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Election day in Hamilton and St George

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Charles Gosling

It’s crunch time for Hamilton and St George as voters go to the polls today in their first election under a hybrid voting system allowing representation for rate-paying businesses as well as residents.

In Hamilton, former mayor Charles Gosling, deposed in the 2012 victory of Graeme Outerbridge, is up against alderman Carlton Simmons.

In St George, incumbent Garth Rothwell vies for the job against Quinell Francis, his deputy mayor.

Alongside the mayoral race, the Corporations will elect councillors for businesses and for residents, while the position of alderman has been phased out.

It will test a voting arrangement staunchly opposed by the Progressive Labour Party, which as the governing party in 2010 brought the Municipalities Reform Act to abolish the old property vote and usher in universal adult franchise based on registered parliamentary voters.

While the removal of multiple property votes was supported, many argued that businesses ought to retain a voice.

The vote for ratepayers was restored by the One Bermuda Alliance but decried by the Opposition, which called the move undemocratic.

However, during that parliamentary debate, Finance Minister Bob Richards contended that Hamilton in particular, as the Island’s business centre, had been “crippled” by the 2010 reforms.

Bermuda’s capital was at the epicentre of another contentious piece of legislation in 2013, when the Municipalities Amendment Act gave Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy stewardship of Corporation affairs and required Parliamentary approval for sales of land held by the municipalities and leases exceeding 21 years.

Those moves were undertaken by Government in response to decisions made by the Outerbridge administration — in particular, the waterfront development deal made quietly with Allied Trust and Allied Partners Limited that was deemed contrary to national interests.

After the dust settles today, an early test for Hamilton’s winning team will be the extent to which it complies with Government’s control.

Mr Simmons, of the outgoing “Team Hamilton” administration, openly denounced the 2013 legislation — and Mr Gosling was no fan, telling The Royal Gazette the reforms threatened the existence of the Corporations.

Meanwhile, in the contest for councillors, the eight for St George have already been decided, as only eight put their names forward.

Representing business ratepayers in the Olde Towne are Philip John Seaman and Faith Meri-Eve Bridges.

The municipal residents councillors will be Anthony Richardson, Calvin Bean, Phillip Anderson, Eakin McLaughlin, Elizabeth Christopher and Jamie Sapsford.

For Hamilton, Mr Gosling’s team comprises Nicholas Swan, Lawrence Scott, John Harvey and Dennis Tucker representing ratepayers, and Henry Ming, Carlton Johnson and RoseAnn Edwards running as councillors for residents.

Another candidate for councillor is Derrick Phipps of the Committee on Homelessness, who has vowed to stand as a voice for the people — particularly North Hamilton.

Here are details on when, where and how to cast votes in Hamilton and St George:

•Polling stations for Hamilton and St George open today from 8am to 8pm as voters at both Corporations cast ballots.

•For Hamilton, voting is set for the Seventh-day Adventist Church Hall, while voters in St George should head to the Penno’s Wharf Cruise ship terminal.

•Bring along valid photo identification, and be aware that the use of electronic devices is prohibited inside the polling station.

•The Parliamentary Registration office on the third floor of Craig Appin House will also stay open from 8am to 8pm to help voters.

Alderman Carlton Simmons