Hundreds of Guyanese, yesterday, descended on Regent Street outside the Georgetown Mayor and City Council to protest against the implementation of the parking meter system in the capital city.
The protest, which began at noon, was organized by the social media group Movement Against Parking Meters.
Also in demonstration mode was a smaller group of persons who protested in favour of parking meters, many of whom were employees of Smart City Solutions Inc. and staff members of the M&CC.
Those in the anti-parking meter crowd were positioned on the northern sidewalk of Regent Street while supporters of the project were on the southern sidewalk.
Those in favour of the meters began their exercise chanting “the PPP uneasy, because the city clean” insinuating that the protest against the meters was organised by members of the People’s Progressive Party Civic.
Other slogans proclaimed, “If you don’t pay you get boot” and “The rich and the powerful must pay, parking meter here to stay.”
Some of the areas of contention are that residents of Georgetown have to pay for parking, $8000 for booting, $12,000 for towing, $7000 for impounding, $7000 storage fee for every day, three months imprisonment or a fine of $100,000 for not obeying the Municipals and District Councils Act.
The cost to workers for parking and damages to vehicles through towing or impounding will be borne by motorists and not Smart City Solutions.
The atmosphere yesterday was highly charged and animated resulting in two protesters, one from each side being taken into custody by the City Constabulary.
The man and woman had a fierce exchange of words which nearly provoked a physical altercation between members of both groups.
However, one protester against the project explained that the protest action is void of political influence and was solely fuelled by persons with a genuine interest to have the project called off.
“Everybody you see out here are massive business owners, taxpayers, employers, that is who we are and that is who we are looking out for. This is not about politics; tell them to stop with that nonsense. Absolute trash!”
He argued that the M&CC should produce the feasibility study which was done that justified the implementation of parking meters in Georgetown.
When asked why the protest was organised after the project was rolled out and not after its initial announcement, the businessman said, “I think the reason why you’re hearing from us now is because we have a forum, we have numbers, we have strength in numbers. All of us have come together and we realised that this is an issue, this is a problem.
“We are city business people; do you want us to continue doing business? Then give us the opportunity to do business, create the enabling environment, this is not enabling.”
Mayor of Georgetown, Patricia Chase-Green, said that the parking meter project is one of the council’s interventions for the next generation.
Asked to comment on the issue of revenue generation, she said that a fair assessment can only be done after the first month.
“I could only be able to tell you about the revenue after we would have completed a first month, then I can tell you anything about revenue coming in.
“Georgetown is much cleaner; there is less congestion…People are able to go into the banks easily and come out. People don’t have to drive around for a whole hour looking for space.
“So, all I’m asking people; you have a right to be upset…so we must understand that we must work with it, work together.”
According to the Mayor, if persons were paying their taxes, the council may not have had the reason to consider installing parking meters to generate revenue. She said that parking meters were in the vision of the person who wrote the Laws of Guyana, particularly the Municipal and District Councils Act Cap. 28:01.
She said that the idea existed since 1967. “You’re telling me 50 years later I can’t introduce the vision of a man?”
On the issue of a slowdown in business in Georgetown since the introduction of the meters, the Mayor said that she received no such complaint. In fact, Chase-Green said that some businesses have approached the council requesting a special package.
“So I can say that I have the majority of the business people on my side.” She said that the parking contract is sitting in the Town Clerk’s office for persons to go and view. The Mayor said that it is not logical that every contract which the council signs be made public.
Town Clerk Royston King believes that it is backward thinking for persons to be against the parking meters. He said that the city is on a path of progress and development and the project is one of way going forward.
“For you to be against parking meters in a modernized world, in a global society, it is backward thinking; and I can only assume that they are against the parking meter wants Georgetown to stay in a state of confusion, indiscipline and lawlessness and as a City we have the statutory responsibility to deliver to all citizens a city that is green, clean and safe.”
According to King, the municipality expects to collect at the very least $240M for 2017. King said that the council employed a democratic process to have the project implemented. He said that all councillors were involved and given opportunities to make contributions.
One of the anti-parking meter protesters suggested that the City could have easily made more money by using a different system of paid parking. The man said that at least 150,000 vehicles pass through the city each month.
He said that each motorist could have been asked to buy a ticket for $2000 per month to park in the city. Using these figures, the man said that City Council could have made $300M directly since there is no middle man.
Another protester against the parking meter system said that her group is not necessarily against the parking meter system but rather against what is being done.
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