BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 22, 2018– Some members of the People’s United Party (PUP) National Executive, campaign workers and party well-wishers converged on a basketball court in the Collet constituency this morning for the launch of the “PUP Team-11 The Rebirth” manifesto for Belize City. The PUP National Deputy Leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, was tasked with introducing the team.
Hon. Hyde began by outlining the special characteristics of the PUP mayoral candidate, Bernard Wagner, who he said has been engaged in the community long before he even dreamed of entering the political arena. Wagner’s contribution to the community has been through his years of involvement in sports.
Hon. Hyde said that unlike his primary opponent, the UDP’s Dion Leslie, who wants to follow in the footsteps of Mayor Darrell Bradley, Wagner wants to be the best mayor he can be.
“There has never been a mayoral candidate like Wagner in the last 20 years,” Hon. Hyde pointed out, “he knows how to manage people and he knows how to manage money.”
Hyde went on to mention that Oscar Arnold, a city council candidate and a former banker, resigned from his job to become a PUP candidate for municipal office.
Deltrude Hylton, Hon. Hyde said, is a roots teacher and a family woman. “With Deltrude on the ticket, you just know that there is nothing to worry about … She grew up from being a campaigner, to a street captain and now a candidate. If you are good enough to be a campaigner, you should be good enough to be a candidate”, Hon. Hyde said, as he introduced Hylton to loud applause.
“Ryan Elijio, what can I say about the brother?” Hon. Hyde said, as he began to talk about Elijio. “In the States, they would say he’s been in the gutter. He went to Hostel as a youth, but he didn’t stay there. He went to ‘Natius as a youth, but his education didn’t stop there. He did high school at SJC Extension, and then went on to SJC Junior College and then UB. He is one of the brightest persons I know, and one of the most talkative. But seriously, he’s a master math teacher. His fellow teachers say he always makes math fun to learn. His students excel on PSE and I am sure he will excel in Belize City Council,” remarked Hyde.
“And our third teacher, Dr. Candice Pitts,” Hon. Hyde announced, “Hers is a story for the ages. As you all know she grew up rough, selling Johnny cakes and tamales as a young child to help her mother and her young siblings. Academically she went from Vianney to Pallotti to SJC Sixth Form. She won an athletic scholarship, after she convinced Albany State University that she can play basketball. Problem is that when she got there they found out that she was not such a good basketball player. So she got dropped from the team, but she survived. That’s what she has always done, survive and excel. She managed to hold on to her academic scholarship and then went on to graduate with the highest honor and then went on to Ohio State University for a Master’s degree and then to Howard University for a PhD in English. Candice would teach for a year or so at a university, before deciding home is where she wanted to be.”
“We have youth and we have elders”, Hon. Hyde said.
“Michael ‘Chips’ Noralez, a retired public officer, who is a former Punta Gorda Town Councilor, a man so funny, he always makes churchgoers laugh when he is reading a eulogy. He should be enjoying his retirement from public life, but when we called him, he immediately answered the challenge,” Hon. Hyde remarked.
“Our other co-anchor, the man Albert Vaughan, a retired soldier, a retired teacher, so that makes five teachers on our slate. He has been the chairman for the Freetown Division for years now,” Hon. Hyde said.
The youngest person on the PUP slate in Belize City is a 22-year-old, Allan Pollard, Jr. Referring to Pollard, Jr., Hyde said, “I have known this youth from before he was born. An SJC graduate, he opened his own mechanic shop.” Hon. Hyde said he is very proud of Pollard, Jr., for whom the sky is the limit.
“Another of our youth for whom the sky is the limit is 24-year-old Micah Goodin. A fiery youth, who blew into our consciousness at Sadie Vernon, this is a youth who could have folded growing up, but his single mother wouldn’t have it. She waged war for him and him for her. People still talk about Micah’s valedictorian speech. He is a journalist at the country’s leading newspaper, a poet full of sound and fury, a young man, a married man,” Hon. Hyde said, in introducing Goodin.
“Aisha Gentle, is our next youthful candidate. At 28-years-old, she is a community organizer, a mother. She keeps it real in the group. She is another one of our campaigner-turned candidates Born and raised in Port Loyola, she still lives there. She is another champion for our people,” Hon Hyde said.
“And last but not least, the man they call ‘Gold Dust,’ the one and only Javier Castellanos, a former police officer, he is arguably our most popular candidate. Just about everybody I talk to know this man. And everybody have a favorable perception of this man, except one girl. I told the person, ‘everybody talk good ‘bout this man”. She relented and said, ‘you’re right, he’s a good guy.’ Javier now runs his family restaurant in Downtown Plaza. Not long after he announced his candidacy, the GST (General Sales Tax) swarmed down on his business. But he is undeterred. That’s life under the victimizing and oppressive UDP government,” Hon. Hyde said, ending his introduction of the slate.
Following the introduction of the candidates, Dr. Candice Pitts was called upon to read the section from the manifesto on social infrastructure.
“We acknowledge that the residents of Belize City have been neglected; they have been relegated to secondary importance or to no importance at all. The residents of Belize City continue to live in poverty and they continue to die from preventable diseases; they continue to lose themselves and their loved ones to gun violence and other forms of violence. They remain unemployed without their primary care. The mission of our council is to place people over projects,” Dr. Pitts said.
“The social infrastructure will also feature a garden project so that families can produce what they eat and eat what they produce”, Dr. Pitts said.
Allan Pollard, Jr., spoke about education, youth, sports and culture. Pollard said that the youth haven’t had any representation, whether it be in the government or in City Hall. “We would like to put young people first. We plan to represent our young people. We will revive the Belize City games for all constituencies. We will regularize and develop school-based games, including little league baseball, football, basketball, and volleyball tournaments. We will establish sports academics where applicable. We will support local communities in celebrating their May fairs. We will collaborate with schools to have afterschool programs that would focus on sports, drama and culture.”
Micah Goodin spoke about the physical infrastructure. “We will take care of the fundamentals of the city. We will clean the drains, cut the grass, repair and maintain the streets, take care of the garbage and keep the city looking clean and revitalized. We believe that sanitation must be the vanguard of the city’s public health system. Sanitation and good traffic management combined with proper infrastructure save lives. We will partner with private sector to fund a multipurpose southside market comparable to BTL Park,” he stated.
Goodin pointed out that 20 million dollars was spent on streets that are now partially disintegrating. “If elected, we will abolish London Bridges,” Goodin said. “We will replace manhole covers across the city. We will develop neighborhood officers. We do not care where you live, we believe that your garbage must be picked up in a timely fashion. We will introduce the three-E approach: engage, educate and enforce traffic laws. We will explore and actively develop a transportation system that is integrated, comprehensive and committed across the city and one that eases traffic congestion. We will establish more comfortable bus stops. We will give top priorities to transportation for city students.”
The Hon. Francis Fonseca, the Freetown area representative and former PUP leader, was invited to speak at the manifesto launch.
Hon. Fonseca said he was honored to be at the launch of the manifesto for the PUP team. “We have to support this team, for two main reasons: on March 7, here in Belize City and across we have an opportunity to send a very clear message to the UDP government that we have had enough, enough of their corruption, enough of their arrogance, enough of their incompetence. And here in Belize City, after 12 years, we have an opportunity to say enough of the arrogance, enough of the corruption and enough of the incompetence. The second reason we must support this team, is because they are a very good team. I am very proud of the entire team. They have a very good leader in Bernard. I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with him and I know the work that he has done for years. So we have a very strong, proud team that will make a difference in the lives of the people of Belize City,” Hon. Fonseca said.
Hon. Fonseca urged the supporters of the PUP to work hard between now and March 7 to secure a victory for Bernard and his team.
Oscar Arnold discussed how a PUP city council would handle its finances. Arnold spoke about revenue generation and job creation.
Arnold said that the outgoing UDP city council is bankrupt of ideas and has been taxing the residents of Belize City.
“Our residents need a council with vision and financial competence to spur economic growth and job creation,” he said. Arnold said that some might say that is not the mandate of the city council, but “we want single mothers and single fathers to get a job and keep a job, not just one for two weeks.”
Arnold explained that businesses have closed their doors and moved to other municipalities where there are less taxes. “They move north of Belize City where they do not have to be burdened with trade licenses and exorbitant property taxes. We want those businesses to be back here in the old capital. We want the jobs to come back to Belize City; we want the cash flow to come back to Belize City. We will develop and restore iconic Belizean venues as top tourist destinations. We will establish an annual cultural festival on Mahogany Street. There are some arts festivals downtown, but you don’t get more cultural than Mahogany Street and Central American Boulevard. We will develop small businesses by waiving trade license fees for first- time business owners,” he said.
The PUP mayoral candidate Bernard Wagner took to the stage with a massive round of applause.
“It’s a great day for the people; because today is the day we unveil your plan for the city. Remember this plan was approved by you,” he told the crowd. Wagner described the unveiling of the manifesto at the basketball court as “homecoming for me and my team, in the Port Loyola Division.”
“Who would have thought that 40 years ago, a young boy with a big smile and a big afro, a big heart, the son of a carpenter, whose mother baked bread and buns, Miss Leah made the best bun and bread da Pen Road,” Wagner said. He went on to say, “Despite all the challenges, I still have the opportunity to aspire to the office of Mayor of Belize City, and I thank God for that. This success story has been diminishing in our Belize City of today. A lot of our youth have grown despondent and hopeless. We have to change that narrative. This is what me and my team want to reverse, a feel-good story, a Belizean success story, because it is always about you, the people. We can’t go nowhere without you, the people. Today we come back to you the people in your back yard, in your domain, in your comfort zone, to unveil your plan for the city. We could have chosen a fancy air-conditioned office, but we are your servants, that’s why we always come back to you, the people. Over the past six weeks, you the people have asked us this question on many occasions: what cogent assurance can you give us as the custodians of the public purse? You will either be upright or kept upright. We are speaking about good governance; good governance is important to you the people. Your PUP City Council is committed to transforming the way we operate as a body. We will rebuild trust with the residents of the city. We will be more accessible, we will listen to you more, we will communicate with you more; we will be more transparent and accountable to you. We accept that we cannot be our own watchdog. We must subject ourselves to objective and external watchdog. We will establish the Municipal Public Accounts Committee with majority members coming from social partners. Our municipal public accounts committee will have a six-member team, with only two appointed by the City Council and four appointed by civil society, giving them the go-ahead to be our watchdog. We are not afraid, because we know that we will do the right thing. We will work with the central government with the applicable aspects of the finances in the Audit Reform Act, anything that is in that act that can be applied to the City Council, because we are not afraid; we are not thieves and we will prove that to the people. We want to ensure that when we are handling contracts we are accountable, unlike the UDP which handled over 40 million dollars’ worth of contracts with no accountability. The Public Accounts Committee will go through all our contracts, transparency and accountability. We will not tolerate any candidate who benefits from the business of the council.”
The PUP leader, Hon. John Briceno, also addressed the gathering.
“We can feel it in the air that Belize City is ready for Bernard Wagner and the PUP. They could give you scholarship; they could give you money that is going to come to an end starting on March 7, we have had enough of the Barrow/Faber government. We have had enough of the corruption, enough of the incompetence. You have to work hard every single day. Change is coming with Bernard Wagner and the People’s United Party. Join me in the rebirth with Bernard Wagner and the PUP,” he said.