This would not have happened if the municipalities had been abolished

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A rethink on the status of the municipalities is on the cards for the Opposition Progressive Labour Party.

As Government, the PLP pushed through what some considered radical reform of the municipalities. But there was always a school of thought which holds that the municipalities should be abolished altogether.

“The reform was not complete,” said Shadow Education Minister Walton Brown. “The Corporation of Hamilton are entirely within their legal remit to engage in any lease arrangement with any entity they wish — without Government approval.

“They will need Government approval to start building anything and therein lies the challenge for the Corporation.”

Mr Brown argued for abolition of the Island’s two municipalities when changes to the Municipalities Act was debated.

“In the 21st Century, the role of a Corporation for either St George’s or Hamilton is ill suited to the challenges and the need for a national vision and national strategies for the Island.

“To have a relatively small — in terms of budget and in terms of people — entity to determine fundamental changes that will affect the entirety of the country is not the best structure for going forward. So I called for the complete abolition of the Municipalities Act.

“The Government of the time decided not to opt to that change and we have with us today some of the challenges that are the obvious result of it.”

Mr Brown said he did support more democracy in City Hall. “But perhaps the best formula today is a more symbolic presence of mayor rather than one with a substantive structure and role,” he said.

“There should not be a separate, powerful entity called the municipality of St George’s or Hamilton.”

Asked if he would be pushing for abolition of the municipalities now that he is in the House of Assembly, he said that as a policy matter it has to be discussed by the party’s caucus.

“It is a conversation that we will have. It is on the agenda.”

In May last year, hundreds of Hamilton and St George’s residents went to the polls for the first time to elect their respective Corporations. The unprecedented elections were the result of PLP led reform of the Municipalities Act.

Former Common Councillor Graeme Outerbridge headed up ‘Team Hamilton’ to oust the administration of Charles Gosling.

He was joined by Youth on the Move President Carlton Simmons, entrepreneur Donal Smith and former United Bermuda Party Chair Gwyneth Rawlins, who succeeded in their bid to become Aldermen, and lawyer Larry Scott, former PLP MP George Scott, businessman Troy Symonds and Anthony Davis who became Common Councillors.

At all other such elections since 1923, residential ratepayers, property owners and business owners were allowed to vote multiple times, depending on the number of properties they possessed; but the Municipalities Reform Act which was passed in 2011, allowed for one vote per registered resident.

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Published Mar 14, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 14, 2013 at 12:29 am)

This would not have happened if the municipalities had been abolished

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