Citco reports on its first year in office

Yesterday the City Council of Belize City reported to the public on its first year in office. A main highlight has been the improved infrastructure with 53 streets concreted and 90 upgraded, but behind the scenes at City Hall there have been other improvements in governance. One of the most important is the separation of powers for councilors and managers. Mayor Darrell Bradley comments.

Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:
vlcsnap-2013-03-08-19h17m22s188Throughout this last year, we have really approached the issue of separating roles and functions of councilors and senior administrative staff. So that councilors are supposed to deal with policy decisions and strategic planning and strategic direction. We will leave the managers to deal with the say to day operations of the City Council. It really has made a tremendous difference in the culture at City Hall and members of the staff feel that they can make decisions free from any kind of political interference of political bias. One of the things that we need to do and we have been going in that direction is to run the City Council more like a Board of Directors. So that we will deal with overall planning, we will deal with legislative changes, but we will leave our managers to manage the affairs of the City Council, so that there is no duplication in what we do.

According to the Mayor, an improved municipal authorities bill will give residents of municipalities the power to recall elected representatives as they can do nationally. The Council emphasized that their work has been done transparently and with accountability, and its audits, financial reports and tax reports are public and available. The Mayor told PLUS News that the point of all the street work is to develop new economic activity bases in the areas of Coney Drive, Philip Goldson Highway, Central American Boulevard and the new Chetumal Boulevard.

Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:
vlcsnap-2013-03-02-11h23m42s63It is part of a larger economic development strategy for Belize City, so that we are not building streets to build streets, but we are building streets to build the economic base of Belize City and this is why I have signaled as a priority that we need to focus on the Northern Highway and Coney Drive and those other streets, because we feel that these could be major centers of economic activity, even more so than they are now. And the street building project is a part of the Economic Development Strategy for Belize City. One of the reasons why we targeted Albert Street, Regent Street and those other streets is because in the future, we need to change that into a free-zone. How nice it will be when tourists come to Belize City, they can walk on the downtown street. It will be paved, you will see colorful homes and it will be open to businesses, shops and restaurants and so it is a part of that strategy.

With all the development comes some problems, particularly the thorny issue of back taxes. The Mayor offered a staunch defense of the policy which has come under scrutiny from the Ministry of Local Government.

Darrell Bradley – Belize City Mayor:
I morally justify that because these are not taxes that I am trying to increase. These are not future taxes; these are many years of taxes that we have been trying to collect. I had stories from people in the public who told me “I can’t get my driver’s license so I went in there and I paid five years of back taxes.” These policies are performing and the moral justification is that we have to build a city that people love to live in. We have to deliver on street, we have deliver on public spaces; we have to be aggressive in reducing crime, increasing job creation and economic development and everything that we are doing in the city cost money. So what I am asking the residents and the public to do is not to pay any future taxes, or any increase taxes. I am asking you to pay the five years that you have not been paying and pay and if you pay, we will deliver on our commitment.

About the Author