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Bahama Journal: Revisiting Local Government
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Page 1 of 1Total of 1 messages
Posted by:Feb 17th 2004, 01:43:49 pm
Fig Tree News TeamLocal Government Act Needs To Be Revisited

Fred Sturrup

The Local Government problems in Freeport represent the perfect reason why the Act needs to be re-addressed. A Freeport Chief Councilor is at odds with other councilors including the deputy over the question of missed meetings.

The Minister of Local Government, V. Alfred Gray is powerless to do anything about it, other than appeal to the local government elected officials to reach a compromise so that they can do the business of the people.

The Freeport Chief Councilor has taken a position based on the rule relating to three missed meetings. In truth, the local government law is very clear. If any elected official misses three consecutive meetings without approval the result is automatic. The councilor(s) cease automatically to have the authority to serve.

Maybe this embarrassing scenario in Freeport will finally cause the central government to examine the Act anew for the sake of all of the Family Islands. In essence, the Local Government Act, while well-meaning, in terms of providing family islanders the official opportunities to determine their own day-to-day destinies, does not provide a level field for those elected.

The meager stipend is really an insult because for elected officials, especially the Chief Councilor, to do the job properly the demands are many. The sacrifices are great because an island Chief is from the moment of election, expected to answer to every citizen within his/her jurisdiction.

Since the advent of Local Government in 1996, islanders have paid much less attention to contacting their parliamentary representatives. The MPs actually get off very easy now because the Local Government officials are allowed to be scapegoats. The financial allocations are very small in comparison to the real needs of the island areas and the expectations of the central government are great.

At the start in 1996, many quality residents ran and were elected. However the talent pool has been diluted tremendously because it's just too much of a hardship situation. All of the employees within the Local Government system, even those at the lowest point on the salary scale (janitors, handymen etc) make twice as much as a Chief Councilor. The sum of $400.00 per month for the Chief is a disgrace, a great travesty.

It is the Chief Councilor who has to have the daily hands-on approach, handling in many instances as much of the island administration as the Government's Administrator (formerly Commissioner). In reality, the Local Government system is failing. This is the case because the powers that be, do not have the fibre to do what ought to be done.

The concept of empowering island residents in their own communities is a great one. But a lot of tangibles and intangibles that should go along...necessities and certain allowances have been kept away from those elected.

So, you have a situation whereby the Minister of Local Government admits that his hands are tied by the law. Indeed they are. A chief Councilor based on the Local Government Act, is a powerful person.

Perhaps, now the central government will see the need to look at the Act again. Maybe what is happening in Freeport will serve as a catalyst for governmental action before the system becomes one big joke.

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