The Belize City council has come under scrutiny in the past week for a lack of public consultation surrounding the renaming of well-known city streets. The main controversy had to do with the renaming of Regent Street to Dr. Dame Minita Gordon Drive, in honor of Belize’s First Governor-General. Yesterday our newsroom spoke to Mayor Bernard Wagner who stated that more consultation was needed, however, he can’t understand the public’s push back on the decision.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “I will say this that I conceded that there was no sufficient consultation done. I think that exercise started in mid 2020 led by Councilor Vaughn and a group of councilors that were tasked that really wanted to take on that initiative of renaming some streets. Unfortunately I believe the impact of COVID really came in an adverse way and so the consultation, the level or the measure of consultation was not robust, was not deep and so you have this type of push back occurring. Whenever you do not consult with people you will face some level of push back but the point is here that the Regent Street area has been historical of course, it’s a historical street but it has no real bearing on the Belizean way of life. I don’t understand why we continue to hold on to history that ties us to this colonial past. I would think that we would want to get away from this colonial past especially after attaining independence you would want to take on and have your city or your country defined by your own DNA, you own Belizean DNA and what better DNA than the first female Governor General Dame Minita Gordon that when our tourists come to our city or our country we are able o show them the hose that Dame Minita Gordon lived in on the same street that is named after her and that is where I believe there is – I fully support the renaming of the street. I feel that we need to get rid of the colonial past. We have to move on. I know change, people do not embrace change by nature we do not embrace change but we need to chart our own path. We need to chart our own Belizean path and acknowledge our Belizean icons, our Belizean heroes.”
Wagner also noted that he understands the plight of business owners who may now have to make marketing changes, and says the council is still open to consultations surrounding the issue.
Bernard Wagner, Mayor of Belize City: “I’m not against having the discussion of consultation. I know that many of the business houses will face some measure of cost but we are not hard and fast. We know there’ll be marketing costs, there may be some legal costs in respect to those businesses that operate on that street but we are not hard and fast and we don’t anticipate that immediately after all your stationery, all your domicile work that you need to do will be done the following day it takes some time it takes years to really get all of those things in place and there’s no deadline on ensuring that your stationary now has Dame Minita Gordon Street on it but it’s a process. I still call the George Price Highway western highway, that will be with you for a while so it will gradually but it’s for our children right ? The exercise is about leaving a history for our children. Get rid of the colonial past but leave our icon history there for our children.”
The name change was made to seven streets and three roundabouts in Belize City.