Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Too smart for my own good

Published:Sunday | November 13, 2016 | 11:00 AM
Anti-Trump protesters march from the Washington Monument to Inner Harbor last Thursday in Baltimore.
MP Julian Robinson
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Sometimes, I'm too cute by half. So, I outwitted myself on November 8 when, despite months of steadfastly advising readers that Trump would be the next president (including during and after Pu**ygate), I wilted under unbearable pressure from teeming thousands of women, jumped ship, and leapt on to the Hillary bandwagon. I feel like a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder "Aaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!"

Still, my stated reason for bending to the women's will (learned from 34-plus years of marital torture) turned out to be spot on. I wrote:

"In every election, cash talks and bullcrap walks. Polls mean NOTHING. Polls, schmolls! Votes in boxes win elections. Trump didn't get so asset rich by spending his money on ideals ... and the GOP isn't helping. Hillary, however, attracted unlimited amounts of other people's money ... to employ massive ground troops to move votes into ballot boxes."

She did! At latest count, 59,814,018 votes were cast for Hillary, over 200,000 more than the 59,611,678 for Trump. Her machinery succeeded, but I forgot America's peculiar Electoral College system, where the votes from some (white, xenophobic) states count more than others. My earlier prediction of a significant amount of Latino votes coming in for Trump was also vindicated as he polled 10 per cent more Latino/Hispanic votes than Mitt Romney in 2012.

On July 24 ('Devil and the deep blue sea'), I wrote:

"Jamaican intellectuals who've grown up in a classist, but not racist, society just don't get it. Donald Trump is a hero to all-white America ... for not giving a flying fork and being rich enough to say what they wish they could afford to say and have wanted to say ever since Martin Luther King forced a civil-rights bill on a reluctant Lyndon Johnson ... .

"I have some more bad news for sneering local intellectuals. Trump has more closet supporters among Latinos and Hispanics than you'll ever believe. Why? Because they are 'in' and want to ensure that no more of their colleagues arrive to provide more competition. Don't believe me? Watch for it as the Demagogue slaughters the Liar in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, while the Liar struggles to hold alleged Democratic strongholds in New York, New Jersey, and California. On your marks? Set? All hail the new Chief, President Trump!"

So, like all wives, I've found a way to be always right. What it boils down to is this: Trump is America and America is Trump. We must stop fooling ourselves. Listen to the message from the torrent of white men and women (who Pu**ygate bothered not one whit) of every educational background, social class and occupation who flooded the polls to vote for Trump. When we were oddities, America welcomed us. We're no longer welcome there. America has become a very unhappy place for people of colour to live. It's time we stop lusting after America's fram-friggin visa.

OK, enough venting about one irrelevant election and on to another. From my last two Sunday columns, readers would've understood me to be saying, the PNP needs a positive local government election result more than the JLP.

If you accept my premise that local government is simply political parties' corruption facilitator, you'll understand that stripped of central government's pork barrel in a shock general election loss, PNP can't afford to also lose control of the local government pork pit. I suspect private-sector donors, already unsettled by the Burke-Davies saga, have reduced party donations to an unsteady trickle. From the JLP's perspective, consolidating its already improved finances by

(a) sending the PNP into bankruptcy via a local government loss; and

(b) simultaneously sinking its grimy snout into the pork pit wouldn't be a melancholic event. Implementing much ballyhooed local government reforms would delay this happy ending, so "we want to shift the balance of power ... to put it in the hands of a caring ... party. The elections have been postponed for too long" (Desmond McKenzie).

What about voters' perspective? What's in it for us? Is local government necessary, or should it be jettisoned in favour of a more effective Parliament with most MPs, with little hope of Cabinet appointment, focused on constituency representation?

An alternative to US-style governance features a de facto and de jure separation of powers (Jamaica's model is de jure alone and, even that, only by judicial implication) could be a country divided into, say, 229 constituencies. Instead of 291elected representatives (63 MPs, 228 councillors) and separate, extravagant elections, we'd have ONE election; 229 MPs (21 per cent fewer elected representatives); no overlapping, interlocking, or obfuscatory responsibilities; and each MP representing manageable populations.

Government (winning, say, 130 seats), constitutionally bound to appoint no more than 15 ministers, would guarantee 90 MPs focus on representing constituents (who'd hold the handle), even if it meant voting against proposals coming from Cabinet.

A secondary benefit would be an end to this manufactured delineation of responsibilities between central and local government. I seriously doubt even MPs/councillors understand the distinction. The reality of Jamaica's fawning adaptation of Westminster governance is that an MP in a 50,000 resident constituency might need four councillors' assistance.

Instead, why not have five MPs each representing 10,000 people minus bureaucratic albatross parish councils (oops, municipal corporations)/local government ministry?

I live in a constituency represented by Jamaica's best MP Julian Robinson. He reports regularly to constituents by email (as well as holds constituency meetings). I quote from his fourth annual constituency report listing his accomplishments as MP:

"Infrastructural works undertaken in JEEP Phase 5 Under this programme, the following roads have been completed:

Lilford Avenue; Hardie Terrace; Cunningham Avenue; Downer Lane; Sackville Road.

Work has commenced on JEEP Phase 6. The following roads will be repaired:

Crieffe Road (completed); Tremaine Road (completed); Mavis Avenue (in progress); Deanery Terrace (in progress); Spaulding Avenue, off Arnold Road; South Hopefield Avenue."

Impressive! I have an MP who cares.

About a week before Desmond McKenzie announced the election date, I saw, for the first time (at last), the councillor for my division inside my gated community (where I've lived since 1986). She flagged me down on my way to my friendly neighbourhood Off Track Betting parlour and introduced herself. She was most pleasant and left a leaflet of her accomplishments as my councillor with me for my consideration.

Even though I don't appear on any voters' list, I felt I owed her diligence at least a read of her leaflet. Listed among her many "specific projects and goals ... undertaken and achieved" in her first term as councillor: "Complete resurfacing of Norwood Close, Old Henry Lane, Downer Lane, Hart Lane and Spaulding Avenue, South Hopefield Avenue, Glen Hope Avenue." But Downer Lane, Spaulding Avenue and South Hopefield Avenue, also appear on Julian's accomplishments list. Wazzup?

Maybe this was what Julian's Appraisal Committee meant when it criticised PNP Government's performance leading up to February 25, 2016, in these terms: "The achievements in Government were not effectively communicated." Four months later, councillors, fighting for their political lives, have STILL not done anything to improve communication skills and are confusing voters by padding achievement lists or simply failing to coordinate communications to avoid embarrassment.

Or maybe what's being exposed is the absolute uselessness of local government in 2016 Jamaica the "blatant disregard for the very citizens for whom we, the elected representatives at the local level, pledge to serve" (Desmond McKenzie); and local government's not-so-thinly veiled true purpose, namely, to disburse scarce benefits and spoils to lower-level political operatives while shielding MPs with deniability.

For how much longer will citizens tolerate this titanic trickery without demur? For how much longer will we sell our vote (vital to the beneficiaries of local government corruption but totally useless to us except as a tool of leverage) for a rum and curry goat? Will we say "no more"? Will we insist on a new model being worked out among stakeholders so that this cesspool of corruption known as municipal corporations can be consigned to the past?

Or will we be content with the status quo, especially our 'likkle pop-off' from it? The choice is yours: Pop-off? Or representation?

Peace and love.

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