The amended by-laws for metered parking in the City were approved yesterday afternoon by a majority vote of 13 to 2, despite pleas from three councillors to halt the process.
This would mean that less than half of the 30-person council voted in favour of the by-laws.
At a special meeting yesterday in the Chambers of the Mayor and City Council (MCC), the discussion, review and acceptance of the amended by-laws for metered parking in the City was the only topic on the agenda.
Starting off the proceedings, Mayor Patricia Chase-Green noted that the meeting was only to discuss and vote on the amended by-laws and that no other topic should be raised, including the highly controversial contract.
PPP/C Councillors, Bishram Kuppen and Khame Sharma, and Team Legacy member Malcom Ferreira were the only ones to raise any objections during their three minutes of allotted speaking time, while APNU Councillor Heston Bostwick used the time to voice his support for the parking meter project.
The voting concluded with 13 councillors voting in favour of passing the amended by-laws, while two others voted against – Kuppen and Sharma. Councillors Ferreira and Carlyle Goring abstained, while nine other councillors, including Alliance For Change Councillors Sherod Duncan and Lionel Jaikarran were absent.
Kuppen argued that since the by-laws are directly related to the contract then it must be brought into the discussion. The councillor was allowed by Mayor Chase-Green to continue his contribution unhindered, and said that he is of the opinion that the MCC is still trying to validate a contract that is illegal and it “shouldn’t be allowed to go on.”
“The fact of the matter is that we are trying to approve by-laws for a contract that is yet to be proved to have come about in a legal manner. So, there were indications and statements made at the same council that this was approved by the previous council, but there is no evidence being produced so far to prove that and the fact of the matter is, due diligence was being conducted after the fact. When in fact it should’ve been done before the contract,” Kuppen noted, while highlighting that he was only in attendance at the meeting to show that the action of the council in pursuing the passing of the by-laws and the parking meter project is ill-advised, since there were no consultations with the Ministry of Finance, Cabinet or the Ministry of Legal affairs.
As a result, Kuppen said he could not see how any forward movement can be made. “It was supposed to have been tendered, and yet this council is forcing its way ahead to prove and validate a contract that did not come about in a legal manner,” he said.
Kuppen highlighted one of the amended clauses in the contract which gives the operator 40 years to conduct their business on the city spaces.
“This contract, even though it’s amended to 20 [years], it’s 40 years because the contractor has the right to renew for another 20, so each one of you will be on record as putting this on the necks of the people of Georgetown for 40 years. This is not a fair contract,” Kuppen emphasized.
Team Legacy Representative, Ferreira, pleaded with his fellow councillors to not move forward until the matters in court were settled. There is a challenge to the parking meters contract in court.
“As I have said before, and I maintain now, we need to exercise caution and allow the court to rule to offer legal guidance, as well as endorsement of whatever decision we would then decide is best to move forward with. We should not rush into any decisions, and more so, decisions that have proven to be unpopular,” Ferreira said, while emphasizing that if the City Council “truly cared about the City and Citizens” they would not rush into “rubber stamping any new by-laws” without thinking it through properly.
“My fellow Councillors, I beseech thee, I implore, plead with, appeal to, I obsecrate you, I beg you, it’s my humble view that we should let the court make its ruling before we decide to do anything else,” Councillor Ferreira appealed to the councilors present.
Conversely, Bostwick said that it was in the best interest of the Council to ensure that they move ahead with the project and not risk being sued by the contractor. He said that it was also time that they show the Government that they are an autonomous body and can operate so in all context and “without contradiction of any section, chapter or verse of the Laws of Guyana.”
“I have no objections in seeing parking meters being restored to the City of Georgetown,” he added.
After the vote passed, Chase-Green announced that the amended by-laws will be placed in public spaces for viewing for 14 days before being sent to the Ministry of Communities to be gazetted, and any persons desirous of giving any feedback can do so by sending it to the Town Clerk’s office.
The previous by-laws had been thrown out by the court for not complying with legal requirements.
After protests and a widespread boycott of the parking meters, the Ministry of Communities had put the project on hold to permit the city to undertake more consultations. This was done by a group headed by Ferreira and a report submitted with various options.
The city and APNU+AFC have been flayed for pursuing the parking meters deal.