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Chamber welcomes business vote move

Government’s decision to review the Municipalities Act has been welcomed by the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber is hoping that the review will result in a restoration of the business vote — signalled by Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy when he announced the review last week.

“We are looking forward to hearing the ideas for changes to the Act. However in general the Chamber supports restoring the business vote. Business owners have a vested interest in how the city is managed, and not being able to have a say as to who does, is entirely wrong,” said Chamber of Commerce President Ronnie Viera.

City of Hamilton businesses have privately complained of being disenfranchised in 2011 when the Progressive Labour Party enacted major reforms of the legislation, which governs the Corporation of Hamilton, and Corporation of St George’s.

Those reforms — considered radical by some — abolished a voting system in which residential ratepayers, property owners and business owners were allowed to vote multiple times, depending on the number of properties they possessed. Instead, the Municipalities Reform Act allowed for one vote per registered resident.

Senator Fahy has stressed that the voting change being contemplated will not restore a property vote, but enable a “business vote”.

Reform was necessary “to improve efficiency and effectiveness, as well as increase oversight in accordance with the principles of good governance,” the Minister said last week.

“The fundamental issue is to ensure that we increase the democratic process to ensure good governance for the benefit of all Bermudians.”

While the City of Hamilton has welcomed the review, and has its own proposals for reform, Government and City Hall have been at loggerheads over governance issues in recent months.

City Hall has refused to provide key documents to Government which has been attempting to conduct its due diligence on the waterfront redevelopment project.

Town hall meetings have been planned starting on Friday to seek the public’s views on the reforms.

The Progressive Labour Party declined to comment when asked for an update on its position.

But there are some within the Opposition party who want to see the end of the municipalities altogether.

Walton Brown, an abolitionist, told

The Royal Gazette in March

that in his view the mayors should only have a symbolic role.

“There should not be a separate, powerful entity called the municipality of St George’s or Hamilton.” He indicated then that the matter would be discussed in the party’s caucus.

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Published May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 15, 2013 at 10:39 pm)

Chamber welcomes business vote move

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