Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Parties promise robust debate

Published:Tuesday | November 15, 2016 | 11:00 AMChristopher Serju
Julian Robinson (left), general secretary-designate of the People’s National Party, shakes hands with Senator Delroy Williams, representing the Jamaica Labour Party, while looking on is Commissioner Noel daCosta of the Jamaica Debates Commission, at the commission’s press conference yesterday.

The People's National Party's (PNP) is viewing tomorrow's national debate as an occasion to defend its stewardship of the island's 12 parish councils, Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), as well as the Portmore Municipal Corporation, of which it has held the reins of power since April 2012.

On the other hand, the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is eyeing this as a grand opportunity to bring the electorate up to speed on how poorly the PNP has handled its affairs at the local level.

Tomorrow's debate will take place at the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) Limited, 37 Arnold Road, Kingston, starting at 9 p.m., and will be broadcast live on a mix of free-to-air and cable channels, as well as on radio, and will also be streamed via the Internet. The other debate is set for the same time and location on Wednesday, November 23, ahead of the November 28 local government elections. Each event will last for 90 minutes and will be moderated, with questions from a panel of journalists.

"Our argument is simple. We will highlight the inefficient and haphazard way the PNP has managed the affairs of the parish councils and local authorities in general. There is need for much more structure and certainty in the way things are done," Senator Delroy Williams of the JLP told The Gleaner after yesterday's press conference hosted by the Jamaica Debates Commission.

However, the PNP, which will exercise its right to make the first statement, having won the coin toss, is confident it has established an enviable track record in local government governance over the past four years, according General Secretary-designate Julian Robinson.

"That is why we are using only councillors and not members of parliament because they are the ones who have been in touch with the people and are aware of the issues that affect them directly," he told The Gleaner afterwards.

Senator Angela Brown Burke, mayor of Kingston who chairs the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), will line up with Scean Barnswell, mayor of May Pen, and Everton Fisher, the mayor of Black River, for the PNP during the first debate. They, will be challenged by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie, accompanied by Senator Charles Sinclair and Kenisha Allen of St Catherine.

However, all participants will be stripped of their titles during the course of both debates in keeping with ground rules laid down by the Jamaica Debates Commission.

"Refer to the debaters by name as Mr, Ms or Mrs. Do not use the terms prime minister, opposition leader, minister or spokesman. They all appear as candidates," the organisers wrote in their guidelines for moderators and questioners.

Each team will present arguments on its overall policy philosophy on local government, looking at the merits of a centralised vs decentralised system. Issues will include:

- Funding models (property taxes, licensing fees, local fee collections from barbers, hairdressers, subdivision and building fees, etc.

- Accountability mechanisms budgeting presentation and approvals

- Governance structures.

- Proposals to strengthen or reform local government.

For the second debate, Senator Delroy Williams, Richard Creary, councillor for the Richmond division and former mayor of Port Maria, and Kerensia Morrison, councillor for the Spanish Town division, will challenge Scean Barnswell, the mayor of May Pen, Leon Thomas, acting mayor of Portmore, and Councillor Venesha Phillips of the Papine division.

The assessment of governance structures to determine what is working and what needs changing will take centre stage with minor water supply systems, parochial roads, parks and markets up for discussion. Development planning and control; town and country planning; building codes, as well as the status of local disaster preparedness committees and fire service, monitoring and management of infirmaries and children's homes, public health management, garbage collection and street cleaning issues will also be discussed.

The management and transparency of permits such as food handlers and those for events such as dances and the state of street lights are also on the agenda.

Patrick Anderson of RJR will be the moderator for tomorrow's debate, with Earl Moxam, also of RJR; Kimone Francis of the Jamaica Observer; and Natalie Campbell of Irie FM posing the questions. Janella Precius of TVJ will moderate the second debate, for which Damion Mitchell of Power 106, Irving Forbes of CVM and Kalilah Reynolds of Nationwide News Network will be the questioners.

Marjorie Gordon of CVM TV will be the social media editor for both debates, with the moderators taking some questions via social media.