‘Rise & Report May Have Been To Save Face’

March 19, 2011

SDO Protest Cabinet Grounds Bermuda Mar 18th 2011-1-4Saying “the decision to rise and report progress may have been a move to save face from a potential Government embarrassment,” Dr. Katherine Michelmore said she hopes it “represents a recognition on behalf of Government that there is much wrong with this SDO and how it has been presented to the public.”

Dr. Michelmore, spokesperson for the environment for the BDA, said she welcomes the news that the debate on the SDO in the senate was discontinued yesterday to allow for “reflection”.

Following weeks of controversy and an all day demonstration, the Senate debate about the Special Development Order [SDO] which would have allowed Tucker’s Point Resort in-principle approval to build additional units was brought to a halt last night [Mar.18]

Approximately 4.5 hours into the debate last night, Senator David Burt [PLP] interrupted Senator Jeanne Atherden [UBP], and asked to “rise and report progress,” effectively ending the debate and delaying the vote.

Of the eleven Senators, only Senator Kim Wilson [PLP], and Senator Carol Ann Bassett [Independent] were left to speak. The PLP Senators were in support of the SDO, while the UBP Senators were against, meaning the SDO needed one Independent Senator to support it for it to pass.

Independent Walwyn Hughes said he would not support it, as did Senator Joan Dillas Wright, leaving Senate President Carol Ann Bassett to be the deciding vote.  The debate stopped prior to Senator Bassett speaking, and her position remains unknown.

When asked why he stopped the debate, Senator Burt said, “The considered position having liaised with the Premier, Min. Roban,Min. Minors and the Senate Government Leader was that the better view was to rise, and report progress. We listened. This way we give an option for all the parties to reflect and to review their position.”

The SDO can be brought back to the Senate for a vote, although it is unclear at this time when, and if, that might happen.

Dr. Michelmore’s full statement follows below:

As spokesperson for the environment for the BDA, I welcome the news that debate on the SDO in the senate was discontinued yesterday to allow for “reflection”.

The PLP senator David Burt claims that “we listened”, however the proof of this will be in what happens next. Will hasty amendments be made to try and appease the objectors, or will there actually be a more honest and open discussion about how we have arrived at this place?

This SDO has been controversial from its onset. Reports of plans to further expand and develop Tuckers Point were met with “no comment” back in 2010. Then suddenly Bermuda was presented with an SDO in February, detailing plans which would dramatically impact upon an environmentally sensitive area.

It must be noted that this was the first SDO to be debated in Parliament, which was a significant step forward, however there were concerns that it was “rushed” through in Parliament, being debated during the budget, and before opposing groups such as BEST and CURB could fully inform the public of their concerns.

Following the passage of the SDO in parliament, more detailed information regarding the financial status of Tuckers Point and the composition of its shareholders has been revealed. It is distressing that the House of Assembly would make its decision in the absence of such information.

The decision to “rise and report progress” may have been a move to “save face” from a potential Government embarrassment, but I hope that it represents a recognition on behalf of Government that there is much wrong with this SDO and how it has been presented to the public.

Will the Government continue to purport that it is “in the public interest” to sacrifice the environment, or will they look for viable alternative solutions? All of Bermuda needs to be engaged in this discussion over whether we seek short term gain over long term prosperity.

For full video, audio and text coverage of the 13 hour SDO demonstration, and debate see here.

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Comments (41)

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  1. Hmmmmm says:

    What does one say when confronted with such drivel but “Duhhh”.Doc, back to the merger talks if you please. The only missing from this one is “There must be a better way”. Reach. If this discussion got anymore open MIlls Creek would be the Grand Canyon.

    • Cleancut says:

      Its just the PLP trying to show some diplomacy to the public. the decision was made a long time ago, now its just theatrics, Why do you think the Premier turned up at the Senate,it was just to fool the public in believing she is optimistic.

  2. Observing In BDA says:

    How many studies have to be done and read to make a decision on a SDO??? it is a simple Yes or NO after reading the facts of all the overseas and local (expensive) consultants. Come one now it is not business as usual so stop wasting the taxpayers money by prolonging it and get on with making a decision people so that we can move on to more pressing issues.

  3. Reflect says:

    Dr. Michelmore,

    Does this mean then that should one day the BDA take control of Bermuda’s Government, Tourism will be the last of your priorities? You don’t seem to support one of our island’s most important pillars of the economy. I’m a bit skeptical of the BDA at this time. Can you please comment on your views on tourism?

    I wonder if the shoe were on the other foot and the BDA/UBP were faced with this global economic crisis. What steps would you be taking to save Bermuda’s future? Mr. Dunkley commented in his speech yesterday, that should the shoe be on the other foot, the PLP would be vehemently opposing this SDO. Is that an admission that the BDA or UBP would be seeking an SDO because they understand the importance of this for the future of Bermuda’s tourism?

    I would love to hear your comments/answers. Thank You.

    • Cleancut says:

      Yes! very interesting. I Presume in this scenario the BDA and the UBP will also be in a billion or so dollars in debt.

      • Reflect says:

        Well, with the majority of the countries in the world in the red; umm yes Cleancut. I really don’t think the UBP or the BDA have the wherewithal needed to avoid such a situation. Remember Cleancut, if the PLP was as bad as you would have us all believe, then we would probably be in the situation that Ireland and Greece find themselves in today. Fortunately we’re not. So, I ask again. If the shoe were on the other foot?

        • Joe says:

          But the show is not on the other foot. That is the whole point.

        • Cleancut says:

          No! that’s not true Reflect, in fact if you Reflect back to when the last Premier was in office millions of dollars went unaccounted for, starting as early as the Berkeley affair, then the BHC, after that it was just help yourself. I can hardly believe the UBP would have been involved in the Great train Robbery, not even Scotland Yard.

        • News Flash says:

          Bermuda is in this financial mess thanks to the PLP. And don’t forget about the PLP. If the PLP had not been in power our International Business Sector would be much stronger…and the business needs of the hotel sector would have been addressed much earlier. The PLP has been about party, party, party and BAIL-OUT.!!! Cap in hand and crying. Oh the pain!!! adopt the public schools we cannot look after them. Yes, we are so pathetic that it’s almost cool!!

      • Bottom Line says:

        Cleancut is clean out of mind.

    • Party politics... says:

      The global economic crisis is a poor excuse for PLP to hide behind. PLP got us into this crisis and there is no other way to look at it. Before PLP: HUGE surplus. After PLP: HUGE deficit.
      Yes, the economic climate has taken a turn for the worst, but this alone cannot be blamed for Bermuda’s dismal position at present. Sadly, it will be used as a crutch for crooked PLP to stand on, claiming that even the UBP/BDA wouldn’t do ‘the right things’ in these challenging times.
      Too bad PLP is here to stay. As long as we vote by skin colour, Bermuda will continue its out of control spiral down.
      DIVIDE AND RULE (even blatantly corruptly, because the two sides will be busy bickering with each other and not kicking their politicians out of office)

      can anyone give me a good reason to maintain hope??

    • Al says:

      Reflect,

      This SDO has virtually nothing to do with tourism. It is purely about
      1. Paving over that property and selling as much of it as possible at as high of a price as possible.
      2. Avoiding foreclosure because the developers borrowed too much money.

      Even if the SDO is not passed the hotel will stay open, and at worst the hotel will be placed in the ownership of its lenders if the current management defaults.

  4. Julie says:

    It’s troubling to read that this SDO, this land development is the ONLY way Bermuda is going to increase tourism revenue. It’s this sort of rhetoric that we find so prevalent in politics today: do xyz or else…

    Or else what? What actually is going to happen if this SDO doesn’t pass? Is what is there now going to be boarded up next week, anyone who stays there kicked to the curb and every employee out of a job? Seems unlikely, otherwise the solution to solve the cash flow problem would NOT be to build more. That just makes absolutely no sense whatsoever!

    It seems that any more, the job of the Government isn’t to govern, but to scare residents into submission and discredit, by any means necessary, anyone who doesn’t tow the line.

  5. Concerned Bermudian says:

    The Government is doggedly determined to pass this thing – so quite rightly they delayed it when things looked like they would turn against them. What else could they do?

    Why they are so doggedly determined is anyone’s guess. Free membership at TP? More than that? Isn’t that bribery?

    It obviously is a whole lot bigger than the ‘this land was stolen from blacks’ cos 20 of the 21 who voted for it were of colour. They should be ashamed of their black selves.

    • Preto Plato says:

      Really,

      Way to inject race into the arguement. Its an easy out when you can’t engage on the merits, throw race into it, or accuse people of corruption “Free membership at TP”…. Focus on the issues!

      • Observing In BDA says:

        Preto Plato i agree with you 100% about keeping with the issues, but those that are in power are like most worried about what THEY get out of the deal also. So UNTIL that changes we will sit here and talk about more of the same.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      A review of the owners/investors of TP & the units already built might reveal some answers as to why the PLP is so determined to pass the SDO. The rumour is that more than one or two current/former MPs have units. Often in Bermuda rumour involving polititians turns out to be fact these days especially if something is unethical but not illegal.

      Passing the SDO turns land currently comercially worthless because it is zoned woodland reserve into land worth millions an acre when it becomes zoned residential 2 under the SDO.

      Not passing the SDO could possibly bankrupt TP & be a severe monetary loss to to its owners/investors, including these MPs. A bit of investigative reporting might yield some interesting facts.

      The whole thng is a steaming stinking pile of bovine dung.

      • Rockfish#2 says:

        It is fairly common knowledge that a number of prominent Bermudians including politicians have a stake in the TP real estate deal. Until recently they actually made it known to anyone who would listen. Now they avoid the subject and get defensive/irritated when someone else raises the matter in their hearing!

        • Hmmmmm says:

          Here’s a thought: why not ask the Registrar of Companies where you can find the share register for all the companies connected to this and read the who’s who that it reveals. Maybe then you’ll stop this trial by innuendo because it reveals in what a small circle real money moves in this country. Stuart has it and if it revealed that Tucker’s Point was a PLP retirement enclave do you really think he’d be keeping that a secret? Hello ?!

          • News Flash says:

            @Hmmmmmmm….hey why don’t you read about all the pension plans in Bermuda closing down? Yup…as businesses close, so do all their pension plans.

      • LOL (original) says:

        Gated community to seperate the rich from the poor they know what they are doing. Segragation. Keeping their nice stuff away from the non elite masses that follow them after they sink their own country’s people. If true of course.

        LOL

  6. Terry says:

    Certain members of Government, present, retired, on pensions et al will reap the benfits.

    Consultants, Bankers, hidden slush funds, contracts…..forget it.

    The people have lost. In twenty or even ten years there will be nothing.

    I’m moving to the Azores. Make my pots, make my own rope, make my own boat, make my own garden…make a life.

  7. Preto Plato says:

    Flipping BDA Drivel all over again. Dr. Michelmore, did the BDA even take a position on this SDO? What is your position. You don’t say anything, just some wonderful sounding platitudes. Your MPs voted BOTH ways, what is the BDA position.

    Why is it that the BDA get away with never having a position on ANYTHING!

  8. Graeme Outerbridge says:

    The SDO at Tuckers Point is not in the Public interest any more then The John Swan building is at the entrance of Hamilton’ which also was given an SDO^^ by the PLP Government^^

  9. Mad Prophet says:

    Brothers and Sisters,

    This is not the last glimpse of this SDO.

    This is the beginning.

    The PLP Generals have not surrendered. They have only lowered the flag and ran away like a wounded animal.

    They will find a darkened room, where the two enemies will privately reconcile.

    Oh Bermuda!

    Land of sweet perfumed air

    Where the pretty blue waters caress pink sand

    My lover leads me by the hand

    Sugary lips touch in the moon-gate where we stand

    There is nothing quite like a spring time gale

    The call of the Long-tail never fails

    The buzzing of the honey bee

    Fresh blooms on the Cedar Trees

    240 acres of profound natural beauty

    Protecting you is our DUTY.!”

    By “The Mad Prophet”

  10. JimmyJ says:

    Why hasn’t anyone questioned these comments?
    Laverne Furbert:
    “She hit back at claims by Lynne Winfield, of anti-racism group CURB, who stated the SDO was a ‘slap in the face’ to the descendants of up-rooted residents of Tucker’s Town.
    “I find that very strange because in my research I found that many that lived in Tucker’s Town didn’t live in Tucker’s Point property they lived in Mid Ocean Club property.”………. Where is the gravesite?????? ON TPC property!!!!!
    So now TPC is in the clear and it is all Mid Ocean’s fault! Attempting to have a meaningful debate with L.Furbert is akin to playing a card game with a child who continually changes the rules as they go to ensure they win. Pointless.

  11. stop the BS says:

    the BDA did not even have a seat at the table. But Mr. Pitcher (BDA)was solidy for it. Clearly on issues the BDA are LOST!

  12. Kevin Comeau says:

    Hi Everyone,
    There is no conspiracy here. I am the economic advisor to BEST on the SDO and I have a copy of the share register of both Bermuda Properties Limited and Castle Harbour Limited. (You can get a copy merely by asking for one from the company’s Secretary, Chips Outerbridge at CD&P.)

    I did not see the name of any PLP Minister on the share register but it wouldn’t matter. The shares are worthless. The company’s debt is so high and its assets are worth so little in comparison to that debt, that there is no value left for any shareholders.

    Further, it wouldn’t matter if PLP Minister’s owned any fractional units or other property at TPR because the present unit holders and homeowners gain nothing by the granting of the SDO. In fact, they lose to the extent that the increase in supply of units and houses lowers the value of their homes.

    For the record, I have no reason to believe that the government’s intentions were anything but honourable when they decided to move forward on the SDO for Tucker’s Point—-they were merely trying to do what they thought best for the country, both for tourism and for the local lenders who loaned money to TPR (which includes a local pension fund). And believe me, if I had information that the government was trying to do something to line their own pockets, I would have exposed it in a shot.

    The problem was that as more information became available and as more analysis of that information was done and made public, it became clear—-certainly to me and I think many others including many in the PLP—-that the SDO was not good for the people of Bermuda. So some very courageous Senators, who had much more information than the Members of the House did, stood up and said no. In particular, Senator Dillas-Wright and Senator Hughes (and by implication, Senator Bassett) were particularly courageous and honourable, putting country before party, party before self—-which is the fundamental contract upon which the people agree to be governed. Anyone who doubted their independence or courage, now has strong evidence to the contrary.

    So this crazy democratic system actually worked. The government will now have the opportunity to take a deep breath and decide how it wants to most efficiently spend its time acting in the people’s best interests. Let’s hope they decide wisely, and let’s work with them productively wherever we can.

    Kevin Comeau

    • 32n64w says:

      “So some very courageous Senators, who had much more information than the Members of the House did, stood up and said no”

      Which begs the question … why didn’t the Government and/or Minister Roban share all of the information the PLP received with the entire House following the vetting process when the SDO was discussed at Cabinet level and thereafter put on the agenda for a vote?

      Minister Roban and numerous other PLP talking heads (including Messrs. Dill & Jones via radio) consistently and proudly described this process as one of utmost transparency (going so far as to compare and contrast it against the back room/back door dealing of the former Premier which is a clear admission of their disgust with how things were done for the last four years – but don’t expect anyone to be held accountable – party before country is the PLP motto).

      So which is it?

      Did TPR purposefully withhold key financial information from the Government?

      Did the Government in fact receive all the details but not properly comprehend TPR’s dire financial position (quite possible given our horrendous debt obligations and the PLP’s failure to properly and efficiently manage the People’s purse strings, especially over the last few years of accumulated deficits)?

      Did the PLP purposefully withhold key financial information from taxpayers (i.e. our MPs)?

      If any of the foregoing scenarios are true then someone should be held accountable for abusing the public’s trust. If the PLP are truly committed to transparency (why hasn’t PATI been rolled out again?) and rebuilding the public’s trust (the Premier’s words) let’s get to the bottom of this and make sure all of the facts are presented to the public and this sort of chicanery doesn’t happen again.

      • Hmmmmm says:

        Let me see if i understand this. Comeau tells you there’s no conspiracy and still you can’t accept it? Wow. That is deep. Can you point me to the rule in the rulebook that says a private company has to give its financial information to anyone other than its officers and shareholders? When you find it let me know because there’s lots of stuff i’d like to know around here. By the way, you can rest assured, the new openness and transparency that you salute is a recipe for gridlock. “Resetting the dial” means all form and no substance. Nothing, and i mean nothing will get done but you’ll know all about it. Hooray! What a joke.

        • Watching! says:

          Quite frankly, it does not matter what or who is involved. What is important, is the reason behind the SDO. Plain and simple, it will bail out the owners who took a risk (and I applaud them for that) on a business model that simply failed.

          To suggest that the granting of this SDO will save Tourism is a bunch of crap. If Rosewood requires this to be a condition before they take on the Management of the property, then I say the hell with them as they clearly are all about the almighty dollar.

          I do appreciate that having a Company such as Rosewood can be beneficial, however, I have a hard time believing that they are the savor of our Tourism industry.

          Tucker ‘s Point is an absolutely beautiful property and I am certain if they go into receivership another “Brand” will purchase the resort and make it work.

          Well done to the people at Mid Ocean for protecting a piece of this land!!

        • My two cents says:

          Being that Tuckers Point Hotel just opened its doors in 2009 and the hotel industry didn’t have five star hotel at this time, how can this one hotel, open less than 2 years seal Bermuda’s tourism fate? If something fails from its beginning, how will its ending make much of difference to the industry as a whole? Is Bermuda’s market really dependent on a five star resort open less than two years? Southampton Princess didn’t get their SDO to build villas, did it fail? I think this is a lesson to all at just how incredibly expensive it is to have five star accommodations in Bermuda and probably why we don’t have any at this time besides Tuckers. If Bermuda’s tourism is dependent on five star resorts, WHY is Tuckers the first in decades? Again, if this SDO goes thru and Rosewood takes over, what guarantee is their that no staff will be let go? Whenever their is takeover in any kind business, inevitably their is reshuffling, hiring, firing within the staff.

        • 32n64w says:

          Please re-read the selected quote and my comments before you make erroneous conclusions.

      • Kevin Comeau says:

        The problem was that under the old system where the Minister was the person authorized to decide whether the SDO should be granted, he was not required to make financial and other information public. And often he (and many of his predecessors) didn’t. So there was a precedent under the old system for withholding information.

        The Minister relied on that precedent when he refused to disclose TPR’s financial records and other relevant information requested by BEST and Members of the Legislature, stating that such information was not the Minister’s to provide. The Minister, through his spokesperson, argued that the release of such information would be improper in the same way that public disclosure of an individual’s medical records would be improper.

        Unfortunately, the Minister received flawed legal advice. Both the common law and common sense dictate that the person who is authorized to decide whether the SDO should be granted must receive all relevant information to make that decision. Since the Legislature was now the decision-maker, all relevant information, which would definitely include the audited financial statements of a financially troubled applicant, needed to be given to them. But it wasn’t.

        The Minister, as the government official that held the relevant information, was required by his fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the country, to make sure the new decision-maker received all relevant information. He failed to do this. Did he get it wrong? Yes. Is he a bad guy? No.

        This is a new process and, unless you are a lawyer, it is easy to blindly rely on the old precedent to determine what things you can, can’t, should or should not do. I believe someone in the Attorney General’s Office needs to check the law on this to confirm what I’m saying is correct, and then give the Minister and all other participants instruction on what they can, can’t, should and shouldn’t do under the new system.

        I believe that advice will also say that the public does not have the right per se to the information, but the Minister can, if he so chooses, provide that information to the public or simply inform the applicant (in this case TPR) that it either releases the information to the public or the application process will not proceed. But what the Minister can’t do is either (i) withhold the information from the new decider—-the Legislature or (ii) tell the public that all relevant information has been released to the public when it has not.

        There is a learning curve here and all of us are on it. Let’s not crucify the Minister just because he got part of the process wrong while he was trying to balance the interests of TPR with those of the wider community. We all have bigger problems to deal with.

        Kevin Comeau

        • Cleancut says:

          Yes, future Generations will have do deal with environmental issues themselves to save their land, hopefully people in this generation will have made a valuable contribution because lets face it, “We have bigger problems to deal with”

          • My two cents says:

            the government doesn’t agree with you that “we have bigger problems to deal with” or this SDO would not be considered a national emergency, violence and gangs would be.

        • 32n64w says:

          I see your point Kevin, however, one would have thought if the Government is going to hang their hat on this SDO as a shining example of transparency they would have done the necessary research first.

          Nonetheless let’s hope they (and all of the relevant talking heads) admit (for a change) that they didn’t get it right and return with a more open, inclusive and positive approach.

          • Fed Up Bermudian says:

            Transparency has little to do with research, as a matter of fact if the process hadn’t been transparent, one could never make the conclusion that the research was flawed or incomplete. Not a fan of the SDO- don’t misinterpret- but the transparency of the process is laudable, certainly in comparison with the previous way of doing business.

  13. wondering says:

    wish some of you people commenting would protest violence in this country instead….who cares if the environment is going to hell in a hand-basket if there is no one here to appreciate it….go figure

    • Kevin Comeau says:

      Many of the people protesting the SDO are also working on the gang violence problem. I recently submitted a proposal to the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Violent Crime, which advocates anti-gang violence legislation as well as other proposals to reduce the number of at-risk children who are being targeted by gangs. Others that protested the SDO are also very active in this area, and they also donate their time generously to great organizations like YouthNet and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The key, of course, is to get involved and help wherever you can because, as you imply, there are lots of more pressing issues in this country than an SDO bailout.