The Vendors Want To Know, Who Did the Math?

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Vendors come hard at Chairman Pinstripe – Vendors take offense against ‘Gamblers’ claim

Rev. Esther Dawkins-Thompson President Straw Business Persons Society

Dear Editors:

It is imperative that I respond to the remarks made in the article “Some Vendors Spending $100 A Day On Numbers” found in The Nassau Guardian (PageA2) dated Friday, November 16, 2012. I would like to begin by stating that the remarks made by Mr. Ron Pinder, the Chairman of the Straw Market Authority, is not only ridiculous, but without a doubt fictitious. I want to address a few points mentioned by the Chairman. See the following:

1. When you are going to take the Straw Vendors to the court of public opinion, you must be able to prove allegations being made beyond a shadow of a doubt. In law, he who asserts must first prove. The vendors would like the Chairman to prove or show evidence of the persons he claims that he knows, for a fact, are buying numbers on a daily bases. We want this information produced to the media where such allegations have been made.

Many Straw Vendors are furious that such allegations are being made, some of whom have never bought numbers in their lives. The remarks produced a generalization which is unfair and, in our opinion, dirty and vindictive. This is an attack on the reputation of many and we will not stand by idly and allow it to happen. No way under the sun! Mr. Chairman needs to provide proof or be silent.

2. It is obvious the Chairman is trying to remove any sympathy that may be felt by the current administration. The remark that vendors are operating shops in brick and mortar paying $500 per month is here again being used to make a general statement. This is not applicable to the vendors at large and is being magnified to bring about the Chairman’s point. A lot of the persons who own shops across the street are non-vendors.

3. The article states that the arrears last week was $329,000 and after the close down of 54 stalls the arrears was decreased to $274,000. He said the amount ranged from $900 – $1,600. Why did execution of this exercise only dealt with 54 stalls out of 500 stalls? It means that everybody owes less. If the 54 vendors did not pay a dime from the inception of the opening of the new Straw Market, the amount due would only be $86,940 (46 weeks X $35 X 54 stalls). This calculation is based on all 54 persons owing $1,610 which we know is not the case because the Chairman said between $900 – $1,600 was the range of the vendors affected last week.

We would like Mr. Chairman to provide the media with the accurate amount actually paid by the vendors. From inception, the Authority has reason to collect $805,000 (46 weeks X $35 X 500 stalls). When the correct arrears are subtracted, what did the Authority really collect?

4. We are appealing to the Minister responsible for the Straw Market Authority for a more transparent system where vendors are not being double billed. It is no wonder; we have such arrears because when vendors try to resolve certain matters, they have no redress. Some vendors are being asked to produce receipts from inception of which some vendors are not able to find. We have a lot of cases brewing at this moment of vendors who have been double billed for some weeks. This is one of the reasons we believe that the accuracy of the Authority’s accounting system is questionable.

5. The real question is what are they spending this money on? Where is it going? It can’t be for the running of the Bay Street Straw Market. At certain times during the day, you can’t find tissue, hand soap, or hand towel in the restrooms. In addition, the bathrooms are not cleaned on a regular basis. We have light bulbs that have been blown for quite a while. These are the matters that need to be addressed.

These are the issues we should be discussing. We are not just paying rent to support the administration’s highfalutin lifestyle and salaries. I guess the Chairman wants to paint a picture that he is working for his money. We will let the truth out!! The Straw Market Authority has recently (since July 2012 when they came in office) built about 20 benches plus costing $500 per bench to build. This information was provided by a contractor. Moreover, they just recently purchased another new vehicle for the Chairman to ride around in and important matters are being left undone. It should be noted that the Authority already had a vehicle prior to the new purchase.

The new Market had a beautiful gazebo which was suppose to be used for tourist entertainment, but the current Authority’s administration removed it for no apparent reason. We believe a large amount of monies were spent to remove the gazebo. In our opinion, this action was not necessary.

It seems like their priorities are misplaced. We believe they are spending money like a drunken sailor. The Chairman now wants to install ceiling fans. Why would someone, soundly, purchase a vehicle and build benches before putting in fans for the shopping comfort of tourists and the work environment of vendors. It is obvious that this group needs guidance. The Chairman needs to know that the vendors have intelligence on him also. In addition, Mr. Chairman is conducting himself as if he is untouchable.

In conclusion, I want the Chairman of the Straw Market Authority and his administrative team to know that the vendors are sick and tired of their ill treatment being given by him and his team. It is not going to be tolerated. The mandate of this Government is “Bahamians First” but it looks like the Straw Market Authority is first.

I repeat, it is important for vendors to pay what is due to the Authority for the rental, but they would, also, like the Authority to do their part and treat the vendors with respect. There is a great sense of disappointment in this Board among the vendors.

We are calling on the Minister responsible for the Straw Market Authority to bring his Board in line and give them guidance on how to manage the finances for the overall benefit of the industry and the vendors who are affected.

Rev. Esther Dawkins-Thompson
President
Straw Business Persons Society