Bush says petitioners Misled

7 mile beach 300x250

Premier McKeeva Bush said many of those who signed a petition against the closure of a 2,500-foot section of West Bay Road were misled into thinking that Public Beach would also be closed to the public as a result. 

An agreement to close the section of West Bay Road between Governors Way and Yacht Drive and then reroute traffic through an extended Esterley Tibbetts Highway was signed last week by the National Roads Authority, the Cayman Islands Government and the Dart Group 

That agreement is still subject to the results of an independent review before it becomes final.  

The Concerns Citizens Group in conjunction with the Save Cayman Group and the West Bay Action Committee circulated a petition that respectively petitioned and demanded the governor to “preserve the existing West Bay Road in its entirety in perpetuity as public vehicular roadway for the people of the Cayman Islands”. 

After it was presented to the Governor’s Office on 12 December, Governor Duncan Taylor sent the petition to Mr. Bush last week, stating that “policy on business development is a matter which is devolved to the local government” and therefore the premier had responsibility. 

 

Petition anomalies   

The Caymanian Compass asked to see the petition and was given access to it. The petition contained 372 pages in two binders and approximately 4,000 entries, of which a little more than 2,300 indicated they were registered voters. Others signing the petition included Caymanian non-voters; expatriates on work permits or with permanent residence; stay-over visitors 
including condominium owners who were off island; cruise ship visitors; and children, at least some of whom indicated their age was a young as 11. 

Those signing the petition were only asked for their printed name; their signature; their district of residence; if they were a registered voter; whether they were a resident; or whether they were a visitor. 

An accurate analysis of the petition proved impossible because of the following anomalies: 

There were many duplicate entries 

Some people signed on behalf of their whole family 

Some people signed on behalf of others not in their family 

Some entries only had first names 

Some entries only had a first initial and a last name 

Some entries were illegible 

Some entries were printed names with no signature 

In addition, there appeared to be a number of fictitious names or cases where one person signed a whole page of names. Since neither telephone numbers nor addresses were obtained when the petitions were signed, it would be difficult, and in some cases impossible, to verify if a person named in the petition actually signed it or if they even really exist. 

The number of those who said they were voters was also impossible to verify because the petitioners indicated they were voters in different ways; most put a check mark or the word ‘yes’ but others put an ‘x’ to indicated they were voters. Yet others put an ‘x’ in the box to indicate they weren’t voters. In addition, many people who indicated they were voters were not listed on the Official Register of Electors on the Cayman Islands Election Office website.  

 

Doing what’s right  

Regardless of the anomalies, Premier Bush said the names of a “lot of good people”, some of whom he said were his supporters, were on petition.  

“But I can’t agree with the petitioners,” he said, noting that while some might have signed the petition for sentimental or other reasons, he felt others were misled into thinking the road realignment deal in some way involved the Dart Group getting ownership of the Public Beach.  

He said the people organising the petition had tried to block his government from doing things before. 

“These are the same people who have opposed me most of my political life,” he said. “This is the same group that went to great lengths to stop me from getting the [Boggy Sand Road] seawall built. But I think everyone saw the value of that wall after Hurricane Ivan.” 

Mr. Bush said the extension of what is now called the Esterley Tibbetts Highway all the way to West Bay dated back to the 1960s. 

“But governments never had the money to do it,” he said, adding that his government was no different in not being able to afford it. 

“The only way we’re going to get this is to do an agreement with Dart,” he said. “There is tremendous value in what we’re getting, but to get it, we have to give up something.” 

The deal will also stimulate Cayman’s economy and create jobs, he said. 

“We’re doing what’s right,” Mr. Bush said. “This will enhance our quality of life.” 

 

Misinformation  

Mr. Bush said he was aware that some people who signed the petition were misled into thinking the agreement with the Dart Group involved the sale of the Public Beach on Seven Mile Beach. 

“This has nothing to do with selling the beach,” he said. “People will still have access to an enhanced Public Beach, one that is four times larger and with amenities [the government] would never be able to put there for our people.”  

Mr. Bush said the Dart Group was going to create a pedestrian/bike trail through the whole length of where the road will be closed to give people safe access to the beach.  

The contention that some people thought the road closure involved Public Beach was borne out through several examples: 

One woman who signed the petition wrote “The Seven Mile Public Beach must remain public for all people until the end of time!” under her name on the petition:  

One man who signed the petition wrote “The Public Beach must remain in public” after his name on the petition. 

One person contacted who signed the petition said she was stopped while she was in her car and asked to sign a petition to keep the Public Beach for the people. 

Mr. Bush said the tactics used by the petitioners showed “the depths they would go to mislead the people”. 

“The big problem in this country is people saying misleading things and telling all kinds of misinformation,” he said. He took particular offence to the petitioners having children sign. 

“To mislead children is doing a complete wrong to this country and to our prosperity because they are not telling the truth. They’re saying we’re selling away the beach.” 

 

Petition defended  

The Concerned Citizens Group’s Alice Mae Coe, who was the first signature on the first page of the petition, said that there was no intentional attempt to mislead anyone. 

“Clear instructions were given to the people who presented the petitions,” she said, adding that the petition only spoke about the closure of a portion of West Bay Road and not the sale or transfer of Public Beach. “At no time was anyone instructed from our side to say it’s the Public Beach that you’re going to lose.” 

With regard to people thinking the petition had something to do with Public Beach, she said that some people refer to West Bay Road as West Bay Beach Road and she suggested that was why they might have thought the petition involved Public Beach. 

Ms Coe did not deny that cruise ship passengers had been among those signing the petition. Although it is difficult to determine for certain, analysis of the petition indicates that somewhere between 100 and 200 cruise ship passengers signed. Ms Coe explained that those signatures came from cruise ship passengers who were taking taxis or buses to get to boats excursions and were made aware that the one respite to all the condominiums and hotels that were blocking the view of the ocean on their way up West Bay Road – the view in front of Public Beach – would be taken away if the road were moved.  

“They were asked ‘would you be interested in helping us protect the view by keeping the road where it is’ and they said, ‘of course we will’,” Ms Coe said, adding that since tourists were an important part of Cayman’s economy, their views were also important. “Who are we to discount our visitors?” 

Concerning the children who signed, Ms Coe said the petition was not circulated in schools, but that children were sometimes with their parents when they were asked to sign and that sometimes the children wanted to sign, too. She said that the organisers would have preferred if everyone who signed was at least 18, but if children signed they were asked to put down their age so they could be identified later. 

Ms Coe said the plan was to do an analysis of the petition before it was handed to the governor, but they ran out of time before it could be completed. However, she said that they had begun the process of eliminating duplicate signers and identifying voters, something that is evidenced in the petition from the scratched out names marked “duplicate”.  

Ms Coe confirmed that the organisers had started the process of confirming a person’s voting status by comparing their names to the official register of electors, but they had not completed that task. 

Despite some of the anomalies with the petition, Ms Coe thought the results were still valid.  

“As a representation of the people’s feelings, I think it’s quite clear,” she said. 

Because she was one of the organisers of the petition, Ms Coe – who has run for political office before – said she expected Premier Bush would accuse her of “being political”. 

“What I’m doing now is not because I’m preparing for 2013,” she said, adding, however, that if people her and urged her to run for election, she might consider it. 

“But that’s not why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because I love this country.” 

 

Time will tell  

Premier Bush said that when the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension, the enhanced Public Beach, the pedestrian/bike trails and the additional public beach are all completed, people will like what they see. 

“I think people are going to recognise… that this was the right thing to do and they were misled by the petitioners,” he said. “Some people aren’t going to agree now and if people want to disagree, that’s their choice. But I think in the end they will see that this was the best thing to do.” 

7 mile beach

Seven Mile Beach isn’t being taken over in the deal between the Cayman Islands Government and Dart, despite what some petition signers were sold. – Photo: Department of Tourism

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve always considered it a great pity, that in a country as small as the Cayman Islands, everything is or can be termed political…or used for political purposes.

    But…it is the nature of the beast.

    This statement by Premiere Bush is a perfect example; he has made no definitive public statement on this very important and emotive issue…until he’s found something that he thinks he can use to his political advantage.

    A more objective viewpoint, devoid of political purpose, would clearly show the organisers and signers of this petition excercising their full democratic rights in expressing their views and feelings on a project that has grave consequences to their future and lifestyle and that is only to be applauded.

    The mistrust built up over the years of so many foreign elements, tied to Cayman’s political system, trying to control the 7-Mile Beach for their own selfish monetary gain has Cayman’s population rightfully defensive of this heritage…and Premiere Bush, or any other politician or developer, cannot truthfully deny this history.

    With a lack of any publicly available site maps or plans for this hotel development, what else would Premiere Bush or Dart Corporation expect from Cayman’s very intelligent and determined citizens ?

    With Mr. Bush past and present record on transparency and trustworthiness, he should never fool himself into thinking that anything he says or does will be taken at face value…the story of the lad crying ‘wolf, wolf,’ too many times should be foremeost in his mind.

    I, for one, am in no way apologetic for suggesting that this WB road/beach project be seen in its historical context and would further remind these petitioners to keep their vigilence very active to ensure that any promises regarding the 7-Mile Beach are kept.

    It is the only way that they can ensure that what is for the Caymanian people remains for the Caymanian people; this is and should be the one non-negotiable issue, the full freedom of the 7-Mile Beach for all who wish to enjoy it use, and for all time.

  2. Of course Public Beach is not being sold. Access to it is. Of course you could just walk around.

    What this is really about is money. With no road in front of the old Courtyard Marriott, the value of that white elephant property increases 5 – 10 fold.

    And the people just have to find another way to enjoy their natural right.

  3. The best thing to do is what the people wants done..
    Exchanging land for shiny baubles has always been our problem..

    If locals stop using the beach because of limited access or the feeling of being alienated, it would be the same as selling the beach..

    The project do have merits, but signing anything before the study is completed again shows disregard for due process..

    The insight into this plan probably is; Build it and they will stop coming. A different twist from the, make it one way and they will not be able to come trick. Money is no object to some when exclusivity is the motivator..

    I don’t believe the petitioners was misleading, I believe they were calling a horse a horse, and a mule a mule.

  4. Absolutely…without a doubt.

    And I’ve already pointed that out in clear, concise and non-ambigious terms in other, previous posts.

    If you’ve noticed, this is the one legitimate concern expressed in this petition that Premiere Bush has had the decency to respect and respond to. Why ?

    Because he nows that no one is being fooled by all the rhetoric and smoke screens…this deal is about the beach and its value to Dart’s hotel project.

    Either way you cut the cake, a lack of vehicular access to that part of the 7-Mile Beach IS limiting access to the beach, considering the inconvenience of finding parking spaces for travelers coming from futher afield in Cayman than walking and bicycle-riding distence, to enjoy that particualar section of the beach.

    Will Dart’s benevolent public park/beach project also provide free parking space for non-hotel users of the beach ?

    People claim that the closing of the road, which starts below the current public beach, does not impact the use of the current public beach but it most certainly does, considering the wider impact of a major, Ritz-Carlton like hotel complex on that section of the beach just a bit further down the road.

    In reality, access to the 7-Mile Public Beach and further on down the 7-Mile Beach will be severely limited by this hotel project.

    Mr. Bush’s assurances in this politically-loaded and motivated letter rings quite hollow and he and Cayman’s citizens know that quite well…knowing him as they do.

  5. Saw those other post, and I believe the Editor asked for proof.. I see the proof in the plans, and limiting access is the smoking gun..

    Have to practice being ambiguous in anticipation of the Cannot criticize a politician law trick..

  6. Thank you Compass for illuminating both sides of the coin. The concerned petitioners have Cayman’s best interests at heart but even the best intentions can be derailed by misinformation. The beach will not be cordoned off and lined with razor wire as I have heard myself.

    If you have ever passed a message through 20 people you will know that the message does not pass through without changes and no doubt that the original message was librally doused with a few false facts perhaps not by Ms Coe and company but by others and it definitely helped their cause.

    The bottom line is that the old public beach is rundown and needs a good refresh. Additional parking and additional ammenities at the public beach along with a new road to West Bay sounds good to me. In the future a boardwalk is to placed along the entire portion of the closed road. Dart can and will reinvent the stayover market and thats exactly what Cayman needs.

    Thanks Dart and McKeeva from a young caymanian with children. My daughter will not have the same view of the beach as my grandmother but she will have the opportunities that my grandmother didnt and for that I am grateful.

  7. Mr. Bush why are you so adamant or paranoid about not being accused of corruption?

    Don’t you think you are doing enough harm to your people and destroying everything named Caymanian?

    No one can destroy you as well as you can you are doing a very good job yourself, and do not need any outside help.

    Do the right thing and listen to the people of the Cayman Islands.
    If in fact people signed the petition with one name or not very legible I’m sure its because they are fearful of retribution. The fact remains that your lame excuse for rejecting this petition speaks volumes to what your real intentions are for this country and its people.

    Nothing lasts forever, but salvation and God will judge all those that try to stand in his shoes acting as though they are God instead of mankind. Its time for you to humble yourself and listen to the people who elected you to office and it was NOT KEN DART!

  8. I haven’t been misled. As a tourtist….I don’t care anything about driving inland…I come to SEE the ocean. The drive in the East End along the ocean is breathtaking…..and you close off the road along the ocean and I’ll go elsewhere. Your Island doen’t have a lot of beauty other than the wonderful people and the SEA.

  9. I look at these petitions with a bit of mistrust as there are many ways to present these things and to peer pressure and manipulate people into signing such documents. Especially when I have seen and heard the emotion with which the organizers decry this issue. Especially with tourists who will basically want to get along and be local friendly.
    I have no doubt there is a sizable group who do not want this project to move forward but the petition is so flawed as to be totally untrustworthy.

  10. I really don’t understand what the big fuss is over closing less than a half mile of road and building a much nicer road to replace it. This has been done in other places on the island before, so what’s the big deal? Plus we get a much, much larger and nicer public beach and another public beach. And to top it all off, we put a lot of people to work and get a better hotel than the closed piece of junk that is there now. The people still have the beach and access to the beach. Is it because people just hate McKeeva Bush and Ken Dart that they’re prevented from seeing the benefits of doing this?

  11. If a pestering bird keeps flying over your head
    poopooing on you, its time to clip his wings!

    Ask this man to resign he is way too much trouble, there is no peace with this man in office for the Caymanian people.

  12. I miss the days when MLAs use to consult the people of their constituency and talk to them about their plans and their input. And if the community was not happy about it, they respected what they think.

    Now, we have MLAs that don’t consult the people, hold public meetings, talk to them, or care what they think or say. We have MLAs that are eager to push through projects no matter what anyone says, care, or think.

    The project might do us alot of good, but it is scary how our MLAs once elected, go their own ways and look down on Caymanians. It is almost like they are sold out to a few individuals and the money that the project will generate. They forgot where they came from or who elected them.

    In my district, they are talking about a dump. Mark and Dwayne, have still not spoken to the people to see what they think about it. They are silent, and I understand adament in pushing forward for a dump in Bodden Town. The same two got in because of promises, and one of the promises was no dump. They would properly manage the one they have already in George Town. In truth, if they push for the dump, that is not my main concern. What is troubling, they are quiet and show apathy to the very people who elected them into office.

    Yes, the petitioners may be misled by certain information, but I and many others are not misled by seeing how they are treating us with no sense of accountability.

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