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Apr 22, 2013

Downtown cab drivers protest, but did they have the facts?

We’ve all heard the cliché progress brings problems, but it’s probably never been more real than right about now in Belize City, where traffic congestion, blocked streets and frustration are the crosses we all must bear. Mayor Darrell Bradley has a plan, and that plan includes more infrastructural development than we’ve seen in, well, forever. But while the intention is good, the perception is that the implementation is very, very bad. And this morning was the perfect example. Battlefield Park is undergoing major renovation…but nobody was told – or at least not the taxi drivers from the Albert Street and Downtown Taxi Cooperatives who have been uprooted by the works in progress. And that caused tensions to rise and tempers to flare. Freelance reporter Mike Rudon was on Albert Street this morning and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

At about ten this morning, taxi-drivers from the Albert Street Taxi Cooperative and the Downtown Taxi Cooperative lined up their vehicles here on Albert Street, just outside a cordon set up by the City Council around Battlefield Park. The drivers say they showed up this morning only to be told that they couldn’t park there anymore because of work being done on the park.

 

Albert Robinson

Albert Robinson, Albert Street Taxi Cooperative

“I don’t know what’s the problem because we were not told in writing; only a little bit of verbal hearsay here and there and we find out that everything just came up abruptly. Nothing in writing to at least notify us and give us time to do what we need to do in conjunction with what they are doing out here. We came out here this morning and we were told that we can’t come on the car stand. As a matter of fact, Friday was supposed to be the deadline as we understand—the deadline for us to come off the car stand because they will commence work. I don’t know what is the problem in not notifying us ahead of time.”

 

The drivers, many of whom have been operating from that area for decades, are riled up. They say that they are now being told that they must park behind the Court and they feel that the unexpected move will not only hurt but will destroy their bread and butter.

 

Renan Alfaro

Renan Alfaro, Taxi-driver

“I consider it more than a disrespect because they did not notify us; they told us nothing at all. The word is that the mayor does what he wants. He doesn’t consult with anybody; he just does what he please. We have wah union and this car stand has been gazette so how can they just take it away from us.”

 

Albert Robinson

“People disrespect taxi in the sense that they don’t believe that we pay anything to society. We pay a lot and this is an essential service especially downtown here. People don’t walk all the way to courthouse to look for a taxi and have luggage out here. Another thing again is that we pay tax on gasoline, tax on insurance, tax on our personal license, tax on the registration of the vehicles and then when we get that lee money that we accumulate, we have to go and do all our utility business which they collect so much percent tax out of. So taxi people really, really contribute a lot to our country.”

 

Mike Rudon

“How long have some of you been out here?”

 

Renan Alfaro

“I’ve been out here for almost twenty-one and I am sixty seven now.”

 

Ernesto Robinson, Taxi-driver

Ernesto Robinson

“I think it is disrespectful for the mayor doing this to us. All ah we—we noh di thief, we are making honest living.”

 

Albert Robinson

“This is our way of living. And whenever you interfere with somebody’s way of living, then it creates problem because if you stop mi from eat, yo stop mi from making an honest living. I noh di worry bout mi age and what not. What yow ah do with we? Fill up the prison with we and fee we and disgrace we and all kinda things? We must reason.”

 

And reason is what apparently saved the day, at least it seemed that way, when the presidents of both taxi unions arrived on the scene to report on a meeting they had just held with the Mayor.

 

Darwin Mackenzie, President, Downtown Taxi Cooperative

“We no get wah bad result. So the discussion weh we had with the mayor is perfect and ih agree with everything we said. So ih wah come out yah evelen-thirty and work out something fi all ah we. They tek we in soh then. Dehn tek wi in and soh dehn try to throw wi off of the stand. So we try fight it until we come back to an agreement.”

 

Steven Skeen, President, Albert Street Taxi Cooperative

“When the news came out on Friday, the younger staff thought that the stand was going to be removed and that is why all the drivers were riled up.”

 

Mike Rudon

“But the fact of the matter is that this is still a major inconvenience. First of all it is an insult because dehn noh tell nobody nothing and two, dah wah major inconvenience weh wah affect the livelihood of a lot of these taxi drivers.”

 

Steven Skeen

Steven Skeen

“Yes, the mayor admitted that; that there was not the consultation. He admitted that, but he is saying that this is the plan, this is the way forward and he is opened to try to help in any way he can for business to continue.”

 

And with Police just arrived on the scene to try and restore some sense of order, Mayor Bradley called the media to his office, and told us that the situation has been resolved.

 

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“I met with both associations, representatives from their executive and some of their members had come to the office shortly after nine this morning and we had worked out a temporary solution with them that would accommodate them in the precincts of Battlefield Park while the renovations were going on. What happened is that over the weekend, they had relocated to behind the courthouse wharf area. This morning, I also received a letter from the court indicating to us that they were dissatisfied with that move for security reasons. So we had consulted with them very, very quickly and we had asked them if they could relocated further and they were gracious enough. And we are looking at areas where we are going to put them. We are going to locate some of the taxis exactly where they were originally, just a little bit more on Albert Street. We have identified three spots in front of Brodies and three spots on Church Street that the other association will occupy.”

 

Darrell Bradley

And with that the protest is over, at least for now. Bradley takes some of the blame for the ruckus, as he admitted that the Council isn’t doing so great at consultation and communication.

 

Darrell Bradley

“It’s actually, by and large, it is our biggest problem. I think that people are not against any of the works that we are doing, but they are saying that we could do a much better job—and I have to admit that that is a failing of this council—especially when you are dealing with people’s trade and business. We had the same situation when we asked the vendors in Battlefield Park. We consulted with them the week before last and we’ve asked them to relocate. All of them have relocated. I’d hope that at the same time we had communicated with the vendors, we could have also communicated with the taxi persons. I understood that that was not the case and we only communicated with them late last week. And when they were trying to get them to relocated, they of course protested and we tried to accommodate them. But it is a challenge. We are trying to get a lot of the works that we want to get done as quickly as possible. But we need not forget that people are involved and we are dealing in most cases with people’s livelihoods and we need to do a much better job with communicating with them.”

 

And if the taxi-drivers are not happy with their new temporary posts on Albert and Church Streets, we have no doubt we’ll be hearing from them again. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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3 Responses for “Downtown cab drivers protest, but did they have the facts?”

  1. Marie says:

    Alfaro is a liar- some year back he was a jeweler who used to fix my stuff. And taximen? All belize knows they are the worst violators of the laws now they play victim- they drive anywhere they cut you off, they say they didn’t know the 3 bandits they transport were bad guys and you ever try to park there for 2 seconds- they cuss you out and say its for them- how do they have a better right o a little space on the street over me? Do deh strong mayor- move them and if they complain refund their taxi fee and don’t renew – the bcc works for taxi men or for the citizens first?

  2. Sky says:

    Truth is, they are preparing for martial law (police state) for when the belize currency collapses along with the US dollar. The truth may hurt though those unprepared will hurt much worse. You have not been informed for all the wrong reasons.

  3. Storm says:

    Smarter to consult with foreseeably affected parties BEFORE beginning some disruptive work. “Look before you leap.”

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