First-time North Side candidate Alex Johnson has been working for her district since 1993 without being paid for most of that time.
That theme and the need for a party approach to government were highlighted at a campaign meeting in Old Man Bay on Thursday night.
Ms Johnson addressed the criticism that she had no political experience and had been paid for her community service.
‘Who goes into the Legislative Assembly having experience?’ she asked. ‘I have a willingness to learn and a determination to work and a pledge to you that I will work for you and keep you informed – not just at election time but the whole four years after the election… Another promise: I will not walk out on you.’
As to being paid, Ms Johnson said she started working in the community in 1993. In March 2000 ‘Social Services’ asked her to work for them. She went into training and signed a contract in June that year. In August 2003 she ‘signed out’ because she was not happy there. But she continued working, with no pay.
When Hurricane Ivan came, she volunteered to serve as deputy warden, not knowing there would be pay. She later got $1,500 for being at the shelter for three weeks. ‘I put $500 more with it and gave it to the children of North Side,’ Ms Johnson said. She explained that the students had been selling chips and drinks to raise funds for a trip to Cayman Brac.
North Side was the first district to have a programme for senior citizens, she reported. Since then, every district has followed. But there were many times she had to use money out of her own pocket for expenses. She had gone out and got donations for the community programmes. ‘I will do it again, whether I get elected or not.’
Ms Johnson pledged to work on programmes for the youth. There is nothing in the district for them at present. Their parents cannot drive them to West Bay or George Town. ‘Give me four years and you will see something for the youth,’ she declared.
She said she wanted business to come to North Side – not congestion, but ‘controlled growth’.
‘I can’t wait for the new hotel to open,’ she stated, referring to the planned Mandarin Resort on the north coast of East End. It will mean more jobs for North Siders, she predicted.
Ms Johnson said she would support equal education for every child, not just a special few. She promised to donate a portion of her salary as MLA to help children get that better education.
She wanted to see a solid government, an open government and open dialogue with the people. She pledged to seek advice from the ‘district council’ and sign a contract with the people of North Side.
‘My concerns are real,’ she said, setting out a partial list: fighting crime, rebuilding after Ivan, finding jobs for anyone who wants to work, mentoring youth, providing additional recreational programmes, security for the elderly, health care and ‘quality and affordable housing that suits us, the people of North Side.’
Former MLA Franklin Smith served as master of ceremonies. He spoke of Ms Johnson’s early working years and his relationships with other MLAs.
Mr. Ezzard Miller, former North Side MLA for eight years and Member of Executive Council, and current deputy chairman of the United Democratic Party, pledged to support Ms Johnson. He would add his knowledge of government to her brain, her determination and her hard work.
Mr. Cline Glidden Jr., West Bay MLA 2000-2005, spoke on the need for the party approach to government. The party system eliminates the bartering and ‘hide and seek’ after elections when a Cabinet must be formed, he said.
He asked North Side’s support for Ms Johnson, a candidate the UDP was proud to be associated with. He said the UDP would support her in whatever could be done for North Side.