PRESIDENT of St. Lucia Craft and Dry Goods Association, Peter ‘RasIpa’ Isaac, is beaming with delight over what he says is a major improvement in the relationship between his association and the Castries Constituency Council (CCC).
“You could say we have buried the hatchet,” Isaac said in an interview with this reporter on Thursday, expressing satisfaction with two recent meetings his association and Mayor Peterson Francis had — one last month and the other this week.
Isaac described the meetings as turning points in the rocky relationship the two sides have shared for quite some time. However, Castries Mayor Peterson Francis said he was never in a fight with vendors.
“My first motive coming in as Mayor was to work with the vendors. We are working together to get things done. We have come to agreement on a number of issues,” Francis said.
Isaac’s appreciation at the turn the relationship between the two sides has taken is understandable, as they had been at loggerheads with each other for months. There were times when the disputes or disagreements between the two appeared to be personal.
Less than a week before 2016 ended, the CCC Board went on record as saying that it hoped its relationship with the Association would improve this year.
The parties constantly exchanged words with each other last year over several issues, including the Council’s decision not to respond to a letter from the Association. The rocky relationship did spill over into this year despite talk from the Council of its desire for a fresh start.
In late December last, the then Town Clerk, Vaughan Louis-Fernand, wrote to the Association stating that, “While we recognize the concerns of your members, you would appreciate that this time of the year may not be in our mutual interest for open and frank discussion. I would, therefore, recommend a more conducive time, like early January 2017, for a meeting which we can confirm by telephone.”
Another issue the Association wanted the Council to deal with last year concerned the half million dollars its members owe the Council. At one point, there was talk of an amnesty. Other issues included improvements to the vendors’ arcade, and paying to use the washrooms on the premises when vendors are already paying rent for the spot they occupy.
Louis-Fernand did not stay in the post of Town Clerk to see the new page in the relationship between the Council and the Association.
Meanwhile, Francis believes that for the Council to develop the vendors’ market and improve the aesthetics of the city, there must be a thawing of the coldness between the two sides and admitted that the relationship had to be different. Isaac is rapidly warming to Francis.
“He (Francis) has really come down to a level. He has made more than a 360-degree turn. The level of cooperation between us is phenomenal,” Isaac said.
Isaac spoke in glowing terms of how Francis kept his promise to do what he said he would to improve the working conditions of vendors. An example of that is the Council’s decision not to use the heavy hand in collecting the $500,000 in arrears vendors owed. In fact, Francis stated yesterday that this was a non-issue.
According to Isaac, Francis is cool with vendors paying the arrears at their own pace as long as they are up-to-date with current rent payments.
“The Mayor is making no demands on vendors for the arrears owed to the Council,” Isaac said.
Another example of Francis’ generosity to vendors and, in particular, their president is his decision to agree with vendors that since they are already renting from the Council the spots they occupy, they should not pay to use the restrooms on the premises.
According to Isaac, Francis even agreed that vendors should have some form of identification to ascertain them as bona fide vendors qualified to use the restrooms and their customers as well as long as they escort their customers to the facility.
Francis also dealt with several complaints the Association had, prompting Isaac to say that these days vendors are happy with the relationship that exists between them and the Council, unlike in the past.
So affable is the relationship between Francis and Isaac today that a matter that once had them snarling at each other – the matter of an alleged theft of electricity, in which the former took the latter to court — is no longer an obstacle to their friendship. As Isaac explained: “The court matter is now being handled in a different forum.”
Francis said yesterday he will work with Isaac to make things happen for the good of everyone and to make Castries the finest city in the region.