Taxi operators in Orange Walk Town are upset with the Town Hall and accuse the Mayor, Kevin Bernard of foul play. Their dispute focuses on the belief that a new taxi operator, a businessman who has reportedly bought new vehicles, will force taxi drivers to purchase them. The situation has caught the attention and ire of what we understand are most, if not all, taxi drivers in Orange Walk Town. Mayor Kevin Bernard says it is all a very big misunderstanding. Dalila Ical reports.
Taxi drivers, reportedly representing all unions in Orange Walk, gathered on Tuesday morning in an impromptu meeting at Trial Farm Village to address their discontent with the Orange Walk Town Council, particularly Mayor Kevin Bernard.
The taxi men are opposed to what they understand is the introduction of a new operator who has secured new vehicles that will be sold to existing taxi drivers. The men not only object to this notion. They are completely against the introduction of a new taxi operator who they say will jeopardize their livelihoods.
Voice of Taxi Driver: “ I went to the Town Hall and he gave me some explanations but I told him to come and tell you personally but he didn’t want to come because he doesn’t have time. We are here now protesting because we are not in agreement with those taxis. We are not in agreement to paint our taxis yellow because we don’t even have the money for that. He is washing his hands saying he has nothing to do with this. I don’t know if that is true or not. And what is their idea? To bring a 2018 taxi, new, give it for fifty dollars daily to taxi drivers who can hardly make forty dollars a day For five years that comes up to about 91 thousand dollars, thereabout. Who will pay that? Who has that money? “
Taxi Driver Two: “We have our family to tend to. We are making an honest living, with trouble we try to find $40 a day to pay rent for a vehicle. We have to find $40 gas to work after that then you will make a dollar now you will go to rent car from someone for $50 for five years? Come on now behave yourselves. This can’t work at all.”
Taxi Driver Three: “If the may doesn’t want to give a Belizean one taxi plate how come he will give lots of plates to one person ? That is very unfair.”
Taxi Driver Four: “Do you think the bank gives you only five years to pay fifty thousand dollars? Ask yourselves. Now, in five years, do you really think we will be able to pay 91, 000 dollars?……incredible.”
Taxi Driver Five: “If the mayor does not want to have a meeting with us again the cooperation with all of us taxi drivers that are here will find out how much a lawyer will cost and he will face a lawyer and the lawyer will fight a case for us.”
But Mayor Kevin Bernard says it’s all a big misunderstanding.
Kevin Bernard, Orange Walk Mayor: “One of the group leader’s Mr.Keme had sent me a very rude text a few nights ago insisting that he wants to meet with me. I did meet with im as I said to explain to him the council’s position when it comes to taxis and the industry. One there is no new plates that will be issued to any new entrants because we have reached the limit of taxis within this town. Two, there will be no new taxi associations. Now there has been a saying that the council is forcing people to buy these new cars or to paint their cars yellow that is totally untrue. What we are saying is that we welcome the business venture where this business man and this company is offering any existing taxi operator the option to upgrade their vehicle, it’s like if John Doe taxi man has an old Mazda car and so chooses that he wants to get into this venture and buy this new vehicle on that lease to own basis- what we are saying is that at a council level we will make sure that that old taxi is rendered into the council and that old taxi will be transferred into a private plate so there will be no new entrants in terms of the taxi, I have no business interest in any of these arrangements and at the end of the day whatever decision a taxi man dealing with this company that is their decision.”
We asked the mayor to reveal the name of the businessman in question but said he was not at liberty to do so. He did say that anyone interested in reaching him can contact his agent Jose Urbina.
As we heard, part of the taxi drivers’ gripe is that Mayor Kevin Bernard has reportedly refused to meet with them. The Mayor told us that he has no problem in doing so but he has not received any written request for such a meeting, except for that one text message that he received from a taxi driver, who he has spoken with since Tuesday.