Dissenting councillors have been granted more time to scrutinise the proposed new by-laws for the controversial parking meter project following sharp clashes at Monday’s statutory meeting at City Hall.
The amended Parking Meter By-laws were laid before the City Council on Monday, and the intention by the administration was to have it passed immediately but several councillors banded together and argued for more time and this was granted in the end.
Stabroek News learnt that the document was only delivered to councillors last Saturday, at approximately 8pm.
After listening to arguments from councillors for the deferral of discussion and possible passage of the amendments, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green ruled that Council will engage in discussions on April 4th, at a Special Statutory Meeting.
Prior to this decision, Team Legacy’s and Albouystown/ Charles-town Constituency Councillor, Malcolm Ferreira took the floor and said that he was not in support of engaging in discussion for the passage of the by-laws.
He pointed out that the document contained 76 pages and he believed that councillors needed to be more acquainted with the changes and seek possible clarification from someone in the legal profession.
“Examining the draft by-laws is 76 pages…it is only right that we are given enough time, and in many cases given time to get legal advice and protect the city from a recurrence of what happened before,” he said, before adding that it is the duty of a Councillor to ensure that the “city and its citizens are protected.”
Ferreira added that he would like to compare the amendments to the original by-laws as he is not aware of the changes which have been made.
PPP/C Councillor Bisram Kuppen also echoed the sentiments of Ferreira. Kuppen said that he believed if time was given the councillors would be in a better position to represent their constituents. “At this time, I cannot see myself voting or supporting this amendment,” he announced.
APNU+AFC Councillor Welton Clarke also argued for a deferral on discussions. He stated that the Council’s record and credibility is tarnished, and moving forward they should consider revamping the image of the Council. “If we are going to have discussions we must have some sort of agreement among us on what we are doing. We must be able to show that we are not ineffective and interfering with the tranquility and functions of all citizens,” he said, as he cautioned the Council of the protests that are likely to return with any rash decision.
However, incoming Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Renegotiating Committee, Akeem Peter argued that his committee has provided a document which compares the changes in the by-laws. He stated that he sees no issue with the councillors throwing their support behind amendments of the by-laws.
Peter said that the request for time by councillors seemingly demonstrates that some councillors are trying to discredit the work done by the committee. He noted that making changes to the by-laws was one of the tasks he and his committee had been given in relation to the contract with Smart City Solutions.
The Renegotiating Committee chairman pointed out that while the city’s lawyers drew up the legal changes, they also received advice from an independent attorney who sat on the committee.
“Another attorney who sat on the committee advised that the prices must be reflected in the by-laws, so what we did was interchange the prices and the format for charging for time,” Peter announced.
At the conclusion of his address, Peter, who seemed baffled at councillors’ request for further time to examine the amendments, opined that the councillors had ulterior motives. But Ferreira was quick to rebut the claim.
Senior APNU+AFC councillor Oscar Clarke however, rapped Ferreira for saying that he “does not know what is inside this document [the by-laws],” since he was the chairman of the first committee that was set up by the Council to determine what were the issues affecting citizens.
“We have all that has been changed in the original by-laws in this document [the new by-laws], I don’t how the councillor can say he did not know what is in this document,” Clarke said.
He went on to state that “this Council has the right to implement parking meters because we have the laws to do so, and we will do it.”
“The delay to implement the metered parking is robbing the Council of an opportunity of what it can do to improve aesthetics of the city,” Clarke added.
The contract was suspended by central government after months of a boycott of the parking meters by commuters, and protests outside of City Hall organised by the Movement Against Parking Meters. As a result of the suspension, Council took decisions to engage stakeholders and renegotiate the contract.
The first set of by-laws had also been successfully challenged in court on the grounds that the city had not complied with procedural requirements.
Changes in the by-laws include that persons are no longer required to pay for parking spaces, but for parking time. The new fee arrangement states that metered parking within the city will be VAT inclusive at a cost of $150 per hour or $800 for eight hours.
A tiered immobilisation plan has also been introduced as part of the by-laws, with the new proposed fines starting at $2,000 plus VAT for the first three months. The fines for four to six months, and seven to nine months immobilisation will cost $4,000, and $6,000, respectively, and $8,000 thereafter. The previous by-laws had pegged immobilisation fees at $8,000, regardless of the time frame.