It is with great interest that I hear accusations being made concerning the Government’s motive relating to reform of the municipalities.
The Mayor of Hamilton alleges that it is a land grab. A young opposition senator views the consideration as an assault on democracy. He claims that the ratepayers should determine the future of the municipalities.
I have my views that I will not inject into the discussion; however, I do believe that there was some consultation, and that the mayor has indicated his dissatisfaction with those talks.
I am reminded that a similar situation prevailed in 1970 when, without any known consultation with the existing nine elected parish vestries — certainly not with the biggest parish of Pembroke.
These parish vestries levied taxes to provide street lighting, garbage collection and financial assistance. Some vestries provided poor houses, which subsequently became rest homes.
The services and facilities were financed solely with parochial tax revenue.
Additionally, the vestries submitted lists of jurors and special jurors to the Supreme Court. Parish overseers of the poor also had the responsibility of checking the weighing scales and confirming liquid in grocery stores to ensure their accuracy under the Weights and Measures Act 1900.
A vestry generally consisted of 12 elected persons. Via the Parish Councils Act 1908, elected vestrypersons were replaced by appointed councils, thereby denying every ratepayer in Bermuda the opportunity to select parochial representatives.
The rationale then, as now, was to minimise duplication of effort. Some people were displeased, but criticism of the Government could be problematic for some. The composition of the House of Assembly in 1970 was United Bermuda Party 30, Progressive Labour Party 10.