January 2007 Archives

I'm going to comment more over the coming days on what has always looked like, and was confirmed yesterday as a done deal at Southlands; but for now I'll say only that I find the disregard for the public in this process profoundly disrespectful, yet typical of this Government, and in particular Dr. Brown.

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I have received an email advising that there will be a meeting tomorrow of the "Friends of South Shore", to discuss the Southlands announcement.

The details:

Tea House
Botanical Gardens
Thursday Feb. 1st at 5:30PM.

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I don't take any pleasure in saying this, and I understand that this is before the courts, but UBP leader Wayne Furbert must conclusively rebut today's headline in the Royal Gazette that he falsified a contract to secure financing for his home renovations, or resign.

I understand that Wayne says he'll be vindicated, but the allegation in court yesterday cannot hang out there. Wayne's lawyer must address it legally, but Wayne must address it politically. I'm sure the legal aspect is his immediate concern, but it has to happen.

You cannot have a political party leader with that allegation against him.

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You too can be the Premier's bodyguard. Perks include many trips to anything with the word celebrity in the title; because what self-respecting wannabe celebrity travels without a bodyguard?

But first, you must take the Bermuda Secret Service Entrance Exam.

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Bermuda's Permanent Secretary for Immigration and Labour, Robert Horton, was in the Cayman's a couple of weeks ago and spoke on a local radio show about Bermuda's term limits policy:

Although the Cayman Islands and Bermuda have rollover policies for expatriate workers in place, the Permanent Secretary for the Bermuda Ministry of Labour and Immigration, Robert K. Horton, stated on a local radio talk show, that Bermuda’s policy is not about preserving jobs for native Bermudians.

Speaking on Cayman Crosstalk on Rooster 101.9 FM a fortnight ago, he said the policy was intended to control Bermuda’s population, because there is a shortage of land problem and there was nowhere else to build except up.

We can go through this over and over, but what does churning non-Bermudian positions have to do with keeping the population down? Government is simply issuing a new permit to fill the post but to a different person. Population control? Nonsense. Preventing future claims on Bermuda citizenship? Maybe. Pandering to a xenophobic political wing? Yep.

Mr. Horton delivers another zinger:

“The issue is enormously controversial at the time the new government came to power,” said Mr Horton.

But he was careful to note that once it enunciated there was general consensus and agreement and that it had a social respect and a healing effect.

“It doesn’t mean there aren’t strong opinions on each side of the argument. But there is general acceptance,” he added.

General acceptance? Social respect and a healing effect?

Who's Mr. Horton kidding? The policy is by no means generally accepted and I'd be interested to know what it has healed, other than relations between Bermuda's anti-foreigner nationalists and the PLP, a relationship which was becoming strained due to an explosion in foreign workers since 1998 when the PLP came to power.

The current Labour Minister says it's about citizenship, former Labour Minister Terry Lister said at the last election that it was about Bermudianisation and now says it's about racism. Make up your minds.

Mr. Horton's efforts to make Bermuda's policy sound reasonable and uncontroversial are admirable, but they're not based in reality.

Cayman Net News follows up with an editorial.

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Friday's Dr. Brown love fest at the Bermuda Sun (see here, here, here, here and here) was a little embarrassing. I guess they couldn't wait for Valentine's Day.

Consider this:

Which story received front page treatment and which was buried on page six: Dr. Brown's leisure suit and his dog or the appalling results in Education?

I don't need to answer that for you.

The Bermuda Sun hearts Dr. Brown.

But seriously, remember how on Friday I pointed out that Dr. Brown has a habit of upstaging his Ministers on the fluffy photo-ops yet hangs them out to dry with the bad news?

Well, check this out:

Does that mean the Bermuda Football Association is about to get what it's been asking for to help raise the standard of the game here?

Dr. Brown says he doesn't want to "steal the minister's thunder" and that we can expect an announcement next week.

Uh, you just stole the Minister's thunder. Mark down another.

I even hear he's out cutting another ribbon in St. George's today.

Because I don't want to be accused of being negative, I must complement Doc. Hollywood on the Robert Bassett painting hanging over his sofa. I have the same print in my house.

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Just for the record, and because I can't resist:

18 months ago, I called for an inquiry into public education, for which I received a verbal assault by then Minister of Education Terry Lister.

Yesterday, Education Minister Randy Horton did exactly that.

Better late than never I guess.

But here's another question: the latest results have been withheld for 5 months, and only now the Minister says he's going to go to Cabinet to get approval for an independent inquiry!

What were they doing all that time? Probably trying to figure out how to put the best spin on the numbers, finally realising that would be futile and just stating them for what they are. Grim indeed.

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You know what I love about our Premier?

He's never seen a ribbon he won't cut, a camera he doesn't want to preen for....well usually, but not always.

If ever there was an illustration of our style and no substance Premier, this week was it.

On Wednesday, Dr. Brown shoved aside his Works & Engineering Minister to take centre stage for a useless photo op - the cutting a ribbon at the new Collector's Hill traffic lights, while prattling on with flowery talk hailing Government's achievements - or in real terms, doing its most basic tasks (road works).

Yesterday there was another photo op, except this time the Premier didn't show up. Instead, Education Minister Randy Horton was out all alone to announce the long overdue and yet again disastrous graduation rates in the public school system.

The same way Mr. Horton was all alone to announce that Government had allowed Cedarbridge to literally rot from the inside out. Dr. Brown has never commented on that.

Nor has he commented on the Southlands/SDO controversy - one on the boundary of his own constituency.

Ribbon cutting, cocktail parties, golf - Dr. Brown will upstage his Ministers.

Serious problems? Don't call. He's busy cutting ribbons, wining and dining or golfing.

At some point, methinks his Ministers will get tired of this act.

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This is totally off topic I know, but the challenge for today is to tell me whether this is some elaborate act of satire, or a seriously deluded twit. Either way I've been laughing for 24 hours:

The Bible Says

Watch his follow-up video....

I won't tell you what my theory is so as not to influence your opinion...

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I thought the same thing.

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The Cayman's rollover (aka Term Limits) policy has been in effect for weeks...and already all hell has broken loose with the major law firms requesting a mass exemption.

The outcome? Public anger and a Government that doesn't know what to do.

Surpised? Hardly.

The “new and improved” immigration term-limits provision, aka rollover, has only been on the statue books for barely a matter of weeks before the first, and on the face of it intractable problem for the government has appeared in the shape of a request for special exemption treatment from the major law firms here.

As a result of this wholly predictable event, the administration now has to steer a course between the economic Charybdis of the financial sector, represented on this occasion by the multi-million dollar law firms, and the political Scylla of its electoral powerbase, to whom it has been busily pandering over the last several months, completely oblivious to the warnings of dire economic and unintended consequences.

In other words, in modern parlance, it finds itself between a rock and a hard place. That the government would find itself in such a position was inevitable, and obvious to everyone except apparently those that find themselves thus caught.

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Granted, it might be a little early, but I've been keeping an eye on the Letters to the Editor page of the Gazette since the UBP's internal turmoil began a couple of weeks ago, and I've been struck by how few letters there have been on the topic. I spoke with the Editor this morning and he confirmed that he hasn't received many, while they keep piling in on Southlands and the SDO controversy.

So far I can recall three, being Guilden Gilbert, Dr. Eva Hodgson (today) and Kath Bell (former PLP candidate if I recall) who would not be considered representative of the average voter.

The columnists have also been pretty busy but that's again to be expected.

Typically, the debate has been hot and heavy over at Limey in Bermuda, and I've been writing about it here, but neither forum is representative of the casual observer. Funnily enough, the site has become saturated with pro-PLP posters who are crucifying the UBP while simultaneously decrying the blog as a pro-UBP forum.

I'd characterise the critics there (mostly - but not all) as true believers and PLP ground troops, sensing a political opportunity and going for it. Again, not representative of the average voter.

Other than that there hasn't been much; lots of headlines for sure, but it makes me wonder if people have become so exhausted with race in Bermuda politics that they're just tuning this out to a certain extent?

Most of the people who approach me about the topic, don't really take sides, but come across as just plain old cynical about it.

I'm sure there are other interpretations of the quiet (email me yours), but the general silence in the Letters to the Editor is unusual and interesting.

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I listened to John Barritt on Shirley Dill's radio show today, and I thought that John did a very good job of addressing some of the accusations currently out there, as well as describing political life as a member of the UBP.

I'm not going to rehash the whole thing, but I thought that the most interesting and revealing exchange was when Dr. Eva Hodgson called in.

Dr. Hodgson, as she usually does, gave a pretty good summation of the problems that the UBP - and whites generally - have in criticising the PLP. I probably won't say this as eloquently as Dr. Hodgson, but she pointed out that she 'feels sorry for white liberals like Mr. Barritt', because when whites are critical of blacks, what blacks hear is not the criticism but an 'echo' in their heads telling them that they're only being criticised because they are black.

Sound familiar? Jamahl's branch say he wasn't performing so they wanted to replace him, Jamahl says they wanted him out because he's black.

Gwyneth says she was being challenged internally and interpreted it as racial as her critics were white.

This goes back to what I've written about previously: perception is incredibly important; the actions of whites are often misinterpreted as racial when they're not.

But, here's the kicker.

Mr. Barritt, specifically asked Dr. Hodgson this:

What would Dr. Hodgson suggest he change in order to prevent this misunderstanding when criticising Government's policies? How should he approach this going forward? How can he be critical of policies/programs that the PLP are presenting without invoking this 'echo'. How should he couch his critique so as to raise valid concerns without them getting swatted aside as racial?

And here's the problem:

Dr. Hodgson unfortunately never responded to that invitation, an important invitation I thought and one of someone reaching out to say "What can I do to stop this?" Instead, Dr. Hodgson went off on a tangent, an interesting one, but not a productive one if you're trying to change the racial dynamic of Bermuda politics.

Therein lies the problem.

Maybe Dr. Hodgson doesn't have an answer? Or maybe she's hung up on identifying the problem as opposed to remedying it.

But for me, that summed up the catch 22 that we find ourselves in in Bermuda politics.

We can't have a situation where a self-defined 'black Government' is immune to criticism. But that's the implication of marginalising whites and telling them that all of their criticism is racist.

That's what I mean when I say that race is better as a political issue to the PLP than simply an issue. If they can perpetuate this 'echo', then they become immune to criticism and accountability.

The number of times I've been critical of the PLP Government's actions and policies, only to be told that my criticism is racial in nature and therefore should be dismissed out of hand, are too numerous to count.

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I hear what Alex DeCouto, president of the Construction Association of Bermuda (CAOB), is saying.

Special Development Orders are not the answer however, as Cabinet seems to believe. They weren't designed to speed things up but to allow some flexibility for issues of national importance.

Adequately staffing and streamlining the Planning Department is. The situation Bermuda finds itself in now, with a construction boom, is not something that was unforseen with an influx of new reinsurance companies in 2001 and 2005.

The Government has been negligent in allowing things to get this bad. The Immigration Department is a similar story, with key employee exemptions taking over a year to process and regular permits 6 months or more.

The only good thing to come of the slow planning process is potentially a check on an overheated industry.

Fix the process don't circumvent it. Process is important - but not sexy I admit.

Putting these decisions into the Ministers' hands may be expedient, but it lacks accountability and throws far too much into the realm of political backscratching and back room deals.

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"My race is somebody else's problem. It's not my problem."

The mantra taught to Colin Powell by his parents.

Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell

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Maybe it's me, but doesn't it seem like the only difference between the UBP's current discord, and the PLP's 3 year battle between Jennifer Smith's camp and Ewart Brown's camp is that there are whites in the UBP...hence it must be racially driven.

Another example:

When young candidates are fast tracked in the UBP (ie. Jamahl Simmons, or even Shawn Crockwell as the new chair) it's called window dressing, whereas when Premier Brown installed 3 young and completely politically inexperienced individuals in the Senate, it's called a stroke of brilliance and a commitment to the youth.

In fact, I'd hazard a guess that almost all of the people who decry the UBP fastracking any black inidividual through the party would support affirmative action policies in the workplace.

What's the difference?

Those examples are why I become so frustrated - and am convinced race as an issue is not suited to the political domain - is that it's not uncommon to hear whites described as inherently racist; by birth, by nature, by nurture, by definition, by their DNA, or all of the above.

Any action that involves whites is too often ascribed to race in Bermuda.

How can that be a starting point for a discussion of the many layers of privilege in this community, be it white privilege, or dare I raise it...black privilege? Privilege exists both between and within the races.

With that atmosphere, is it any wonder that we can't progress on this issue, and that more and more whites feel that they can't enter the discussion in good faith?

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I'm not sure if this is the website for Government's new TV station - I don't think it is - discussed in today's Royal Gazette Editorial, but Onion TV is live and apparently going on Cablevision.

Not much there right now.

[UPDATE: This would appear to NOT be the Government station, but a separate project.]

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And there you have it, as I predicted Thursday.

The core of Gwyneth's complaint against the UBP is that she didn't get appointed to the Senate or get a safe seat. Get to the back of the line, that's a longstanding gripe of every politician who wants a fast track to the top:

When she talks about not being allowed to grow politically she says: "I'm talking about not being allowed to progress to a level to the extent of eventually getting in the House [of Assembly].

"After rising through the ranks from volunteer to party chairman, it would seem logical that I would aspire to become a Member of Parliament. I had paid my dues and earned my spurs. It seemed to me a natural progression."

Ms Rawlins said she applied for a Senate seat three times when Grant Gibbons was the leader. "On each occasion the seat was given to somebody with less political experience," she said.

The excuse she was given is that the people were chosen because they could provide the best continuity at the time and they needed the exposure. "I never quite understood that," she said.

Ms Rawlins was disappointed but she got on with the job, thinking of the bigger picture - what was best for the party.

Snubbed for a Senate seat, she thought she might be given what would be considered a more winnable constituency seat in the 2003 election. Instead she got Warwick South Central, which was won by Ewart Brown who went on to become the leader of the country.

"I began then to recognize that I would not be allowed to grow politically in that environment," she said, adding that her goal throughout was to serve in the House, where she could have a real say in the decision-making process.

Whatever happened to taking on a tough seat and turning it your way?

I can understand why Gwyn would be disappointed and frustrated, but there's only 3 Opposition Senate seats available and a handful of safe seats since single seat constituencies came into effect. Everyone wants a safe seat, that's the oldest complaint in the book. Feelings are going to get hurt. That's inevitable. But racial? That's a red herring.

Erwin Adderley (black) gave up a safe seat to Jamahl to fight a tougher seat in Pembroke and got hammered.

Tim Smith (white), moved from a Paget safe seat and lost by 8 votes against Renee Webb in a tough Hamilton area.

David Dodwell (white) moved into a very tough area in Southampton - and won - after being in a safe area until 2003.

I ask you, is this racism or someone whose personal ambition didn't get met fast enough?

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As I said weeks ago, this current crisis in the UBP is not so black and white.

A series of (black) UBP MPs debunk the racism allegation in the media today.

From today's Bermuda Sun article entitled 'Poor leadership, not race, is the key issue for party':

It's the first public admission of what party insiders have been saying privately for several months now - that Wayne Furbert is simply not cutting it as leader, especially now that the ruling PLP has replaced Alex Scott with Dr. Ewart Brown.

One veteran UBP member told the Bermuda Sun the current crisis within the UBP, brought on by the resignations of MP Jamahl Simmons and chairman Gwyneth Rawlins, had less to do with their claims of racism within the party than the poor leadership skills of Mr. Furbert.

Mr. Burgess' comments support that view. They are even all the more telling because he and Mr. Furbert are friends and have been running mates in previous elections.

From today's Bermuda Sun:

UBP MP Neville Darrell

Meanwhile, UBP MP Neville Darrell rejected claims by UBP defectors Jamahl Simmons and chairman Gwyneth Rawlins of racism within the UBP. He said he had not encountered "overt racism" from his parliamentary colleagues. But he added: "It should come as a surprise to no one that even within political parties racism would be a normal feature of that environment."

He supports the "core values" of the UBP with its commitment to diversity and the rights of the individual. He added: "I would resist any characterization that I was a token anything."

UBP MP Louise Jackson

UBP MP Louise Jackson reiterated her support for the party, saying: "I have been a member of the UBP since its inception and one of its first members. This has been a party of inclusion and diversity from day one. As a black person within the party, I see white and black people, men and women who are working together to become the next government. It is unfortunate that persons would let their personal failings and lack of accomplishments lead to poisoning the electorate against the UBP. No positive purpose is served by joining our opponents in igniting an issue that would succeed in fanning flames but not address the fundamental issues of concern to the people of Bermuda, like crime and affordable housing"

From today's Royal Gazette article entitled "Racism has never been an issue for me":

UBP MP Pat Gordon-Pamplin:

She added: "I certainly am very, very proud to be a member of our party because I don't have any ego. If there are people I don't get on with, that's of no consequence to me. Nobody can disrespect me."

Mrs Gordon-Pamplin questioned whether those who had quit the party had succumbed to the continued accusations of racism from the UBP's political opponents.

"I would hate to think that it had come to that but I don't see any other explanation unless they sat in another room from me," she said.

"There has been this attitude of the PLP calling us racists. If you have a person who doesn't have a strong resolve or someone who feels threatened, they might say: 'Let me hang on to this racism card'.

"Either you have some masochistic people or you have some very unfortunate people who are just vulnerable enough to succumb to the continued expressions of racism."

She added: "Within the membership of any organisation there are going to be people who don't reflect the majority of people. You are going to have some nasty people no matter what happens.

"But I don't think we are talking about the parliamentary group. I don't think we have got a bunch of racists that we deal with. Certainly not my colleagues in the House (of Assembly)."

She added that those within the party who felt disillusioned should leave and allow the party to begin the "healing process".

"We will heal and we will come forth strongly from this because I don't think Bermuda can afford another PLP government."


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God I love the PLP hysterics over at Limey in Bermuda. They're all up in arms, aghast that I might suggest that there is some PLP influence in the timing of 3 UBP resignations in a few weeks and some harsh accusations by the departing members.

Say it's not true?

Don't be so naive people. I've got a causeway I could sell to a few folks - that is if they're being serious and not mischievous as I expect.

For the record, I write a lot here about a lot of the hot button issues. I'm not going to repeat myself endlessly. For those who want to foam at the mouth that I can't possibly comprehend that there might be racism (or racists) in the UBP, I direct you to this post and this quote, which is one of many where I have acknowledged that the UBP membership - like the rest of Bermuda - can display racist attitudes at times:

The UBP has a much harder job than the PLP. The UBP have to bring together diverse groups of people who have different experiences and perspectives. This can be contentious. Are there racist attitudes among what Jamahl decribes as a vocal minority in the UBP? Yes.

The PLP on the other hand are monolithic and have this 'anti-UBP' cohesion that overrides much of their internal differences. Are there racist attitudes in the PLP? Yep. But because they lack diversity that racism is directed outwards, and means their internal fights are over different issues (chauvinism, homophobia, power etc..)

So forgive me for not feeling the need to repeat myself in every post. If you feel the need to use me as your straw man, at least do me the courtesy of staying abreast of what I write (and spell Dunleavy correctly - there's no 'e' between the 'v' and 'y') ;-).

The fact that I see some PLP influence courtesy of Dr. Brown in this is not a crazy statement; it's a compliment - AND PATENTLY OBVIOUS. You've even got PLP plants over at Limey in Bermuda telegraphing that more announcements will come. Talk about showing your cards.

In fact, I'd expect no less than these tactics from a go for the jugular take no prisoners politician like Dr. Brown. I respect his intelligence and cunning and quite admire his ruthlessness in an odd sort of way. I disagree with all sorts of things that he does and says, but politics is a contact sport and these things happen when you're dealing with human beings.

When Dr. Brown took over there was a sea change in the political landscape which I think the UBP was a little slow to recognise. The UBP's gifts of Jennifer Smith and Alex Scott were gone, replaced by a much more shrewd and effective communicator and strategist.

For those just born yesterday, let me just say that there are no coincidences in politics.

Do you really believe that it's a coincidence that Jamahl, Gwyneth and David Dunkley (ridiculous reason for resigning notwithstanding) all tolerated this appalling treatment - for years - but just happened to reach the breaking point - weeks - after Dr. Brown took over? Could it be that Dr. Brown, who promised to 'obliterate the UBP' saw some weaknesses, a way to cut the legs out from under the UBP, and went for it before likely calling an election after the budget.

It's not at all a stretch to think that they pressured and made overtures, in a careful manner over a number of weeks, to some in the UBP who were having issues operating the internal political environment and feeling the pressure that blacks in the UBP can feel, and figured they could pry them loose.

That's an old trick, but an effective one; especially when you consider that there are those who decided the UBP was done for in the short term by the PLP's removal of Alex Scott. More years in the Opposition doesn't appeal to many.

That's not to say that Jamahl and Gwyn don't feel they have legitimate gripes against these isolated factions in the UBP (Gwyn clearly resents not getting a Senate seat and/or a safe seat after paying her dues. I suppose I could make the same complaint after I spent some time as Party Secretary after the 1998 election defeat and put many hours in on the 2003 election (for the record I don't want a safe seat or ask for anything in return). Is that racism? Or is it that just life?)

I've been in the UBP long enough to know that in the branches and Central there are some hard nuts to crack; people who have over time carved out their own little power bases and protect them through the occasional power play.

When I found myself on the receiving end of those I just laughed it off and marked it down to internal politics; because it can't be racism when it happened to me, can it?

Anyone who follows politics worldwide knows that those who rise to the top know how to navigate the internal politics as well as the external ones. And I think that's more of what's going on here.

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The Royal Gazette has posted the video of the UBP's press conference for those who are interested.

I thought it went well, understanding that the situation is a difficult one.

Shawn Crockwell was very good I thought, pointing out that only a month ago Gwyneth Rawlins personally invited him to be the party's Deputy Chairperson, while saying nothing of the apparent mistreatment and disrespect she says blacks in the UBP endure. Nice way to treat a friend, huh.

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I made it to the press conference, which I would say went well and was very upbeat.

Here's UBP Leader Wayne Furbert's prepared statement, I'll have more after 2PM:

Thank you for coming.

I have several announcements to make regarding party matters.

Last night the United Bermuda Party’s Central Executive received the resignation of Gwyneth Rawlins as party chairman. In stepping down Mrs. Rawlins made several assertions which we consider categorically untrue and downright malicious and which we will address in due course.

I have to say however, looking back on the events of the past two weeks, what has happened and what has been said, has all the appearances of an orchestrated campaign.

Also at last night’s meeting, the Central Executive unanimously elected Sean Crockwell to become the new party chairman.

Sean, who is beside me today, is a bright young man; a newly qualified lawyer who was elected deputy chairman of the party at the party’s annual general meeting in December. He is someone whose counsel I have come to trust and respect.

Sean shares with me and my colleagues the need to get this great country moving forward together, and so it is my pleasure this morning to have Sean with us as our new party chairman.

I want to also confirm that our Parliamentary group met last night to discuss Mrs. Rawlins’ resignation and our position . I am pleased to report that we came out of that meeting reaffirming our commitment to each other, to the party, and our commitment to moving ahead and to providing our supporters and the voters of this country with choice and the promise of better government.

We wish to put and end to the ill-founded rumours with respect to the political future of our colleague and friend, the Hon. Maxwell Burgess.

Maxwell has served the people of Bermuda for more than 25 years. While he will serve out the rest of his term as a representative for the United Bermuda Party and the people of Hamilton South, he will not seek re-election at the next General Election.

In the coming weeks I will announce candidates to fill vacancies that still exist as we continue with the rollout toward a full slate of candidates for the next election..

I now want to take the opportunity to say a few words about the United Bermuda Party today.

Recent events have hurt us. I don’t think there are any of my colleagues who would deny that. We are being tested.
But as Dr. King said: “The measure of a man or a woman is not where they stand in times of peace and prosperity but where they stand in times of adversity and controversy.” I believe that out of adversity comes strength, and that is what I see in my colleagues now more than ever.

I want people to understand that this party has not lost its focus. We are finalizing plans that will go a long way to making this country work better for people, particularly those in the majority who cannot identify with the boast of our living in a country with the highest GDP in the world. Too many of our citizens are being left behind.

I want you to know that my colleagues and I have a sense of urgency and mission about our work, in part because the PLP in power has been such a huge disappointment.

For nearly nine years this government has failed to meet the needs of the people in crucial areas, particularly housing and education. Everyone knows this and I think all of us can agree that it is time to end the indifference. It is time to end the disappointment.

We want to give this country the kind of government it deserves. We want the people of this country to be united and working together. This PLP Government plays the politics of division. The United Bermuda Party believes there is nowhere for the people of this country to go but together.

That is our focus and that is our fervent hope.

Sean, would you like to say a few words as the new chairman of the United Bermuda Party …

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My, what a difference a couple of months makes.

Two months ago the doom and gloom was whether the PLP would die a slow death as a result of their leadership battle between Ewart Brown and Alex Scott, and now the UBP is having a particularly bad run on it.

The news that Gwyneth Rawlins, party chairperson has resigned, has thrown the party back into turmoil. But, as they say, 24 hours is a long time in politics, and the PLP can attest to the fact that in October they felt very uncertain about their future while today they feel invincible.

But for Wayne Furbert and the UBP, when it rains it pours; and right now it's a monsoon.

I just got off the phone with two MPs who told me that they had a late night last night, that they have a new young and energetic party chairperson, and will be holding an 11AM press conference.

So they fight on.

You can debate the merits of that, but that's the course they've evidently chosen and I can say that my conversations were clearly not a case of putting on a brave face.

I'll have more to say on this later as the picture becomes clearer.

But for now I'll say that Jamahl had told me that more was coming...to which I'd assumed he meant that his claims would be substantiated. Evidently I was wrong, we've got more claims and another person parroting Jamahl's press release.

This is clearly an orchestrated series of events, and it's pretty clear to me that it's being driven by Dr. Brown and his proxies.

But that's politics.

I'm going to try and get up to the UBP's press conference at 11, and will report back what I find out but it won't be until early afternoon.

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So let me get this straight:

...the Government wants to remove the 60/40 ownership rule in the telecommunication industry - allowing 100% foreign ownership of ISPs, phone, cable companies etc. and likely killing the small local firms, but removed the ability of Bermudians to sell their qualifying high-end homes to non-Bermudians.

Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Here's an idea: forget telecommunications.

How's about we invite foreign banks in to provide mortgages (I know, they can't secure the loan as foreign businesses can't own property - HSBC/Bank of Bermuda excluded)? Maybe then we'll see the end of extortionate 8-plus percent mortgages, putting home ownership within reach of a few more Bermudians.

An example:

The standard retail 30 year mortgage rate here is around 8.25%, while in the US it's running around 5.75% for a 30 year mortgage (and the banks are borrowing at the same rate).

On a 30 year $1,000,000 mortgage that's a difference of about $1,600 a month. That helps.

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I haven't heard the details, but evidently the Bermuda Airport Fire Service rolled another of their fire trucks this morning.

Thanks to TM (via TS) for the pics.

[UPDATE: My airport sleuth reports that the truck was out on a training run, tried to make a turn at too high a speed and rolled over THREE TIMES before finally stopping.]

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Sometimes, you've just got to believe in karma.

After the Bermuda Broadcasting Company's Gary Moreno gave Phil over at Limey in Bermuda a hard time over a rapidly deleted phony post under his name (resulting in Phil implementing comment moderation) the Bermuda Sun ran an article on the non-issue... before having to apologise for a comment posted on their site shortly thereafter.

And now, the karmic forces are at work with Gary Moreno apologising on last night's ZBM/ZFB news broadcast, for ZBM having reported earlier in the day that Chesterfield Johnson, convicted murderer of Connie Furtado, had died...except he hadn't.

Talk about checking your sources! Having to apologise to a convicted child murder takes the cake.

Sweet justice indeed.

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Last night I was surveyed by an affiliate of Total Marketing and Communications on behalf of BELCO.

Normally I transcribe the surveys, but once I heard that it was BELCO I didn't bother, although among the standard run of the mill questions were some interesting ones which lent some insight into where BELCO (and the island) is heading.

The questions that got my attention were the ones about:

1) Whether I thought BELCO could continue to meet Bermuda's energy needs while being reliant on foreign oil?
2) If I would support the construction of a new power plant and/or sub-plants around the island?
3) Should a new plant be located at the existing site or somewhere else?
4) If I was open to renewable energy sources such as wind turbines?
5) If I supported 'green' energy alternatives and would be agreeable to alternative energy sources (presumably solar panels and the like) installed on my property?
6) Whose responsibility it was to educate the public on environmentally friendly energy usage and alternatives.
7) And the perennial question of whether I thought power lines should go underground (and if that would be more reliable/cost effective/safe etc.)

All in all it was an interesting survey, suggesting that BELCO is in the planning stages of a new plant (both scale and location), is measuring public opinion on that while testing the appetite for renewable energy sources.

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The more I see, hear and read Barack Obama, the more I am convinced that he is the real deal, a poltician with a rare combination of intellect, charisma and vision who gets it, truly gets it.

Today, he announced that he is establishing a Presidential Exploratory Committee - the first official step in running for president.

The following except from his statement sums up not just the problems that America faces, but Bermuda's:

But challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way. Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.

And that's what we have to change first.

We have to change our politics, and come together around our common interests and concerns as Americans.

This won't happen by itself. A change in our politics can only come from you; from people across our country who believe there's a better way and are willing to work for it.

"The smallness of our politics"; "gummed up with money and influence"; an inability to overcome this and "tackle the big problems that demand solutions".

Sounds familiar.

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A Pembroke West UBP constituent tackles Jamahl Simmons' claims of racism head on in the Royal Gazette's Letters to the Editor.

Money quote:

The difference is that Mr. Adderley is no stranger to us as we see him at church services, in the grocery store and various other places around our community and he always asks how things are and seems genuinely interested in what we have to say. You claim that he is more acceptable to us because he socialises with us. I think a better way to put it is that you are less acceptable to the people of Pembroke West because you were rarely seen or heard from, and it seemed more and more apparent that you were not interested in representing us. Race is completely irrelevant.

As the saying goes, all politics is local.

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If you've just held a controversial political fundraiser, one which pushed the boundaries of ethical behaviour and raised all sorts of questions about what is and isn't above board, surely the last person you want as your standard-bearer is lawyer and political fair-weather friend Llewelyn Penniston.

You can't miss the irony in Mr. Penniston talking about the event being suspiciously transparent:

“This is an unusual and a bold approach by the PLP but one that’s sufficiently transparent that it should not attract any more criticism than attended the UBP in its heyday.”

...while the organisers threw out the press:

A representative from this newspaper interviewing ball guests was instructed to leave the hotel premises by security staff at the behest of the event organisers.

I guess after the T.H.E. scandal the Premier has learned not to put the donors on the invitation; better to keep them under wraps.

The Police Landcruisers to keep out the locals was a nice touch as well.

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A number of people have chimed in on the state of the UBP and, the more intelligent ones, what it says about Bermuda's broad political scene.

Tom Vesey, John Swan and Khalid Wasi (today's Mid Ocean - not yet online) get it. I generally agree with their observations (not all but enough), and won't dignify today's tripe by the Premier's taxpayer funded attack dog with a response, other to say it is highly offensive that our tax dollars are being used to support such a partisan position.

Tom Vesey hits on something I've often observed to people but I don't think written about here, which is that both parties are dysfunctional mis-mashes of political philosophies due to the dominance of a distorting issue:

But so strong is the racial identification of each party, and so strong are the racial messages that each (openly and subtly) is trying to spread about the other, that it's impossible for a conservative or a liberal or anybody else to choose a party that matches their political philosophy.

Khalid Wasi takes a similar approach, although he tends to argue that the UBP should be dissolved in order to trigger a cascading effect on the PLP and allow a new paradigm to emerge.

Sir John Swan looks at things from a much more pragmatic perspective, commenting that the buoyant economy dominates the political landscape and the racism allegation misrepresents the issues:


But he emphatically denied there was a hardcore of white racists within the party. “People have wishes and desires and they should be able to express them – to put a racial twist on it doesn’t serve the country or anyone any useful purpose.”

He said there were racists among both the black and white communities. “You cannot mitigate or marshal people’s psyches.”

But he pointed out Mr. Simmons had been struggling against supporters of another black candidate.

“What you are really talking about here might be a clash of cultures.”
Opponents had accused Mr. Simmons of campaigning with family members who supported the PLP but Sir John said: “I had PLP people support me when I was Premier and my party was impressed – it was the only way I could win.”

Sir John said he too had faced party opponents in his constituency who wanted to replace him but it was a democratic process and he said people should have kept their mouths shut until the primary in Pembroke West.

“To have an outright battle without the democratic process and get in position where everyone is entrenched is not desirable.”

On ZBM last night Sir John said that the UBP struggles for quality candidates because businesses are less inclined to allow their professionals to run for politics (best exemplified by the John Barritt example) while the PLP generally is made of the self-employed and un-employed; a scenario which has flipped things from the early days of party politics where the UBP had a vast pool of professional/merchant candidates while the PLP struggled to find candidates.

There is a lot of merit in these three critiques and something with which I have struggled for some time:

The UBP is far from perfect. But the interesting thing is that if you discount the PLP opportunists who are piling on - seeing this as a chance to bury the UBP - the people who acknowledge the structural/cultural problems with the UBP do not see the PLP as the solution (Khalid was in the UBP and Sir John was the UBP's longest serving Premier).

They all understand that the choice to join the UBP is a complicated one usually driven by a pramatic realism that a single-race party (PLP) is unworkable and that a party with a broader range of views is desirable but also prone to problems such as the current incident.

Maybe these problems are too great to overcome. I'm still trying to reach my own conclusions on that. But the problems the UBP have are in my mind far preferable to the problems the PLP have; the UBP struggles to achieve consensus at times due to a wide range of perspectives and experiences despite everyone's best intentions, while the PLP suffer from an absence of diverse opinion and attribute everything to race.

And finally, I can't help but note the fact that the election of November 9th 1998 seemed to erase from the memory of PLP supporters the fact that they endured thirty years and nine successive electoral defeats. By contrast the UBP has lost 2 in eight years, which pales in comparison.

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Opinionated white boys (that's a direct quote from one of my readers) unite...and then disagree.

Sadly, the Royal Gazette website doesn't include our stunning glamour shots.

[UPDATE: The Limey is accepting insults over at this week's caption competition. Be gentle.]

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My geek side has been showing through recently, but I've now been reliably informed that, as previously indicated, Cablevision will be launching the following High Definition channels on January 15th:

Movie Channels
HBO HD - 450
Cinemax HD - 455
Showtime HD - 460
TMC HD - 465

Variety
Food - 425
HGTV - 430
Wealth - 435
National Geographic - 440
Sportsnet - 445 (likely)

The variety channels could be better (ie. ESPNHD, ESPN2HD, HDNet and DiscoveryHD), and there are no local networks (ABD, NBC, FOX, CBS) right now, but it's a good start.

It would seem that you will need to use either CableCard (available at M&Ms), Cablevision's DVR, or an HD Tivo instead of the existing box which lacks the HD outputs.

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Someone talk me through this one:

David Dunkley has [racial] problems with his neighbours and it's the UBP's fault?

First the Bermuda Sun runs with it, and now the Gazette's Matthew Taylor - who I think has been very even-handed on the Jamahl Simmons story - drops this line in today's article:

It also emerged yesterday that Corporation of Hamilton alderman David Dunkley had resigned after 28 years in the UBP citing racism as the cause.

Doesn't he mean, "citing his neighbours' racism as the cause".

This is absurd.

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A former resident of Southlands writes:


Dear Sir,

I write concerning the proposed development of Southlands, which I read about with great sadness as I lived on the estate as my only home for some 30 years. My late Mother was the widow of Brigadier H.D. Maconochie, a past owner of the estate.

What has been missing from the comments that I have read so far is the historical aspect of the property apart from the Morgan tomb. The main house appears on the famous 17th century maps of Bermuda, and many of the cottages are also sufficiently old to warrant a second thought before approving demolition. Also, the eastern end of the south side of the South Shore Road contains the site of the gun emplacements and ammunition arsenals which acted as Bermuda’s protection during the Second World War.

The unique Quarry Gardens have been mentioned, but one has to see them to understand the significance of them. I recommend that the Editor of this newspaper visits them

In London, many old and historical properties have been demolished in the name of greed, without consideration of the fact that these actions remove part of the heritage future generations would treasure. Bermuda will be done a very great disservice if it copies this.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Darrall-Rew.

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So, as promised here are my thoughts on the Jamahl Simmons vs UBP saga of the past couple of days.

Firstly, some disclosure and background.

When Jamahl joined the party (brought in by Wayne Furbert - then Party Chairperson), I was asked to sit on the Branch Candidate Selection Committee as one of the 4 Central Party reps while the Pembroke West Branch had 5.

The two choices presented were Neville Darrell (current Warwick West #28 MP who is retiring at the end of the term due to a severe back injury) and Jamahl Simmons.

The way the meeting played out was that the Central reps were pushing for Neville over Jamahl due to Jamahl's recent arrival from the NLP, where he was a recent arrival from the PLP. My/our position was that Jamahl was open to 'carpet-bagger' criticism and that he should put some time into the party before being handed a UBP safe seat, and that Neville had more experience with his 30 year career and didn't come with Jamahl's musical chair baggage.

The branch members however felt very strongly - very strongly - that they wanted Jamahl, a young fresh face in their area and basically told the Central representatives "Thanks for coming out but you've got 4 votes we've got 5, we'll take Jamahl" - which was entirely their prerogative.

So I have a little background in the early stages. All I can say is that somewhere between that meeting and 2007 something broke down, and I was not around for that. This dispute came as a surprise to me.

Also for the record, I should state that due to time pressures with my family and work I don't have much involvement in the Central party structure anymore and very rarely attend caucus (twice in the past 12 months I think).

I should also say that I know a lot of players in this. I know and like Jamahl a lot, I know and like Wayne a lot, and I worked with some of the people in the Pembroke branch. So I admit that I may be a little close to this situation, which is one reason why I have taken a few days to mull it over before piling in (in addition to fielding quite a few emails and phone calls from perplexed/concerned Bermudians).

I've also had a little email correspondence with Jamahl over the past few days, and I've expressed to him my disappointment that his time in the UBP ended this way, but also my disappointment with the tone and venom that was on display at Monday's press conference, which I think were over the top - and didn't do him any favours (other than trying to endear himself to Dr. Brown and the PLP perhaps).

And finally in the disclosure category, I spoke with Wayne for about half an hour on Monday night, and he read to me a number of email exchanges between himself and Jamahl over several months which confirm that Wayne did indeed reach out, offered support and strategy, and was generally assured by Jamahl that his support was appreciated, although the emails became progressively more hostile to the branch.

But with all that said, I'm going to try and take a dispassionate look at this, or as best I can:

Before I get into the specific accusations I would like to point out that of all Bermuda's political parties, the UBP may be able to claim the most success in working with Jamahl - he lasted 5 years, which is longer than he lasted in the PLP and NLP.

Graeme Outerbridge (NLP) used to rant and rave about Jamahl to me in emails and over at Limey in Bermuda, and berate him for the way he left the NLP. I dismissed it and argued with Graeme that he was being unfair - the usual rants from the at times zany "Big Bad Wolf" - but maybe I shouldn't have.

The first thing to point out in this whole saga is that Jamahl has been a member of every political party in Bermuda in less than 8 years, and left all three in a blaze of glory; the UBP are not alone here. With that kind of history - at age 34 - perhaps you need to look at yourself not necessarily others as the problem, or accept that you don't work well as part of a [political] team. Maybe you're more cut out as a free-agent or an independent.

Now, with respects to the allegation that the movement against Jamahl was racial; that accusation seems shaky.

Jamahl has a valid point about the UBP needing to recruit not just more black candidates but also branch workers. But that's not an easy task. People don't really want to get involved in politics here, so the core workers have been at it a long time, which in the UBP's case means that they are not just older, but more white.

However, because people who are opposed to you are of one race, doesn't mean their complaint is racial. There are a couple of possibilities here:

1) Race was a factor.

or,

2) Race is a convenient and effective accusation against the UBP, used to cover up Jamahl's own inadequacies, but one which plays nicely into the dominant PLP-fed narrative about the party.

Adding to the problems with the race allegation, the candidate the branch now wants is also black - Erwin Adderley. So it's hard to reconcile an accusation that you're being chased out because you're black, when the replacement is black, unless you make the racial argument that Erwin is somehow less-black than Jamahl.

Most importantly Jamahl has failed to substantiate his accusation of racial attacks, other than saying that his black supporters were threatened and he was called lazy.

If he's serious about eradicating racism in Bermuda then he should name and shame. I talked to Wayne Furbert and a couple of others about this allegation, and they say they can't substantiate it. It's clear who was apparently threatened, but so far no-one has been able to say by whom. It's one of those, "I heard that someone at a cocktail party said that if ...." At least that's what I've been told, so on that basis I'm not sure what can be done unless Jamahl or someone else names the individuals involved.

With respects to 'they called me lazy'. I presume what Jamahl is implying here is the classic 'black people are lazy' slur.

Jamahl's situation over the past few years has been incredibly stressful, as he lost his home and his step-son's father in Hurricane Fabian, has had health issues with both his son and now very recently himself, and was recently complaining that he can't find work.

So Jamahl doesn't really deny that he hasn't been the most active MP due to his unfortunate personal situation, but at the press conference he just seemed to expect the branch to accept it, which I've been told they did...for awhile.

Apparently a (large) Pembroke regional meeting was held in 2005 when it was requested that he pick up the canvassing, to which he agreed but they feel didn't happen.

Here is where it gets messy. Jamahl says he was working and that he was accused of canvassing with PLP members, who were actually his family.

With all that was going on in his life with his family and health issues, it's understandable that he wasn't able to go 100% in his constituency, but it's also understandable that despite his issues, the branch wanted a candidate/MP who could fully commit after years of personal problem after problem.

But perspective is important; Jamahl feels he was subject to the lazy stereotype when he in fact was caring for his family, while the branch seem to be arguing that they needed someone who wasn't so distracted.

Also on this topic, I'm sure this battle between the branch and Jamahl got nasty. In political parties there is 'politics' and 'Politics'. At times the internal ones can be worse than the external ones, as the PLP can attest. So backstabbing, intimidation and threats are distasteful, but not that much of a surprise and not that unusual. And the UBP should step in and expel anyone who threatens someone else, but as mentioned above you can't do anything if you don't know who did it.

I can understand why Jamahl might perceive it to be racial, but that doesn't necessary mean it is. In fact a number of white folks have commented to me in the past day on how much of a pain in the ass (and nasty) those Pembroke workers can be at times. I can attest to the fact that they're a demanding bunch. At the 2003 election I was working on the UBP's canvassing database, and Pembroke were extremely demanding and a nightmare (and crapped all over me at times). So I can't say the problems he encountered weren't racial, but again, it's not clear that they were.

Frankly, the race charges are lightly supported and in today's paper Jamahl declines to back them up more strongly, which doesn't help his cause.

These attacks are easy and effective against the UBP. They cut deep and are more problematic that Dr. Brown's shameful attack on Grant Gibbons for example.

My guess is that Jamahl's press conference where he portrayed the UBP as a racist organisation will play well with those who want to believe that, and won't play so well for those people who feel that the race excuse is tired and overplayed. In fact, I predict that many of the people who lambasted Jamahl for the past 5 years as a flip-flopping political opportunist will now hold him up as the beacon of truth.

What Jamahl said on Monday certainly hurt the UBP - probably badly. And like most of these situations there is probably an element of truth to some of the accusation, but that doesn't mean they are true...if you see the difference.

But as I said at the beginning, Jamahl has some credibility problems due to his track record of breezing in and storming out of every political party in Bermuda. His inability to last more than a few years is very cogent to his criticism of the UBP, criticism which isn't that different from what he leveled against the PLP when he left.

On to the accusation that Wayne didn't support Jamahl. While Wayne probably could have - and should have - done more to shut this thing down earlier, from the email exchanges he read to me it's clear that Jamahl was sending decidedly mixed messages. But that doesn't really matter, Wayne should have inserted himself more strongly and I think still needs to shift his approach, understanding that he can't be everyone's friend and needs to throw some elbows around at times.

From that perspective Wayne can do better, but he does genuinely care about people and that is not a bad personality trait. He just shouldn't let that override his need to take a strong hand organisationally at times.

I think I've rambled enough. But my takeaway from all this is that this event has exposed the fragility of the UBP model.

The UBP has a much harder job than the PLP. The UBP have to bring together diverse groups of people who have different experiences and perspectives. This can be contentious. Are there racist attitudes among what Jamahl decribes as a vocal minority in the UBP? Yes.

The PLP on the other hand are monolithic and have this 'anti-UBP' cohesion that overrides much of their internal differences. Are there racist attitudes in the PLP? Yep. But because they lack diversity that racism is directed outwards, and means their internal fights are over different issues (chauvinism, homophobia, power etc..)

The UBP's diversity is both a strength and a weakness. Sure there are some wingnuts in the party, but the UBP aren't alone in that respect. With respects to Jamahl's complaint that the membership doesn't represent Bermuda, no party's membership does - worldwide.

Obviously I wish this whole situation had reached a better outcome, but I get the impression that Jamahl wanted out, and it seems highly likely that he'll boomerang back to the PLP.

As one person said to me yesterday, "Will he have to stop off at the NLP on his way back to the PLP?"

Or as someone on the talk shows apparently said, "He needs to forget about the PLP, NLP or UBP and get a J-O-B."

Maybe he buys into the argument that Ewart Brown's ascension has affirmed a PLP re-election and that he'd better cast his lot again with the PLP. There would be no better way to prove your PLP credentials than to mortally wound the UBP on the way out.

Time will tell.

But I'm sorry it has come down this way. I like Jamahl, I imagine there is some truth to what he says, what the branch says, and what Wayne says.

But if you step back and look at the big picture, as I've attempted to do, things aren't so black and white.

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I'm going to post some thoughts on the rather unpleasant - but maybe not as bad as initial reactions might suggest - Jamahl Simmons saga soon, tonight or possibly the morning, but for now, I'm much more interested in Apple's launch of the amazing iPhone and AppleTV.

That's much more exciting and made my day much better.

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Doug DeCouto has posted some photos of the planning documents and mapped out the footprint in Google Earth.

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The resident Marxist over at Limey Land, Jonathon Starling, found a promotional video for the proposed Southlands development.

The video reveals the true extent of the development. It's a pretty well put together promo-spot, but what I couldn't help but notice is that they are selling the development on the beauty of the land, but then have designs for a massive beachfront glass and concrete structure which will eliminate any of that natural beauty.

This issue is a complex one.

I am very concerned on a larger scale, about the overheating of the construction industry, if all of these 5 developments were to come to fruition simultaneously, and that's not to even mention a (budgeted) 3/4 of a billion dollar hospital replacement and a new causeway, the economy, wages, rents etc. would skyrocket.

So that's one concern, which is broader than this specific development.

I'm also concerned about the increased use of Special Development Orders to circumvent planning laws. While the inefficiency of the planning department is an issue, SDO's aren't the solution. The solution is streamlining the planning process while enforcing the existing regulations. If the PLP Government feels that the current zoning laws need to be amended, then do that legislatively and engage the public on it, but don't just sidestep it all with SDOs.

Now, with respect to the specific developments and SDOs:

I'm less concerned about the request for an SDO with the proposed city hotel, to facilitate a higher structure, as that will be built in an urban area which is already built up.

I am however concerned that the Southlands development essentially proposes to concrete in a massive area of protected woodland. I certainly have no problem with the developers developing their land, as is their right to achieve a return on their investment (and help improve our tourism product), however it should be done under current zoning laws, the laws that applied when the property was purchased.

The loss of open space is a loss, that is indisputable. And while I do like the idea of Government purchasing the property as a park/nature reserve (as proposed by the UBP), I think that is unlikley.

Blocking development is also unappealing, as that essentially nationalises private property, which I can't support.

But it seems to me that a hotel can be developed on site which is much more integrated with the surrounding environment, and doesn't tear to shreds and fill with concrete a very scenic and environmentally sensitive stretch of South Shore.

And finally, I feel compelled to point out the hypocrisy of allowing the Southside (and other) developers to build homes for sales to foreigners, after this Government retroactively removed the right of Bermudians with eligible high-end properties to sell to non-Bermudians - dramatically devaluing their asset over night.

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I have been out of touch for most of the day, but I just received this broadcast email from UBP Leader Wayne Furbert, with respects to Jamahl Simmons and Constituency 19:


A Statement by United Bermuda Party Leader,
The Hon. Wayne L. Furbert, JP. MP

This evening, I received note from Jamahl Simmons, United Bermuda Party MP for Pembroke West, that he would not be contesting next election.

I am saddened by this decision.

We had great hopes for Jamahl. He has lots to offer this country as a smart, young Bermudian interested in public affairs.

Jamahl made great strides over the years in his work for the United Bermuda Party. He served as the party's spokesman for race relations. He worked very closely with us to draft economic empowerment legislation and to plan for the establishment of economic development zones. Jamahl served on the committee to establish a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians. In addition, he was the party> '> s public relations officer for three years.

I know Jamahl will serve out his term and fulfill his duties to his constituents, both on the ground and in the House of Assembly, with distinction and integrity, and I look forward to him helping us win the next election.

On behalf of the party, I wish him continuing success.

January 5, 2007

I can't speak to what drove Jamahl's decision. I presume we'll be hearing more on this over the coming days.

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Rumour has it that the deadline for objections to the Southlands Development is 5PM today. I received this sample objection letter. Objections should be faxed (and signed) to Planning at 295-4100:

4 January, 2007

The Director of Planning
Re: P1029/06 Southland's Estate

Dear Director,

I wish to register my objection to the above application for the following reasons:

1) the proposal would seek to build on woodland and open space that is protected from development;
2) the proposal would seek to alter the coastal zone, also protected;
3) the proposal violates the spirit of the Sustainable Development Strategy and Plan in that it seeks to do the bulk of its construction on previously undeveloped land, or greenfield, rather than rebuild on an already developed, or brownfield site;
4) the proposal would seek to divert public traffic through a tunnel; and
5) the proposal must be considered together with another hotel proposal planned for property adjacent or almost adjacent to the east known as the Grand Atlantic Resort and Residences project.


I understand the proposers are seeking a Special Development Order (SDO) to enable the coastal development and construction on protected woodlands and open space. I must voice my strong objection to an SDO being employed to sidestep planning regulations and the full planning process.

Given the magnitude of this proposal, its potential impact on the coastline, public transportation, protected woodlands and open space, and the combined impact of this proposal with other major hotel proposals currently under application or consideration, I would urge that one or more Environmental Impact Assessments be called for, designed and conducted to assess the full economic, social and environmental impact of this proposal.

I must note that the Bermuda Government became a signatory to the Environment Charter in 2003, and in doing so committed itself inter alia to clauses 3, 4 and 5 of the Charter:

The Bermuda Government will...

3) Ensure that environmental considerations are integrated within social and economic planning processes; promote sustainable patterns of production and consumption within the territory.

4) Undertake environmental impact assessments before approving major projects and while developing our growth management strategy.

5) Commit to open and consultative decision-making on developments and plans which may affect the environment; ensure that environmental impact assessments include consultation with stakeholders.


I contend that the public is inadequately informed -- as is, I would suggest, the entire hierarchy of decision-makers for this proposal -- about the ramifications of this project, alone, as well as in conjunction with other proposed tourism-related projects, on the economic, social and environmental impacts it will have on our Island.

I would therefore propose that the requisite Environmental Impact Assessments be conducted, in full view of the public, and only then can the public be fairly called upon to participate in the planning approval process. For the avoidance of doubt, I am suggesting that given how much the public does NOT know about the ramifications of this application, it is unfair to expect the public to be reasonably able to consent or object to this proposal by the imposed deadline of 5 January 2007.

Sincerely,

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UBP Senator Bob Richards, someone who really needs to be in the House of Assembly and is for my money one of our best economic and political minds (I believe Premier and/or Finance Minister material), delivers the goods today in a Royal Gazette OpEd on the perils of overheating the economy.

Money quote:

"Fortunately, the insurance cycle is not closely correlated with the overall economic cycle and the underlying tone of the offshore insurance/reinsurance market appears to be quite solid and of course this augers well for Bermuda."

"The critical economic issues facing Bermuda for 2007 are also internal. For many months I have been like a voice crying out in the wilderness on the issue of overheating of our economy. Simply put, the Bermuda Government has sat on its hands and let our economy overheat, particularly in the construction sector. This has resulted in, on the one hand, a bonanza in payroll taxes for Government coffers to finance their spending excesses, but, on the other hand, it has had a disastrous impact for the ordinary Bermudian family, the very same people the Government claims to represent."

This is territory the UBP feel confident on. The latest Premier may very well be overplaying his tired "Minister who delivers" moniker, scaring off voters with his signaling to every and any developer that they can pour concrete at will all over the island and he'll make sure planning regulations aren't an obstacle.

There are environmental as well as economic concerns at play here.

And while Bob focuses on the proposed (but not yet funded, I hear) 'avalanche of hotel development', we can't forget that Government intends to spend probably a billion dollars on a new hospital and probably 100 million on the causeway.

There is simply no way that the island can sustain (either economically or environmentally) that much simultaneous construction.

Just no way.

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For the TV-aholics out there, Cablevision (that company we have a love-hate relationship with) is running a message on Channel 100 about some system changes in anticipation of High Definition programming.

Finally.

I hear through the grapevine that they'll be rolling out 10 HD channels with 5 'variety channels' and 5 'movie channels' on 15 January.

No networks 'yet'. Hopefully 'yet' is the keyword. If 24 isn't addictive enough, imagine it in HD.

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Bermuda Sun Columnist Stuart Hayward just about nails it in today's Bermuda Sun, writing on what I posted briefly on last week.

"SDOs are now becoming so common their name should be changed to Standard Development Orders. And instead of being used only in extraordinary circumstances, they are becoming a frequent device to circumvent Planning regulations. It's discouraging - we have been fighting for years to prevent developers from loop-holing the orderly planning process. And now our own government is becoming the most prevalent loop-holer. It's outrageous."

The only thing I think he misses is that the sudden rise of SDO's is the PLP's attempt to make up for 8 years of inaction and orderly development in the run-up to an election - aka "Hurry Up Mode".

Cole Simons and the UBP address that aspect in today's Royal Gazette:

New hotel developments would require hundreds of extra foreign workers, more vehicles on the Island’s roads and put further pressure on housing needs, said the UBP MP. “We believe Government must raise its gaze above short-term political ends to consider what is best for the Island in the long-term. Careful planning is critical. The current rush to convey a sense of turnaround in the tourism industry should not be the starting point for decisions that will impact the Island for generations to come,” said Mr. Simons.

To all those who worked so hard to block the desecration of the Botanical Gardens, your work has only just begun.

As I said last week:

I've never felt like much of an environmentalist, but I'm starting to now.

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The Royal Gazette today reports that a company owned by Brian Duperreault, former CEO of ACE Limited, and his wife Nancy, are among the principals behind the proposed hotel development and razing of Southlands.

Although the article doesn't get into it, this new information shines the spotlight back on the problems with the Premier and his wife's unregistered charity, the T.H.E. Foundation.

Mr. and Mrs. Duperreault are listed as "Ruby Donors" on the T.H.E. invitation.

Therein lies the problem.

If you have millions invested in a piece of land, which you want to develop into a new hotel, and the Deputy (and aspiring) Premier/Tourism Minister or his proxy (aka his wife) calls looking for donations for their pet project, what do you do?

How can you say no?

And after you give $25,000 what might you hope for in return? A Special Development Order perhaps? And will the Premier ensure they get an SDO in exchange for supporting the T.H.E. event?

The conflicts of interest behind T.H.E. are rampant, and growing. They don't even have to exist to be a problem; the potential for conflicts is enough.

The perception of selling favours is there whether you want to deny it or not, or invoke technicalities or not. And that compromises the integrity of all sides.

When political fundraising targets people/business with specific needs from Government you put them in an impossible position.

Individuals/businesses working on projects which require Government approval will find it virtually impossible to say no when the Deputy Premier and head of a Ministry they need something from comes calling for a small donation (relative to their other investment).

And the Premier and his colleagues, when considering requests for an SDO for example, or allocation of Government contracts, will inevitably have in the backs of their minds who has been a financial supporter, either of T.H.E., or the Premier's Gala Weekend or another PR event.

This is precisely why the fund-raising engaged in by the Premier (and his wife) raises legitimate questions of selling favours, pay to play, or whatever you want to call it.

This is why we need proper campaign finance reform.

This is why we need proper disclosure in politics.

This is why we need charities to be registered.

This is why we need politicians who don't push the boundaries of ethical behaviour.

This is why the Bermudian public needs to shake off its apathy.

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