Busi­ness groups sup­port di­rect elec­tions of may­ors

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van Johnson Staff Re­porter

TWO OF the lead­ing busi­ness lobby groups in Ja­maica say that lo­cal gov­ern­ment should be re­formed to al­low for the di­rect elec­tion of may­ors as part of en­forc­ing ac­count­abil­ity and break­ing par­ti­san loy­alty.

“That would be a pos­i­tive,” said War­ren Mc­Don­ald, the pres­i­dent of the Ja­maica Cham­ber of Com­merce. He was speak­ing at a Gleaner Edi­tors’ Fo­rum on lo­cal gov­ern­ment on Mon­day. “I don’t see why not. This should strengthen the whole demo­cratic process that we have.”

He re­ceived sup­port from the Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Ja­maica (PSOJ) rep­re­sen­ta­tive who dis­agreed, how­ever, with Mc­Don­ald’s pro­posal that term lim­its be in­cluded in the re­form pack­age.

“One of the things we have been push­ing from the Cham­ber is, for ex­am­ple, that may­ors have term lim­its. You want new lead­er­ship to evolve in the sys­tem. You don’t want one per­son to hold the po­si­tion for 50 years.”

MORE AC­COUNT­ABIL­ITY

Dennis Chung, PSOJ chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said the di­rect elec­tion of may­ors would add “more much more in­de­pen­dence to the process and ac­count­abil­ity”.

But on term lim­its for may­ors: “I wouldn’t share the view. You need term lim­its at the cen­tral­go­v­ern­ment level, cer­tainly at the top lead­er­ship. The mayor is dif­fer­ent, in my view. It is some­one who is very close to the peo­ple. For ex­am­ple, if you had di­rect elec­tions of judges, would you say term lim­its for judges?” Po­lit­i­cal Om­buds­man Donna Parch­ment Brown said that she did not have an opin­ion on whether the heads of mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tions should be di­rectly elected. “I don’t have an opin­ion on di­rect [elec­tions] be­cause I don’t have any in­for­ma­tion as to why that would im­prove what it is we now en­joy,” she said. Chung ar­gued that with di­rect elec­tions, there could be a clearer sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. “What hap­pens right now is that the may­ors carry the bid­ding of the (di­vi­sion) who voted them in. If you had di­rect elec­tions, the mayor would be be­holden to the peo­ple.” Noel DaCosta, a for­mer cor­po­rate re­la­tions di­rec­tor for global al­co­holic bev­er­ages com­pany Di­a­geo and cur­rent com­mis­sioner on the Ja­maica De­bates Com­mis­sion, also sup­ported the view that may­ors should be di­rectly elected. Cur­rently, may­ors are cho­sen from among their col­leagues, who are all elected by a sin­gle di­vi­sion within a par­ish. His­to­rian Arnold Ber­tram pointed out that for di­rect elec­tions, the en­tire par­ish would have to vote for the in­di­vid­ual. Cur­rently, only the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Port­more in St Cather­ine di­rectly elects its mayor.

MC­DON­ALD

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