It is only useful to recall the past if one seeks to avoid falling into repeated pitfalls of failures in the future.
The City Hall administration of 2000 – 2006 left in place both plans and land for a new City Hall, a bus terminal and a place for the Belmopan market and market day activities. Perhaps due to a combative relationship between the three (3)-term City Hall administration of 2007 – 2016 and Belmopan’s Area Representative, that ‘cash strapped’ administration sold off all those said land assets. That singular action was the seed that laid dormant for over fourteen (14) years that now gives rise to the current confrontation. It is a harvest of a sad mess!
These COVID-19 times are unprecedented and create both mental and financial stress for many people. It is lamentable and vexing that the market day vendors have now become “collateral” damage in the impasse between the developer of a new downtown market day plaza and the current City Hall administration. City Hall needs to practice restraint but retain a ‘velveted steel’ hand approach to lawlessness.
The Belmopan City Act, and other subsidiary legislation, properly entrusts any City Hall administration with the governance of Belmopan. As such, it is incumbent upon the developer of this ‘Market Day Plaza Project’ to respect that fact and negotiate to obtain all the requisite licenses from City Hall. I fully support the Belmopan City Council to resist any attempt or disingenuous behavior by anyone who seeks to bully their way forward and roughshod the prerequisites of law and order in our City.
Notwithstanding my stance, what amazes me in all this is…. how was this developer able to do all that he did right under the nose of City Hall, without objection?
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”.
This lack of planning for these past fourteen (14) years (2007-2020) is a burden now thrusted upon Mayor Belisle and the Councilors. It is one he inherited but perhaps ignored! A suitable market site needs to be identified and become his City Hall’s legacy. The Agricultural Show Grounds is not, in my opinion, the ideal location!
In the immediate short term, my unsolicited counsel would be to negotiate the requisite legalities of the terms and conditions of “privatization’” of the Market Day activities with the developer. The issues arising from this would be traffic flow and congestion, unsightly dilapidated tents, garbage collection and disposal and the need to ensure sanitary conditions, and of course, fees to be paid to City Hall. These can all be easily resolved.
City Council elections are to be held on March 3, 2021.
Thus, if this current City Hall administration is serious about leaving a legacy of vision and resolution to this issue of the lack of a suitable site for Belmopan Market Day activities, it should engage in a relentless pursuit of finding a solution. There are several land options within Belmopan to explore that are not Belmopan greens. Over the ensuing years, too many of our “Green & Open” areas have been chopped up and parceled out. Easy solutions but ones that are not in conformity to the Belmopan of George Price! A vision of planned development which preserves our green and open spaces for future generations to enjoy!
There is opportunity in conflict!
This current problem presents an opportunity for City Hall to consult and engage the residents of our “Garden City” to assist in this endeavor. It needs to retain sole rights over its market in the long term. Such an approach should avoid becoming a political exercise but rather be a pragmatic and holistic approach to conflict resolution and a lasting solution for Belmopan Market day and cultural activities consisting of people, farm produce and food! An extravaganza in our city, for the people and by the people!
Time to plant new seeds of vision in our Garden City!
Anthony “Tony” Chanona, J.P.
Farmer and former Mayor of Belmopan (2000 – 2006)