description is to enforce the law and ensure the safety of the community. So, I wonder what are they doing while they are on duty?
If the Police Department in San Pedro has limited amount of police officers to enforce the laws, then this issue should be address to the Police Commissioner in Belmopan. Each year or two over a hundred Policemen and women graduate from the Police Academy in Belmopan and are place in different districts. Perhaps, this is an issue the Area Representative and Mayor need to address to the Police Commissioner in Belmopan to provide more police officers in San Pedro to enforce the laws.
On the other hand, due to the difference in political party of the local government in San Pedro, and nation government, it may be difficult or take more effort to pursue an issue. This is not unusual in Belize, this has happened before, but it doesn't mean that the Area Representative and Mayor cannot challenge the system. I think anything is possible, since the local government has already address the issue to the Minister of Transportation and he agreed that there is a traffic problem. The next step is to convince him in doing something about it. In Friday's press release, Hon. Vildo Marin has already address the government concerning the traffic problems in the entire country...It is encouraging to hear that he is putting some effort into the issue...however, I hope he continues. This may be the opportunity for the Area Representative and Mayor to pursue this issue until they get some action, before considering asking for money from the local residents and others to enforce the laws...However, when donation of money is suggested to fix a problem in a system of government in this case the traffic/law enforcement, it takes away the challenge and interest to perform the jobs they are paid to do.....It makes it too easy...It indicates to the law enforcement officers, that it is all right to be incompetent at their jobs. Because the people who are in position such the police inspector and other officials in the department of law enforcement does not make sure that the laws are enforce....The problem is the law enforcement not enforcing the laws.. and money donation will not fix the problem....
I agree that people should be functional members and contributors in their community. In this case people should voice their opinion and concern to the government. Changes in the law enforcement can only be done by the people in Belize if they challenge the system. Some people do and they get good results.
I do admire your hard work and contribution to San Pedro Town. I have read many of your posts and have heard good things about you in San Pedro...I believe I wrote you once concerning the water taxi....I wish you the best in pursuing this issue...
You are obviously well-versed on Belize, and I greatly appreciate your comments. And it a real world, things could be done just as you suggest. Remember we only got this far by the Chamber gaining respect, and we only do this by getting things done. So many individual efforts have been made and failed. The Chamber must "prove" it is working, not just talking. We need money to do that. We also have to show all the money goes where it is meant, and not disappear into the woodwork.
The Chamber has just finished re-typing into a computer the original 1990 Master Plan for Ambergris Caye, and the 1990 Environmental Committee Traffic Plan. This is important to show how long these issues have been realized, and how little has been done in 13 years. They are the same issues we have today. These will be made available to our Members by email upon request. The perception and foresight of these documents is amazing. The sad part is that all the dire predictions made, if the controls were not implemented, have mostly come to pass.
Regardless of the party in power, only a few elements of the plans were implemented which created power to grant political favors. This resulted in an even worse situation.
I can continue discussing why all the various "officials" are not doing their jobs. The countless reasons being given why not, or if whether we are willing to wait another 13 years to work on getting things to actually happen the way they should.
But I would prefer to tell you why I find it vital to do it now, and force the issue by doing it ourselves while we have their support.
The window of opportunity is now! Blue and Red are at odds here. Both parties really want to do something, but neither want the blame, and both want the credit. Both seem willing to let the Chamber be the "bad guy".
If you know Belize politics, parties will not do anything they perceive as costing them votes unless there is a financial gain. They will not refuse an exception for anyone that supports them. The few times this occurs, the local authorities are by-passed, and the exception is made at the national level.
I personally have seen many civil servants get in allot of trouble for doing their job. Actually they get in more trouble than if they do not make that effort. If I follow your suggestions, I would be dead before anything of consequence is actually done.
But we are getting a different response from what you say about taking away the challenge and making it too easy. We are finding our efforts are embarrassing those same officials that they are not doing their jobs, and they are beginning to step up to the plate. When Members donated the first six months of salary to hire someone to actually work to verify and investigate new vehicle applications, the Minister to Transport realized how badly help was needed, and funded the salary.
We want to place large identification number on taxis, with a phone number to report bad driving. If we do not find a source, have them printed, and actually put them on the taxis, and maintain the complaints, it will not be done.
The 1990 Traffic recommendation's first statement is to have a census on all vehicles. This is just plain common sense. Now thirteen years later, we are going to do it ourselves.
Anyone who tells me to get the government to do it, I can only say I have only one lifetime, and the situation will be impossible by the time it happens. And when it happens, the "alteration" of the effort will have been so warped by special interests, it actually can make things worse.
My hope is that we can prove that parties in power can make tough decisions which result in respect and admiration, which in turn translates into votes. That doing favors and buying votes creates a fickle and demanding voter base. That the continuing change in parties is the result of the people trying to find someone that is honest and will do what is right, and not make exceptions for themselves, friends and family.
The Chamber can do that by taking on the tough jobs, make sensible plans, do them impartially and fairly, and continue to gain the growing respect and support of the community. We now represent 74 businesses, and over 400 people. But the important thing is that we already represent over 200 voters, and that is what will make a difference to the political parties. But we have that support because it is known we are not stagnant.
If you and others join with us, then we really can follow your suggestions and get the government to do their job. But the Chamber has to earn your trust, respect, and support, and how else can we besides "doing something". So is it the "chicken" or the "egg" that comes first. Until we are "important", why will government listen, and how can we become influential without gaining the support of the people?
Only two things work here. Money or Votes. We need both to be able to make a difference. Watch the AARP commercial where one person can fix an entire medical problem in the States. If that was true, we would not need to organize.
The Chamber is funded mostly by businesses, but it's influence comes from private individuals joining. citizens as well as non-citizens. We represent far more than just a "commercial interest". Our industry, tourism, creates the same goals for residents as well as businesses. All we are working for is an attractive, safe, clean, peaceful community that addresses the problems of its rapid growth in a small area.
Thank you for your email, and I plan to post it on the web without your name. Please take that as a compliment to your sincere, well-written concerns.
Tom L. Vidrine, Chairman
Ambergris Caye Chamber of Commerce
011 (501) 226-3245
PO Box 148
San Pedro, Belize