How do you define reform?
In the 2018 Throne Speech, the Goverment of Bermuda indicated that "Consultation with both corporations began in May 2018 and has now been completed."
This statement was a complete surprise to the City as no meeting with the Corporation during this time could have been interpreted as consultation and at no point was dissolution of the Municipalities Act 1923 or conversion to a quango ever suggested. Two public meetings, with little to no advance notice were announced for business owners and residents of Hamilton to which the City was not extended an invite and at which perhaps no more than 15-20 people attended.
The Government hurriedly rolled out what they call 'public consultation' in the form of a 10-day window where the public could leave their comments about the municipalities becoming quangos or having their assets, staff and services be totally absorbed by and within Government.
This consultation closed on February 22nd. The only support for Government came in the form of 4 thumbs up for the quango option and 4 thumbs up for dissolution of the municipalities. 165 combined comments were in support of the Municipalities as well as 256 thumbs up. That's a resounding result! But would Government listen? On March 1st, Minister Roban tabled a Bill to turn Hamilton and St. George into quangos. Clearly the voice of the people of Bermuda doesn't seem to count! They were not heard and the results have not been acknowledged by the Government.
Read the Minister's Statement dated March 1st
Read the Municipalities Reform Bill as tabled by the Minister on March 1st
The Government will hold two public Town Hall meetings next week. In St. George on Tuesday, March 5th at 6:30pm at East End Primary and in Hamilton on Thursday, March 7th at 5:30pm at the Heritage Worship Centre at the corner of Dundonald and Union Streets. The Bermuda community is encouraged to attend this meeting and demand to have their questions answered about what a quango will mean for City residents, rate-payers, stakeholders, those who use and visit the City, staff as well as the Mayor and Council members.
The City of Hamilton and the Town of St. George both enjoy rich histories of culture, trade and commerce. Their Corporations have governed their respective municipalities for hundreds of years. They must operate within balanced budgets and their capital projects are completed on time and within budget. There is more than one Government project around Bermuda that cannot boast that kind of fiscal responsibility - Berkeley Institute, the Bermuda Hospital, the TCD Building and emissions testing plant, the Dame Lois Browne Building, to name just a few.
"Why is the Government so desperate to interfere with two corporations that work? The answer is obvious: control, pure and simple. This government is totally obsessed with it."Read the full opinion piece about the supposed reform by Shadow Minister for the Municipalities, Sylvan Richards.
The current Minister in charge of the Municipalities, the Hon. Water Roban, JP, MP, is the same Minister that in 2010 launched the first takeover attempt of the City of Hamilton. The threat to repeal the Municipalities Act 1923 was launched but the City prevailed, with supporters signing petitions and marching in the streets to 'Save The City'. With that success came consequences - the business vote was stripped from the business and property owners and rate-payers in the City as was the wharfage collected from the Hamilton docks. Into the coffers of the Government it went. The only ones left with a vote were the residents. How's that for democracy?!
A Few Points to Know about the Corporation of Hamilton
- The Corporation has run the City of Hamilton since its inception in 1794 - 225 years.
- The Corporation works within a balanced budget of aproximately $21million.
- The Corporation delivers capital projects on time and within budget.
- The Corporation board members are not paid an annual salary but are paid a nominal fee for Board and Committee meetings that they attend, of which there is one of each a month. This payment was only introduced in 2012.
- All meetings of the Board and Committees are open to the public with all Minutes posted to the City website.
- The Government already has oversight of the Corporation as all resolutions passed by the Board must be approved by the Minister, as must the Corporation budget.
- The Corporation collects trash on a daily basis and has recently assisted Government with crews and trucks when some of their vehicles were out of service.
- The Corporation is committed to continuing the upgrade of City infrastructure and introducing more capital projects for the benefit of the community.
- The Corporation utilizes smart technology (SCOOT) for a safer, more efficient traffic flow throughout Hamilton.
- The Corporation has robust plans to enhance the sewerage system through more technology-driven treatment of City sewage before it is released at the outfall.
- The Corporation is committed to the continuation of public art in Hamilton.
- The Corporation is 100% Bermudian run.
One Point You need to Know about Government
The Government's vision for the City includes a multi-faceted waterfront, increased City living, defined districts for entertainment, finance and restaurants and less empty office space. By definition, a quango is 'a semipublic administrative body outside the civil service but receiving financial support from the government, which makes senior appointments to it.'
So will the City be funded by the Government?? With what money?? Will the rate-payers be disenfranchised with their voting rights stripped away?
Mayor Charles Gosling talks to Bernews about the Proposed Reform
See the Corporation of St. George "Last" Town Hall Meeting - February 18th
If you have any questions about what a takeover could mean for the City or if you simply want to leave a message of support, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The City is grateful for all those who have stood by us, we will continue the fight in the best interest of all Bermudians and those who call Bermuda home.