BELIZE CITY, Tues. Jan. 12, 2021– Months after a historic general elections, Belizeans will once again have to head to the polls for the impending Municipal elections in March. Belize City is one of several municipalities that has yet to announce their official slates of Councilor Candidates, however one thing that is certain is that Mayor Bernard Wagner does intend to seek re-election come March.
Back in 2018, Mayor Wagner and the entire PUP team 11 claimed a victory of the city after twelve years under a UDP led Municipality. While Mayor Wagner has boasted of fulfilling over 90% of his team’s manifesto, he still feels that he has a contribution to make to his city which he mentioned during an interview.
What inspired your decision to seek re-election?
“The main reason why I am seeking re-election is because I have unfinished business. I believe that this Council only had a two year term. The third year was essentially a crisis management year so while we were able to achieve close to 90% of our manifesto we still have some lingering goals that we did not achieve. And we have new goals we want to achieve. We want to be a Council that, when we leave city hall, we left the city in a better position than we found it. We want to ensure that we deal with the matter of the swing bridge, to live the vision of the council which is to have a modern, safe and secure city where opportunity abounds for everyone…we want to have a reliable transportation system, an efficient system in terms of lowering CO2 gas emissions so we’re looking at four electric buses, two new modern bus stops. We also want to ensure that we move our traffic department into a more modern facility on the George Price highway at mile 4, and have a modern traffic department which encompasses the vehicle inspections component, application for driver’s licenses and we will also plan on having agents from the insurance companies as well on that compound to facilitate vehicle insurance so it will be a one-stop shop at mile 4. We also plan to go on a robust campaign to transfer our data from paper files to electronic files in terms of licenses, vehicle titles, etc. We want to have those placed in the system electronically and put in place a filing system that is safe from fires, flood, etc. so those are some of the key areas we would be focusing on in our second term along with developing physical infrastructure.”
What would you say has been your greatest achievement so far during your tenure as the Mayor?
“The biggest achievement for this council has to be ensuring that we have financial stability. We came in as a council that was operating under a Government of a different political persuasion and so we knew that we would not get the level of financial assistance as if we were a council for the UDP. So we had to make sure that we had our finances really operating at a highly efficient level. We had to cut out a lot of the waste that was happening here. We had to ensure that we improved the collection rate of our revenues, and use all the legal requirements to ensure that we got our ratio from 60% where it was to that of a 75% collection ratio where it is now. Through sound financial management we have been able to meet staff salaries and operational expenses without hiccups. We’ve always been able to meet our contractual obligations with Belize Waste Control for residential garbage collection and we have always been mindful that we still had our legal mandate to carry out some measure of physical infrastructure so we had to really curtail spending and reduce wastage so that we could operate within the confines of scarce financial resources.”
Journalist: Is there anything you would like to say to the residents as they deliberate how they will vote in the upcoming Municipal elections?
“Yes, again we have been a council that has not served even a quarter of the time the previous council had served. We have only served three years while the previous council served twelve years so its like comparing apple and oranges. But in a short three years this council has put the city on a financial trajectory that guarantees financial sustainability going forward. We feel that if given the opportunity to serve again with a friendly central government in place, much could be achieved…we have been a council who, despite the challenges and contingencies of COVID, have still served our people in little ways. We conducted food pantries, assisted with Helpage and in the children’s home, assisted the elderly with housing and medical requirements. We have been there for our people. We have been there for our staff. We haven’t laid off a single member of staff. These things show that we have empathy and compassion and the best interest of our people at heart. So all I ask of the residents is to look at the time that this council has been in government compared to the previous. And, we have not had one day where we were unable to meet wages, unlike the previous council. We have ensured that we spent the money of the city in a prudent and sustainable way. And this is what we will continue to do.”
When asked about the potential slate of Councilor Candidates the Mayor stated he was unsure as to who would be selected, but expressed his confidence that the PUP have a system in place that will ensure the best and most qualified people will be selected to represent the city. He indicated that at the end of the day the ten councilors who emerged from the process must represent the city at all times, and must be city-focused, rather than constituency-focused. This assures that the people from all constituents benefit. Municipal elections are slated to take place on the first Wednesday in March every three years.