Scott: Waterfront deal documents should be made public
City of Hamilton councillor Larry Scott has come out in support of Government’s moves to review legislation governing the municipalities.
In an interview with
The Royal Gazette, Mr Scott suggested that documents relating to the City’s waterfront deal, which he claimed had not been shared with him or some other members of the Corporation, should now be made public.
Responding to criticism by Opposition MP Walton Brown that the Government was attempting a “power grab”, Mr Scott said Government’s reform efforts were necessary to protect the public interest, especially given City Hall’s handling of the waterfront redevelopment project.
“One of the things I think is vitally important about the City is its administration — it cannot afford to have novices at the helm making decisions,” Mr Scott said.
“And even if they weren’t novices, people who are running the City would have to run it in conjunction with the partners of the City — that is the business owners who are the majority ratepayers — 95 percent is paid by the business owners, five percent is paid by the residents — and, of course, the Government. Because it is in the City of Hamilton where the vast majority of Bermudians are employed and they demand that that city is run competently and for the best advantage of the country as a whole.
“That’s how the residents and the ratepayer merge. That is what in fact enables Bermuda to survive. Without the City doing well we will do badly.
“So it was right for the Minister in my opinion to ask to be included fully, and from the beginning, in the process of the waterfront — just as was the case with the Par-la-Ville car park development. All of those documents have been shared with the Government. They were shared with the previous Government and have been shared with this Government.”
But the City Hall has stalled on providing documents on the waterfront to the Government.
Mr Scott said he saw no good reason why the documents should not now be public, and that they had been kept secret from even some members of the Corporation.
“I recall Mr MacLean, who happens to be one of the principals in both the Par-la-Ville and the waterfront development quite frankly saying that he has no difficulty with all of them being shared with the Government.
“So why would we, and what are we trying to keep privileged away? The deed has been signed. It is a legal contract. It is binding on the parties so it ought to now be public.
“When negotiations were happening there may well have been some close to the chest exchanges, but when the deal was done it should have been shared. In fact it should have been shared with all members of the Corporation.”
He said he had been denied the opportunity to review the documents, as had other members of the City Council.
“So in that regard, I disagree with Mr Brown, and I support and I have said so publicly, the efforts of the Minister in what he is currently doing,” Mr Scott continued.
“I don’t see it as a land grab, I see it as a responsibility of the Minister as the head of that Ministry. He has an obligation to find out and share with the government — not the OBA — the government. And hence we have this impasse.”
Asked if he was acknowledging that the Minister’s effort to reform the institutional framework of the municipalities is directly related to the City’s handling of the waterfront project, Mr Scott said: “I don’t think you can avoid that conclusion. The city development is almost like one of the last frontiers of Bermuda’s development for the foreseeable future” that needs the broadest possible involvement of all of Bermuda.
“Whatever is put there must be the best that it possibly can be. And so we need the best of people involved. Not some closeted deal to make some exclusive agreement at an early stage.”
In exchange for leasing the waterfront, the Corporation cedes the rights to rents from the property to the new owners, but could provide services for additional revenue, he noted.
Government is hoping to amend the Municipalities Act to give businesses the right to vote in municipal elections and reserve to the Government the right to approve City developments with a value of at least $1 million.