‘Continue These Corporations As Quangos’

March 1, 2019 | 34 Comments

[Updated with PDF] Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban said he will table a Bill to “start the process of much needed reform of Bermuda’s municipalities” which “proposes to repeal of elections in the Corporations of Hamilton and St. George, and continue these corporations as quangos.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [March 1], the Minister said, “We must ask the question of whether the municipalities are adequately prepared to fully achieve any of the previously stated goals. It is the Government’s position that neither Corporation has the financial resources or expertise to meet the stated objectives

“As we have stated previously, the two levels of Government [national and municipal] can no longer operate in economic or decision-making silos, particularly in an island of 22 square miles with 61,000 residents; and the case for changing the status quo has become stronger in recent years. Ongoing reform is often evolutionary, and, at times, revolutionary.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, as the Order Paper indicates, I will today table a Bill in this Honourable House to start the process of much needed reform of Bermuda’s municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, this Bill proposes to repeal of elections in the Corporations of Hamilton and St. George, and continue these corporations as QUANGOs.

Mr. Speaker, during the debate in 2018 Government deferred the municipal elections while making a commitment that we would determine the most appropriate method to strengthen and modernize municipal governance for the benefit of Bermuda. This commitment was repeated in the 2018 Speech from the Throne. A repeal of the elections for this year would also realise a savings of approximately $79,000.

Mr. Speaker, as an example, the UK Local Government Act 2000 which states that every local authority in the UK was created to achieve one or more of the following;

  • The promotion or improvement to the economic well-being of their area,
  • The promotion or improvement of the social well-being of their area, and
  • The promotion or improvement of the environmental well-being of the area.

Mr. Speaker, we must ask the question of whether the municipalities are adequately prepared to fully achieve any of the previously stated goals. It is the government’s position that neither Corporation has the financial resources or expertise to meet the stated objectives

Mr. Speaker, the Government has published its vision for the Corporations and I must remind Honourable Members at this juncture:

For the Town of St. George, it is envisioned that there will be a mega-yacht port and marina with enhanced infrastructure, amenities and activities. In order to achieve this vision, the following needs must be met:

  1. A sustainable management plan for the world heritage site;
  2. A sustainable and non-seasonal industry;
  3. Infrastructure and amenities to address the needs of the community in addition to the businesses, particularly the St. Regis development
  4. General infrastructure upgrades

For the City of Hamilton, it is envisioned a “smart city” infrastructure with a thriving residential centre with an entertainment hub with distinct districts to touch all aspects of city living including a tourism interface. In order to achieve this vision, the following needs must be met:

  1. The development of a multi-faceted waterfront;
  2. Increased city living
  3. Increased use of vacant office space
  4. Effective traffic management using “smart city” technology
  5. Encouraging the development of ‘districts”, e.g. financial, entertainment, restaurant, etc.

Mr Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to address some of the concerns that have been raised publicly:

  1. There have been concerns that the rate payers within the city limits will no longer have input into the selection of the Mayor and the 8 Councillors. While elections will be repealed, persons who reside, do business or work in each municipal area will have the opportunity to participate in the selection process.
  2. The Government has no intention at this time to [a] dismantle the existing operating structure of each municipality or [b] do away with the positions of Mayor or Councillors. The Government intends to repeal the vote and appoint persons with the expertise and enthusiasm to implement the Government’s vision. There will continue to be a Mayor and 8 Councillors.
  3. There will be no loss of jobs in either municipality. However the Government intends to provide more support to both municipalities. This has already begun, for example:
    1. The sewerage project that is being undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works will replace the work that is being currently undertaken in the respective Corporations and will reduce the proposed capital outlay of $8.5 million over the next 3 years for the Corporation of Hamilton, in particular;
    2. The Department of Planning is currently producing the management plan for the World Heritage Site in St. George’s. The status of the world heritage site is under threat in part because of the lack of a proper management plan. In addition, the Corporation of St. George does not have the funds to undertake infrastructure repairs and has traditionally appealed for a grant from Government in the amount of between $1 million and $2 million dollars. As a result, the Government intends to give greater authority to the Corporation of St. George’s, both legislatively and financially;
    3. It has been said that the crumbling assets and empty buildings have nothing to do with the stewardship of the Corporations. It must be noted however that some of the Corporations’ assets are also in a state of disrepair such as the docks. For investors to take an interest in Bermuda, they must also view our municipalities as thriving entities worth their investment. As stated in the consultation document, the Corporations are the lifeblood of the island and they are a reflection of our economic and social health;
    4. There has been accusations that the current Administrations in both municipalities will not be allowed to continue to the expiry of their terms. The current Mayors and Councillors will continue to serve until the expiry of their terms on the 13th of May.
    5. There will be no “asset grab”. This is not possible as each municipality will remain a body corporate.

Mr Speaker, as far back as 2017, the issue of the potential of the development of the Waterfront was raised with the Corporation of Hamilton and the Minister was informed that this was not a priority for the Corporation. Similarly he raised the possibility of introducing smart city technology into the City and was informed that the City did not have the money.

It is important that Honourable members understand the significance of a smart city. Cities worldwide, the top 5 being Singapore, Barcelona, London, San Francisco and Oslo, are turning to new technology to search for new approaches and solutions that will improve city transportation, water and waste management, energy usage, and a host of other infrastructure issues that underpin the operation of cities and the lifestyle of urban citizens. Interestingly, the Corporation of Hamilton has recently announced that they are using smart city technology to improve traffic flow.

Mr. Speaker, there have been disparaging assertions that the Government has not consulted and are not listening to the opinions of those that have made submissions. These assertions could not be farther from the truth.  While information has been gleaned from the public meetings and surveys, I have also met with a number of stakeholders in both municipalities and have heard their concerns. While we acknowledge the achievements of both Corporations, we must also ensure that they are serving the needs of all the stakeholders. We will also be holding town hall meetings next week. The first meeting will take place on March 5 from 6:30pm at East End Primary School while the second meeting will take place on March 7 from 5:30pm at the New Testament Church of God: Heritage Worship Centre.

Mr. Speaker, as we have stated previously, the two levels of Government [national and municipal] can no longer operate in economic or decision-making silos, particularly in an island of 22 square miles with 61,000 residents; and the case for changing the status quo has become stronger in recent years. Ongoing reform is often evolutionary, and, at times, revolutionary. In order to rejuvenate our municipalities, we can no longer try to solve 21st century problems with 20th century, or, as some have argued so eloquently, 18th century solutions. This Bill begins the journey towards achieving this goal.

Thank you Mr. Speaker

Update 12.38pm: The full Municipalities Reform Bill 2019 follows below [PDF here]

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Comments (34)

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  1. truthertz says:

    “The development of a multi-faceted waterfront;”

    In the end, this is what this proposed takeover is all about. Always has been. St. Georges is just collateral damage.

    • Sorry Sir says:

      Guarantee the work won’t be put out to tender.

      • Black Soil says:

        Elections have their consequences. If you don’t like what the PLP is doing and you voted PLP, then you need to look in the mirror as to the WHY.

  2. truthertz says:

    PLP is slowly consolidating all power into a central government’s hands.

    They have already done it with the Gaming Commission, the BTA, slowly the BMA and now the Corporations.

    They are power hungry and have not time for independent thought.

    To them they are the be all and end all for Bermuda.

    Scary times.

    • connecting the dots says:

      And they’ve done it with the BDA by removing the previously excellent and well regarded CEO and putting their pawn in place.
      And they’ve done it at BHeC by removing a CEO with integrity.
      And they did it at BHC, BLDC and soon WEDCO.

  3. Ringmaster says:

    Hamilton Corp has already been the victim of a quasi quango when Mayer Outerbridge and his entourage were elected. It seems as if history will repeat itself. Why the change when Government itself is incapable of performing its current objectives and expectations? It’s no different to the unnecessary changes to oversight and interference of the BTA and Gaming Commission. Government trying to take over everything, using incompetent people to take control.

  4. wahoo says:

    Hmm there seems to be a great sense of urgency for someone to get this done….

  5. sandgrownan says:

    3.Increased use of vacant office space

    Well perhaps, if the PLP hadn’t tanked the economy there wouldn’t be so much vacant office space. Christ, they really are a bunch of twits.

    “The Government intends to repeal the vote and appoint persons with the expertise and enthusiasm to implement the Government’s vision. There will continue to be a Mayor and 8 Councillors.”

    And there it is, buried in the text, Friends & Family in full force.

  6. Truth is killin’ me... says:

    So you’re just calling shots and thinking there will be no repercussions. TAX and GRAB THIS…TAX and GRAB THAT!!

  7. Kevin says:

    The Circus is making its rounds around the country …Burt and his full compliment of clowns will soon be in your area …lets use a direct quote from leading juggler Roban they don’t possess ” the financial resources or expertise to meet the stated objectives ….i am on the floor rolling my stomach is hurting this is the plp you voted in ….they can’t organise a bus schedule or trash collection…create a ‘ real budget”but now want to take over Hamilton and St.Georges Corporations…This Government is a joke and need to resign

  8. aceboy says:

    There should be a referendum on this.

  9. Joe Bloggs says:

    “In order to achieve this vision, the following needs must be met:

    The development of a multi-faceted waterfront;
    Increased city living
    Increased use of vacant office space
    Effective traffic management using “smart city” technology
    Encouraging the development of ‘districts”, e.g. financial, entertainment, restaurant, etc.”

    Ok, but who is going to develop the multi-faceted waterfront and what is Government going to do about (1) the commercial docks and (2) the investment Polaris has made in those docks?

    Is this a land and cash grab or something else?

  10. Hmmm says:

    PLP just wants control of the waterfront properties and access to the CofH’s purse!!

  11. Jt says:

    So government has the resources ($) and the PLP has the expertise. Ok then.

  12. legalgal says:

    Ah a Waterfront for friends and family.

  13. Say Whaaat? says:

    I gotta agree. This rush to prioritize this looks very bad PLP.

    What are you really doing?

  14. JohnnyB says:

    “It is the Government’s position that neither Corporation has the financial resources or expertise to meet the stated objectives”

    And the PLP does? I literally just fell off my chair laughing.

  15. FOOLED ME TWICE. says:

    Just look at our bus service, trash service.

  16. Mark says:

    So under General Burch trash pick up will drop to once a week in both city and town. At least the tourists can ride over the piles of garbage in his ATV’s.

  17. St.George's Passport and Immigration Control says:

    saw this coming years ago,tried to warn you but no one wanted to listen.
    The plp are going to take whatever they can get for themselves and guess what,you all gave it to them.

  18. Fisherman says:

    HMMMM!!! Who is behind this move???

  19. Joe Bloggs says:

    “Mr. Speaker, as we have stated previously, the two levels of Government [national and municipal] can no longer operate in economic or decision-making silos, particularly in an island of 22 square miles with 61,000 residents”

    On the brighter side, no more municipal rates because “the two levels of Government can no longer operate in economic or decision-making silos”.

  20. sandgrownan says:

    “It is the Government’s position that neither Corporation has the financial resources or expertise to meet the stated objectives”

    Of all the lies and bs spouted by the PLP over the last 21 years and in the context of their sheer incompetence and failure during those 21 years, the hubris required to stand up and make this statement with a straight face is staggering.

  21. sandgrownan says:

    “Mr. Speaker, as we have stated previously, the two levels of Government [national and municipal] can no longer operate in economic or decision-making silos, particularly in an island of 22 square miles with 61,000 residents;”

    Perhaps you need to cut the civil service in half? Sounds like we have way too many.

  22. Onion Peels says:

    So the PLP, once demanding one man, one vote until they get in power now wants to take away the votes from everyone.

    The new PLP efficiency; you don’t need to vote anymore, we’ll tell you who the new Mayor will be.

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Exactly. Just wait until the Parliamentary Election Act is amended so that Government can appoint MPs too! Just think of the savings in not having those expensive and distracting elections every 5 years!

  23. Pissant says:

    Mr speaker the govt of today can not organize a piss up in a brewery that was leaking everywhere. They seem utterly incompetent at decision making unless it suits there power grabbing land grabbing and money grabbing. Not unlike the sugar tax a flipping horse poop excuse to grab money and say thank you we screwed you ALL yet again. This decision was made way back and to them is an open door to grab money. For gods sake wake the hell up Bermuda BLACK and WHITE PINK OR GREEN Look what they are doing.

  24. Kevin says:

    I cant believe there isn’t already a march on Parliament …oh wait forgot plp organized the last one and so control those who would quickly buck the law and surround parliament ….we my friends are on the road to total failure ….plp have already screwed this country and heading south…..thanks to all my brothers and sisters who voted for them …the first mistake was 1998 the second was 2003 and again in 2008 finally you understood and felt their pain but propaganda sent you back and back you and the rest of will stay …how many will close your eyes and ears you need to wake up plp supporters they cant make this work…..

  25. Proven says:

    The owners of these properties need to have a legal fight here – the Chief Justice will surely rule in their favor! Be-longers, expat vote, etc.

  26. Birdlegs says:

    If you looked at the government’s consultation page the majority are against this. Another case of the government not listening too the people. It is sad that the PLP are doing what they did the last time they were in power. Never learn. There has to be a hidden agenda.

  27. Joe Bloggs says:

    Earl Cameron Theatre and Quango Hall really doesn’t have the same ring to it

  28. MARRIAGE EQUALITY says:

    EDUCATION AUTHORITY – It is time…

    WHY? Apply the logic below !
    Ongoing reform is often evolutionary, and, at times, revolutionary. In order to rejuvenate education, we can no longer try to solve 21st century problems with 20th century, or, as some have argued so eloquently, 18th century solutions.

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