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MoBay mayor moves to organise street vending

BY VERNON DAVIDSON
Executive editor – publications
davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 19, 2017

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Mayor Homer Davis says he's determined to bring order to street vending in Montego Bay, starting on June 5. However, he intends to apply humaneness to the task, instead of the unfeeling strategy used in the past to deal with the problem.In fact, Mayor Davis told this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange in the second city that he has reached a “comfortable” agreement with the vendors after two meetings with them.

“I regard those vendors as citizens who are themselves eking out a living for themselves and their families,” Mayor Davis said, adding that the vendors have children in high school and at university, “so I'm not prepared to push them to the edge. I'm not prepared to push them out of the city of Montego Bay. What we intend to do is to see how best we can work with them”.

The mayor was among a panel of officials from the tourist resort city, including Chamber of Commerce President T'shura Gibbs, Jampro Regional Manager Conrad Robinson, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Marlon Nesbeth, Montego Bay Community College Principal Dr Maureen Nelson, and fashion designer Pablo Palair.

“We will be making some streets free of vending,” Mayor Davis said. “Some streets will allow vending only from 5:00 pm to 1:00 am, and that is a time that they have agreed on.”

The time slot, he explained was informed by the vendors' own admission that those hours proved more profitable for them.

“They will tell you that their best time in business is when the workers get off from work at 4:00/5:00 pm,” the mayor said.

“You have people who work at hotels who would never go into a store because they go to the vendor and leave a $1,500 this week as pay down on a Clarks, next week him come him drop another $1,500, the following week him [finish] pay fi him Clarks and him gone, him don't get [that] facility at the store,” Davis said.

The final list of streets to be affected, he said, would be shared with SSP Nesbeth in a meeting that should be held by today. However, he stated on Monday that when the new measures become effective, St James Street will be among those where vending will not be allowed at any time.

Fustic Road, Market Circle, and Bevin Avenue will be added to the list, but that will be done, he said, as soon as work begins at Charles Gordon Market on additional stalls to accommodate 300 more vendors in keeping with a commitment he had given.

“That's how we intend to maintain it, because I want when people come to shop they can park anywhere down there, go into the market, get their goods and come back out,” the mayor said. “What obtains there now is anarchic, and can't continue.”

Davis admitted that he expected some amount of resistance, however, he said “if I can get 70 per cent difference from what now happens, then I'll be happy”.

Street vending has been a nagging problem in Montego Bay for a long time and, just as happens in Kingston, attempts to get vendors off the streets with the use of force, have failed.

Davis, who has been representing the Cambridge Division since 2008, also said he told the vendors that the municipal corporation needs to have clear access to the city's streets between 1:00 am and 7:00 am for cleaning.

“We want to make sure that when citizens come in they can feel proud that they are entering a clean city. That is a position that I will not resile from, but I won't do it in a way to create disruption, I prefer to have dialogue,” he said.

Under the new regime, street vendors will be registered and provided with an ID bearing their photograph, the name of the street on which they will be allowed to sell and the hours allotted to them.

According to the mayor, any vendor found in breach of those rules will have their registration withdrawn as they would, he said, have betrayed the municipal corporation's trust.

“If that's a collision course, then it's one that I'm prepared for. I'm not afraid of that,“ he said.

Asked if he had the political will to stand up to vendors who may resist, especially in an election year, Mayor Davis said: “I put country over vote, and I'm sure that if people see the results of what you're seeking to achieve, then the votes will come. People want law and order, they want space. The public space is important.”

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