Focus on community could edge tight race

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Sandys North may have just played host to the biggest sporting event in Bermuda’s history, but constituents still have mixed feelings about what the America’s Cup meant for them.

And there is no shortage of other issues affecting residents of Constituency 36, which is being contested once more by the Progressive Labour Party’s Michael Scott and the One Bermuda Alliance’s Ray Charlton.

Mr Scott won the seat at the last election by just eight votes and The Royal Gazette spoke to area residents to find out where they stand and get their take on local issues in the run-up to July 18.

For George Hassell, who was still undecided as to who he would vote for, better guidance programmes and more activities for the youth are a priority.

“They really need to focus on the community-based youth who are growing up now,” the 28-year-old said. “Go to the schools and listen to some of the ideas that the children have.”

He also wants to see more job opportunities and expressed concern about Bermudians going away to learn a trade only to come back and find employers favouring foreign workers.

Regarding the America’s Cup, he said many people in the area felt like they had been overlooked “for something that has no benefits at all”.

But he also said Mr Scott’s performance record was “very different from what he put out”, adding that “a lot of stuff that was promised was never done”.

“If we can’t see some sort of improvement that relates to us, we will literally vote the other way and on what we think is best based on what we have seen so far.”

Another constituent, who lives near Somerset MarketPlace but asked not to be named, believes the “present Government deserves another chance”.

She said they “have a reasonable amount of irons in the fire” and should be allowed to use these to “continue with whatever progress they seem to have made”.

But she also said she had never relied on the Government for anything and was making no demands. Instead, she’d like to see people take more responsibility and complain less.

She added: “When I came here, there were 12 Bermudas: With only two Bermudas, we’ve progressed.”

Morgan Donawa, who helps run LTD’s Sweets and Treats on Cambridge Road with her grandmother Monica Doers, would like to see more entertainment for the area’s youth because “there is not much to do out here”.

And although both women live in Sandys South, the 15-year-old said another area of concern is debris on Somerset Long Bay.

“We had a tourist come. He really liked Long Bay a lot but there was a lot of debris on the beach. It’s a shame because it’s a really nice beach.”

Ms Doers added that speed bumps on Cambridge Road could help slow down traffic and Ms Donawa said a caution sign at the junction with Daniel’s Head Road would make that corner safer.

Public transportation, meanwhile, is still a big problem for residents in the Watford Bridge and Boaz Island areas.

One couple, who used to own a business in Dockyard, said getting the bus to the Watford Bridge area from Dockyard had always been an issue, especially in the evenings.

They also had strong views on the candidates, with the wife, who also asked not to be named, saying she had not seen Mr Charlton since the last election day.

“So he better not cross our doorstep now. Mr Scott, we don’t have any argument with at all. He’s a people’s person who gets involved.”

The husband had not quite made up his mind who to vote for but their son said he supported the OBA.

He said they had “tried their best in the past five years” and added that they also did a good job with the America’s Cup.

“If the PLP was in power, we would not have gotten to host the America’s Cup.”

But he also pointed to abandoned buildings in the area that he would like to see fixed up and put to use.

The “really terrible” bus situation was also the main issue affecting one Boaz Island resident, who said buses do not show up when they are supposed to, or they leave from Somerset instead of Dockyard.

She added that this has left residents, including schoolchildren, stranded and raising the issue with both candidates “hasn’t made a difference”.

With a longstanding alliance to the PLP, she had already made up her mind to vote for them although she said it almost came down to “choosing the lesser evil”.

But she described Mr Scott as very approachable, and pointed to the events he hosts for families in the area twice a year.

As an educator in the public school system, she also said she had no confidence in how the OBA administration had handled problems within the education system.

However, a fellow Boaz Island resident, who grew up as a staunch PLP supporter, said he wouldn’t have a problem if the OBA got back in.

While still unsure who will get his vote, he said: “I’m for who makes the island better and more relaxed.”

Having helped build the Oracle Team USA camp, he said: “The America’s Cup was great to have pulled off. Some people said they got nothing from the trickledown effect, but I did. But don’t let it stop. Bring something else here.”

The resident known in the area by his nickname “Yeehaa”, agreed the bus situation is a big problem in the West End, adding he’d like to see one bus every hour during off peak times.

He also raised concerns about food prices and urged government to make education its priority, along with finding a solution to the island’s gang problems.

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