Mayor heads protest against Municipalities Act
Vowing to “fight this thing all the way”, Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge and around 50 Corporation colleagues staged an impromptu protest outside the Cabinet Building as Senators prepared to debate the Municipalities Act 2013.
“This is a very dictatorial piece of legislation making this Corporation totally under the heel of Government through being answerable on everything we do to a Minister,” said Mr Outerbridge.
“If this act is passed obviously it will change the vote again.
“It's been clearly indicated by the now Opposition that if you want to start passing laws that basically unravels leases from the past that there's a long way to go back and look at things that need to be unravelled positively.
“This is a bad precedent, there's lot of mistakes that we've pointed out to the Government.
“We've never been given the access to even consider our request on changing some of the flaws in this piece of legislation — things that will basically make it very hard for this operation to deliver the services that we do right now for the City.”
He went on to point out what he termed the sharp contrast when compared to the protest staged three years ago against what essentially was the same legislation.
“I don't think I see the same kind of people who protested last time in such large numbers. It's very telling, same principle, different time, different show.
“And I think it's very telling about the maturity of Bermuda's democracy at this point of what people don't fundamentally understand about what's going on here today.”
Undeterred by the small turnout, Alderman Carlton Simmons said even if Government takes all of the City of Hamilton's assets the country would still have more than $1 billion in debt.
The legislative move by the One Bermuda Alliance Government, he said, is nothing more than a move to change the complexion of city voters.
Three years after the same attempt by the former Progressive Labour Party Government, he said the only difference today is colour.
“The Government of the day back then was a black Government, the Government of today is a white Government by all intents and purposes,” he said.
“Respectfully, I do not say that to offend Premier Craig Cannonier but most people associate the One Bermuda Alliance with the remnants of the United Bermuda Party.
“At the end of the day your Government of the day is in power, but when that changes that power you give away today will still be held by those people that you love to hate.”
He called on the powers that be to put principles before personalities.
“When we start making laws based on race and personalities that in and of itself is bad for Bermuda. The silence here today is going to come back to bite all of us.”
He told the gathering that “the Corporation of Hamilton's assets are close to $1 billion if not $1 billion”.
“Even if we gave the Government all our assets Bermuda would still be broke. Do we want all sectors of our economy to be broke because this is what this is about.
“We have made our stand now we leave it up to you but this is all of our fight.”
He also expressed his disappointment with the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and the business community “that supported the cause last time”.
“These are the same people who have asked for support from this council, just as they've always done.
“But when it comes to this fight and us being able to maintain control of an organisation, in three years we may have a different council that looks just like the council before we came in.
“We will do everything in our power to change it but at the end of the day we have spoken, now Bermuda you have to speak.”
The Minister behind the legislation, Senator Michael Fahy, was not present to hear the remarks as the Senate proceedings started while the protest was still in progress.
He was met by City residents when he arrived at the Cabinet Building around 9.30am.
“The four or five residents that came explained they had concerns about the residential vote being stripped away,” said Sen Fahy.
“I explained in no uncertain terms they're not losing the residential vote. I explained to them how it works, how the residents are protected in relation to proportionality. Most of them seemed very satisfied with that.
“Residents are still voting, they are still protected, and that every business that has that Bermudian connection will have that opportunity to have a vote.
“Let's say a business that has six branches gets one vote and the business that has one business gets one vote. I think that allayed their fear that has been perpetuated in the community, I think, by some that want to derail this bill.
“If one individual has multiple interests in a business that one individual cannot vote ten times. There has to be a Bermudian that is nominated by that company to have a vote,” he said.
And he took issue with suggestions that legislators “were acting in nefarious ways or that members who have voted in favour of this have somehow got a special interest”.
Said Sen Fahy: “I dismiss that allegation entirely. You heard Senator Jardine's comments in respect of some of the research that he has done.
“For example, 99 percent of the tax base has actually come from business rate payers.
“Whether you are in North Hamilton or Front Street, you will now have an opportunity to engage in a vote for who you wish.”
He said he had a problem with the argument that businesses were anti-resident.
“I don't buy that because many people who run businesses in different areas of town have the same desires as residents. They want to see a successful city.”