Fri | May 26, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Chief of what?

Published:Tuesday | May 16, 2017 | 5:00 AM

One of Jamaica's most unattractive features is our proclivity for self-importance.

Nobody makes a garbage collector's job sound more like that of a waste management engineer than a Jamaican. These idle thoughts ran through my equally idle mind on May 8 as I watched, mouth agape, while Imani 'Chief of Staff' Duncan was interviewed on Smile Jamaica. Well, 'interviewed' might be a strong word since Simone didn't say much as 'Chief of Staff' gushed, like freshly opened champagne, about her job, allegedly "conceptualised" by Peter Phillips and which she described as "a leader in his team to support him in planning strategically; looking at how to meet objectives of becoming the next government essentially; working with the party to support on-the-ground organi-sations; and looking at which projects of national importance can make a difference to Jamaica".

DWL! Once PNP has 'Chief of Staff', who needs political advisers, general secretaries, PR teams, or shadow Cabinets?

FYI, 'Chief of Staff':

- An opposition leader's office was conceptualised and created by Bruce Golding. Easton Douglas was the first chief of staff. That created a precedent (no rule) that, in practice, the post should be held by a senior opposition member. As opposition leader, Young Andrew's chiefs of staff were Arthur Williams and Dwight Nelson.

- A chief of staff is basically an office manager who also liaises between opposition leader and office staff and advises on personnel/operations.

- 'Chief of Staff' HAS created a first of sorts. She's the first junior party member to occupy the post. It shows.

Just in case I'd misrepresented the English translation of 'chief' or 'staff', I decided to research the White House chief of staff's job description. I logged on to mic.com, a most reputable online newspaper and example of modern news delivery. The site describes its motivation as:

"The recognition that the old models of journalism had become less engaging and relevant. While maintaining the rigour and commitment to original reporting and championing essential fact-finding, Mic has sought to give voice to critical news stories from modern and diverse perspectives."

With apologies for the digression, I must commend a similar effort from a small group of committed Jamaicans who, in March, launched a new, bi-weekly online product named Public Opinion (publicopinion.news). It's free to readers and features thought-provoking opinion pieces on a variety of topics. Congratulations to my good friend, chief conceptualiser, Walter Scott, QC (who acquired the name from the original Public Opinion), and his team led by Managing Director Astrid Scott-Beckford and General Manager Dorothy Whyte. I've followed the first four issues closely and am impressed by the professiona-lism, diversity and content on display.

 

The report

 

Don't worry, one day, this century, the penny will drop on The Old Lady of North Street and she'll stop acting as a Twitter rerun. Meanwhile, this is what mic.com reported about the White House chief of staff:

"Throughout the beltway, the White House chief of staff [WHCOS] is often considered 'the most powerful man in Washington'. But is this a political fantasy, or does the role and the duties of the chief of staff actually warrant such high regard?

"The WHCOS is an assistant to the president of the United States. The chief of staff oversees the Executive Office of the President (EOP) ... . This office ... Is responsible for a variety of critical functions in support of the president's work and agenda. The original title, assistant to the president, was changed in 1961 to chief of staff.

"The duties of the WHCOS vary, yet traditionally encompass the following, such as: select and supervise key White House staff, control access to the Oval Office and the president, manage communications and information flow, and nego-tiate with Con-gress, executive branch agencies, and external political groups to implement the president's agenda.

"In fulfilling these duties, the chief of staff oversees and coordinates the efforts of ... offices within the EOP and White House Office ... ."

WHCOS does "negotiate with Congress, executive branch agencies, and external political groups to implement the president's agenda" but, in West-minster, there's no real separation between a PM and Parliament and no need to "negotiate" (least of all with JLP) for PNP opposition leader's agenda to be implemented. Therefore, it plainly requires no argument that an opposition leader's chief of staff is restricted to office issues.

Need proof how our out-of-sync with life education system produces successful exam takers but equally out-of-sync citizens? I give you 'Chief of Staff', seemingly a candidate for poster child not even Harvard could rescue.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@

gleanerjm.com.