The residents of Ladyville/Lords Bank should seriously consider becoming Belize’s next town!
According to the Statistical Institute of Belize (2010 census), Ladyville has 5,458 residents whilst Lords Bank has 3,140. Combined, the greater Ladyville area has a population of 8,598. Should the residents decide to become a town it would make Ladyville/Lords Bank Belize’s sixth largest town. Larger than Punta Gorda (5,205) and Benque Viejo (5,824) and almost as large as Dangriga (9,096) and Corozal (9,901).
I do not think that it is unfair to say that the residents of Ladyville/Lord Bank have been under-served in terms of government services. The area has no hospital, no fire service and inadequate police presence. Other critical government services such as lands, treasury, vehicle/drivers licensing, vital statistics, etc. are also not available and residents have to go to Belize City in order to access those services.
Perhaps the most visible deficiency is in the area of infrastructure. The streets are in deplorable condition, drains are virtually non-existent and street lighting leaves much to be desired. And the Village Councils? Well, let’s just leave that one alone.
Strangely, whenever I raise this subject in discussions the overwhelming response is NO! Not because the idea is a bad one, but because in the view of many people township would mean “taxes” and Belizeans don’t seem to like paying taxes. Our distorted view of taxation, no doubt, is as a result of decades of governmental abuse of our tax dollars. Essentially, there is deep mistrust of elected officials and justifiably so!
My humble advice to my fellow Belizeans is that we are not going to solve this problem by not paying taxes; we can only solve it by active participation in our own governance.
I shall tell you more on the economic side of this vision shortly but for now my initial ideas on the governance issues are as follows:
• The Town would be led by a five-person council ( a Mayor and four Councilors).
• Members of the Council would all be fulltime employees of the people of Ladyville/Lords Bank.
• Members of the Council would need to hold a minimum of an Associate Degree.
• The Mayor would not be able to serve for more than three consecutive terms.
• Members of the Council would draw a salary to be commensurate with their qualifications and experience (so if a member has an Associate Degree he receives a particular salary but if he has a Bachelor’s Degree his salary increases).
• All meetings of the Council would be held in public with the agenda posted publicly at least a week in advance.
• Council meetings would have to be held at least once a month and on a Saturday so that residents can attend if they so desire.
• Residents would be able to place motions before the Council for consideration upon the presentation of a petition with the signatures of at least 5% of registered voters (205).
• All votes of the Council would be by division so that the residents can track the voting pattern of each member of the Council.
• Decisions of the Council would be public record and would be available to the residents in hard or soft copies.
• The Council would have to prepare an annual budget and work plan for approval of the residents every year.
• Residents would be able to reject the budget if the Council failed to meet the work plan for the preceding year.
• The accounts of the Council would have to be audited by an independent auditor and made public no later than 3 months after the end of each financial year.
• All candidates for the Council would have to declare their assets in accordance with the Prevention of Corruption in Public Life Act, and any failure to do so would be automatic grounds for recall.
• Residents would be able to recall any elected official at any time upon presentation of a petition signed by 20% of the registered voters (822). The turnout for recall elections would be a simple majority of registered voters (2056). If the recall fails the elected official may not be recalled again for the remainder of that particular term.
Whether one agrees with the idea of township or not the fact remains that the needs of the residents of Ladyville/Lords Bank are going unfulfilled. The present system of governance is simply not working for us and we must find a new path. In that vein I would welcome the views of the residents of the mighty Ladyville/Lords Bank.
Major Lloyd Jones (Ret’d)
P.S. Thanks to the good and decent public servants at the Statistical Institute of Belize and the Elections and Boundaries Department (Ladyville branch) for providing the relevant data with such speed and courtesy.