Elec­tions in Ja and USA

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Ron­ald Ma­son Ron­ald Ma­son is an at­tor­ney-at­law and Supreme Court me­di­a­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and na­tion­sagenda@gmail.com.

THIS IS the last week­end be­fore the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions set for Tues­day, Novem­ber 8. Last week, our Govern­ment in Ja­maica an­nounced that the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions will be held on Novem­ber 28.

Both elec­tions pro­vide a point of de­par­ture for con­sid­er­a­tion. The US pres­i­den­tial polls are of enor­mous con­se­quence, not only to Amer­ica, but to the free world. The win­ner will be termed ‘the most pow­er­ful per­son on earth’.

In con­trast, the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in Ja­maica will per­pet­u­ate a most use­less elected body. One can trace the pro­gres­sion of the nom­i­nees for pres­i­dent of the USA and oc­ca­sion­ally the sys­tem al­lows for in­fil­tra­tion by un­qual­i­fied, in­com­pe­tent per­sons to seek of­fice.

ES­SEN­TIAL SER­VICES

In Ja­maica, one is hard-pressed to de­ter­mine the qual­i­fi­ca­tion for be­com­ing a mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lor. The very dis­tinct im­pres­sion across Ja­maica is that these coun­cil­lors are to­tally use­less in any other field of en­deav­our. The bad thing about this is that we the ci­ti­zens pay mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors each $1.28 mil­lion a year as base salary plus al­lowances. This salary is more than what reg­is­tered nurses and per­sons per­form­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices in the so­ci­ety re­ceive, but the hacks get salaries, re­tire­ment al­lowances of two-thirds an­nual salary as long as they com­plete three full terms, cu­mu­lat­ing not less than eight years and are 55 years of age or older.

They are sup­posed to be re­spon­si­ble for ser­vices to ci­ti­zens at the point of their res­i­dences. Take a look at the pro­lif­er­a­tion of garbage in Kingston, Mon­tego Bay and Lucea, to name a sam­ple. The gul­lies back up and over­flow in the con­stituency rep­re­sented in Par­lia­ment by the min­is­ter of lo­cal govern­ment.

If ever there was a use­less elec­toral group­ing, the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors are it. They are quick to point out which roads don’t fall within their purview. The verges are un­kempt. The roads for which they have re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­knowl­edge are in de­plorable con­di­tion.

The ur­ban cen­tres re­mind us of garbage dumps, yet par­lia­men­tar­i­ans meet fre­quently – com­mit­tees and sub­com­mit­tees for ev­ery topic un­der the sun. They fight over turf.

Look at the St Cather­ine Par­ish Coun­cil ver­sus Port­more Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil. The Build­ing and Plan­ning de­part­ments sanc­tion de­ci­sions that al­low ho­tels to be built in air­line flight paths and fam­ily mem­bers get con­tracts sim­ply for be­ing fam­ily mem­bers, a prac­tice that has been per­pet­u­ated time after time.

We have 228 of these per­sons who are only the foot sol­diers for their re­spec­tive par­ties. The par­ties need to win at all cost, as ar­tic­u­lated by Ruddy Spencer and Des­mond McKen­zie, so they get a pool of funds ad­min­is­tered by a min­istry as it suits its whims and fan­cies. Why bother to vote? This coun­try of 2.8 mil­lion peo­ple needs this layer of govern­ment like all of us need an­other hole in the head.

NAG­GING QUES­TIONS

How­ever, do not de­spair. Crass pol­i­tics is not a phe­nom­e­non en­demic to Ja­maica. The Clin­ton Foun­da­tion was con­ceived, created and funded to keep the Clin­ton fam­ily in the life­style to which they were never ac­cus­tomed.

When the Clin­tons left the White House, they took that which they never bought or were given to them per­son­ally. They also took mil­lions of dol­lars in debt and nag­ging ques­tions about the death of Vince Foster and a trea­tise on how to use sup­posed friends. Ask Lani Guinier. Don­ald Trump used the largesse of his fa­ther to cre­ate a com­pany which he now la­bels an amaz­ing com­pany, yet his com­pa­nies have over the years re­peat­edly sought the pro­tec­tion of the US bank­ruptcy laws.

One must ques­tion his busi­ness acu­men, which is his sole qual­i­fi­ca­tion(?) for mak­ing ‘Amer­ica Great Again’, yet his suc­cess is di­rectly linked to mak­ing oth­ers pay the price for his ac­tions.

When one thinks about some likely im­pact of mis­steps aris­ing from the elec­tions in Ja­maica and the USA, one can only shud­der. Imag­ine some fool is go­ing to pro­pose to pay the coun­cil­lors more of your hard-earned taxes. Some­body is likely to pro­pose that he gets mo­tor ve­hi­cles to tra­verse di­vi­sions at govern­ment ex­pense and study best prac­tices at neigh­bour­ing sim­i­larly de­crepit mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

ºYou are un­likely to hear any­thing about cre­ation of mu­nic­i­pal bonds or im­proved col­lec­tion of prop­erty taxes, im­proved fire ser­vices, im­proved wa­ter and sew­er­age, land devel­op­ment and cadas­tral map­ping. We are also un­likely to hear any­thing of re­newal of ur­ban cen­tres and how the nas­ti­ness in the coun­try will be dealt with in a sus­tained man­ner.

We are also un­likely to hear how mu­nic­i­pal build­ings and mar­kets will be re­newed and how parochial roads will be re­paired to re­flect a re­newed ru­ral net­work. What you will hear and see are the ar­ro­gance and ‘chuck it’, ‘don­man­ship’ be­hav­iour of Des­mond McKen­zie and com­pany.

In the process of elec­tion­eer­ing, we will see Christ­mas ‘bollo’ work, roads be­ing re­paired, mos­quito-breed­ing sites be­ing cleared, verges be­ing bushed and garbage be­ing col­lected to try to take ad­van­tage of these elec­tions. You all take Ja­maicans for fools.

In the USA, the elec­tion of ei­ther of these two is a poor re­flec­tion that they are the best can­di­dates that 300-plus mil­lion per­sons could of­fer to their coun­try and, by ex­ten­sion, the world.

What a fu­ture to look for­ward to!

INOW WE know it’s Novem­ber 28 for the lo­cal govern­ment polls, a mer­ci­fully short cam­paign sea­son after a long wait for the an­nounce­ment. Not only that! Thanks to the De­bates Com­mis­sion, we have two de­bates sched­uled, which is just in time to rem­edy the de­bate deficit I’m ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now that the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is wind­ing down and I can no longer be en­ter­tained by Don­ald Trump’s tech­niques.

Speak­ing of that, I had to cau­tion a friend who was walk­ing around telling peo­ple he planned to put his ‘X’ be­side the orange head, be­cause with the ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­est in the US elec­tion and the lack of in­ter­est in the lo­cal one, it wasn’t so ob­vi­ous which elec­tion he was talk­ing about. And I don’t put it past some of our coun­try­men to even cross bor­ders to vote early and of­ten.

I’ve thought of who in Ja­maica could cred­i­bly be des­ig­nated the Ja­maican Trump, and there really isn’t a per­fect can­di­date. The clos­est would have been Ever­ald Trump­ing­ton in his hey­day, but he has been so se­date and muted re­cently that he wouldn’t de­serve the ti­tle presently. But hope springs eter­nal, and he could get back on form in the fu­ture.

En­tirely coin­ci­den­tally, the elec­tion an­nounce­ment came within a few days of Ju­nior Fi­nance Min­is­ter Aud­ley Shaw’s an­nounce­ment that the econ­omy grew by 2.3 per cent in the July to Septem­ber quar­ter, the high­est quar­terly growth since 2002. This is great news for Ja­maica.

Much of that growth came from agri­cul­ture, spurring that same care­less cor­re­spon­dent vot­ing for the ‘orange head’ to ask about the cur­rent pun­ish­ments for prae­dial larceny, since Aud­ley is reap­ing fruit Pe­ter Phillips sowed.

But never mind all that. The PNP has the un­en­vi­able and dif­fi­cult task of de­fend­ing in the lo­cal after a loss in the gen­eral, which isn’t tra­di­tion­ally a sweet spot to be in.

BACK­GROUND CHECKS

On the other side, I no­ticed that Chair­man Mon­tague has asked the po­lice to run back­ground checks on all of his 228 can­di­dates. It’s a good idea, but not par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive un­less he pub­lishes the re­sults and sets a prece­dent that per­haps both par­ties would be forced to fol­low hence­forth.

I think ev­ery­one is ex­pect­ing a very low turnout, per­haps even a record low.

McPherse Thomp­son, writ­ing in Thurs­day’s Gleaner, pub­lished some thoughts that brushed up against why peo­ple have such wan­ing in­ter­est:

“Some sug­gest that lo­cal govern­ment au­thor­i­ties have largely been usurped by cen­tral govern­ment ... and hence see no good rea­son to par­tic­i­pate in the demo­cratic process. Any­one so in­clined to think, how­ever, should seek to make him­self or her­self more aware of the ra­tio­nale for lo­cal govern­ment and make the ef­fort to hold their lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives to ac­count for the func­tions they have been man­dated to un­der­take.”

By way of a weak apol­ogy for the ma­jor­ity of Ja­maicans who will ig­nore this poll, a few points are in or­der. The trou­ble, McPherse, is that even if I know what the

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