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Edness: Give the people final say on waterfront

Plans to reform the municipalities should go further than Government's proposals, says former Cabinet Minister Quinton Edness.

Mr Edness who held several ministerial portfolios in the United Bermuda Party administrations of the 1970s and 1980s contacted this newspaper to say that the legislation which will be tabled in parliament tomorrow should be made retroactive, should include a now abandoned proposal to investigate and dissolve the municipalities if necessary and should require leases of 10 years or more to go before parliament for approval.

“Twenty-one years is far too long where they don't have to seek approval from the Government,” Mr Edness said.

“If its incorrect or wrong, a lot of damage can be done within that period of the lease.”

The City of Hamilton has agreed to a 262 year lease of 26 acres of waterfront property to Allied Development Partners which won the right to redevelop the property.

It is not clear whether the proposed legislation would be retroactive or would allow Government to void the lease.

But Mr Edness said the legislation should be explicitly made retroactive to cover the period before the controversial Request for Proposal which saw ADP emerge as the waterfront developer.

“That (waterfront project) should have been made to go to the legislature,” he said.

“People have a right to be able to say whether they agreed that the waterfront should be developed. That right was not given to them, it was taken away. They should make this act retroactive so the people of Bermuda can decide in general terms what should happen to the waterfront.”

He noted that such forms of public consultation takes place in other jurisdictions.

“A major development of the waterfront in Perth, Australia, is taking place right now.

“Before that was allowed to take place it was put to the people of Western Australia and it was taken to parliament and debated.

“General approval was given and an artists impression was put to the public and they were able to comment on it.

“And that's what should happen here in Bermuda.”

Mr Edness worked closely with the municipalities when he was in charge of Public Works.

Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy is seeking parliamentary approval for sweeping reforms which would give Government a strong hand in the running of municipal affairs, restore a business vote in municipal elections and re-establish wharfage and port dues as a revenue stream to the corporations.

The Minister had considered, but dropped, plans to include the power to convene an independent committee to investigate allegations of wrongdoing and corruption.

“When there are suspicions or things going wrong the Minister should have the ability to step in with this kind of investigative committee to determine whether the allegations are wrong or right and whether some corruption or something else is taking place.”

The Minister had considered legislation which would have given him the power to convene an independent committee to “investigate and determine, allegation of wrongdoing in matters such as: maladministration, corruption, electoral improprieties, financial misconduct and violations of the code of conduct and ethics by council or officer of the municipalities,” and dissolve the Corporation according to a consultation memo dated September 15.

Opposition MP Walton Brown, who has criticised Government's approach to reform of the municipalities as a “power grab” did not respond to a request for comment by press time last night.

But the Chamber of Commerce said it was pleased that Government is seeking to restore the business vote — something it has advocated in the past.

Chamber president Ronnie Viera said he was unable to comment on the other proposed changes.

City of Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge would only say that he had met with the Minister on Monday and “more information would be forthcoming”.

St George's Mayor Garth Rothwell said the proposals are “workable” in his personal view, but that the Corporation has not discussed it as council.

“As always the devils in the detail and how we go about it. But he said returning the wharfage revenue is not worth as much to the East End municipality as it would be to the City of Hamilton.

“If we had cruise ships wharfage would be worth much more to us.”

Asked whether he was pleased with the consultation process over the reforms, he said: “I think we were listened to, judging from what has come back.”

Quinton Edness

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Published September 19, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 19, 2013 at 9:08 am)

Edness: Give the people final say on waterfront

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