Elections in Ja and USA
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.
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.
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.
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