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Gosling extends ‘olive branch’ to Government

True search: Hamilton mayor Charles Gosling (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Mayor of Hamilton offered a compromise power-sharing deal to the Government yesterday to try to halt a move to abolish the two local authorities.

Charles Gosling suggested a joint committee to decide the future governance of the areas in the wake of Senate’s decision to block an Act to end the Corporations of Hamilton and St George — although the Government could still table an amended Act.

Mr Gosling said: “I would like to extend an olive branch to Government. I would like to suggest that rather than entering another Bill into Parliament, which flies in the face of what most Bermudians want, or calculating how stewardship can be introduced, we actually engage in a true search for what is best for the island and the two municipalities.

“We need to form a new commission or a committee — one that is empowered by Government and the two municipalities to do an examination through public hearings of how the municipalities are run, their strengths, their weaknesses, how Government can help facilitate their efficient operations and how, together, they can address the needs to their constituents and encourage and nourish growth.”

Mr Gosling was speaking at City Hall, flanked by seven of the eight councillors elected to run Hamilton.

Mr Gosling said that the commission chairman should be a senior, well-respected person agreed to by both sides in the battle.

He added the commission members should also be picked by the Government and the two municipalities and that he would send a letter to David Burt, the Premier, to outline the offer.

Mr Gosling said: “This could be a process by which we unite. This could be a process by which we mature and realise that we are all here together on a small island and if we don’t work together, we will fail.”

Mr Gosling said the municipal elections due to be held on May 9 were “a referendum on local government” and that residents and businesses should use their votes.

He added: “This is an important time for the city. The battle to preserve the electoral process in the municipalities is ongoing but a strong voter turnout will speak volumes.

“The ratepayers shouldn’t be forced to settle for taxation without representation and there is no representation without registration.”

Mr Gosling said he was “disheartened” that the business world and its associations had remained silent about the controversy.

He wanted to quash the idea that the city was run by an oligarchy and highlighted that the council was made up of seven black men and one black woman.

Mr Gosling said: “You will think of it more of a polygarchy.”

Larry Scott, one of the council team, accused his brother Michael Scott, a Progressive Labour Party MP, of spreading misinformation in the House of Assembly.

He said his brother had told the country that the corporation had control of “the Queen’s Bottom” — the waters all the way out to the channel into the Great Sound.

Larry Scott said: “If you look at the Act, there was a time when we had that type of control. Guess who does now? The Department of Marine and Ports. Government.

“But we were left with the impression that we oligarchs control things. It is misinformation. We are trustees of this city on behalf of the ratepayers.”

Henry Ming, a fellow councillor, added that changes were needed to the election process.

He said that if his mother, who had lived in Hamilton for 92 years, had to leave the city to be cared for, she would lose her vote.

But he pointed out that someone staying in a city homeless shelter for a couple of weeks would be able to vote.

Mr Ming said: “I am all for the idea of change but change has to be fair and it has to work for all.”

The Corporation of Hamilton earlier applied for a Supreme Court court order to stop John Rankin, the Governor, from giving Royal Assent to the Municipalities Reform Act if it was passed by the Senate.

But Mark Diel, the corporation’s lawyer, said yesterday it had been agreed that a judgment was not needed as the Senate had blocked the Act.

Mr Diel added: “The court contacted the parties and requested an informal meeting between counsel.

“The Chief Justice made the very sensible point that given the Senate had rejected the Bill, there was nothing to injunct, so with that in mind was there any point in him handing down a judgment?

“Both sides agreed that there was not.”

For more information on the Municipal Elections, visit elections.gov.bm