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MoBay could directly elect mayor soon - McKenzie

Published:Monday | September 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMAlbert Ferguson/ Gleaner Writer
Desmond McKenzie

Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie says Montego Bay and other municipalities may soon directly elect their mayors.

"I believe, eventually, we will have to go that way, but it has to be done when a proper system is put in place," McKenzie told The Gleaner.

"We are not opposed to direct elections of mayors, but the Portmore system is not the best system to adopt," said McKenzie. "There is a committee that has been set up to look at how to improve on it, because you can't have a direct elected mayor and he has no power, it makes no sense."

According to McKenzie, councillors are collectively more powerful in Portmore. He said if a mayor is elected directly by the people, the mayor should have some say and not have to depend on numbers to carry out the mandate of the people.

Based on the new systems that the special committee is working on, registered electors could be called to vote directly for a mayor to preside over the entire parish, rather than having a mayor elected by councillors from the political party which forms the majority in the council.

"It's not something you can snap your finger and say it's going to happen and that was the problem with Portmore, because when it was done, it was supposed to have been a project to see whether or not it will work," said McKenzie.

"The direct election of the mayor of Portmore was not intended to work [in] the way it is now. Presently, there are problems with the defined boundaries of what is Portmore and you don't want that to be replicated, so that is why we are looking at what we think will be best, in terms of how you deal with a direct mayor elected by the people,"

Electors in Portmore, St Catherine, voted in the 2016 local government elections to elect Leon Thomas as the third directly elected mayor of Portmore under a pilot project which started in 2003.