Fourteen candidates are running for election in West Bay.
While the candidates may differ in their stances and alliances, one thing most agree on – unemployment is probably the biggest issue affecting their district.
Incumbent MLA, Deputy Premier Rolston Anglin, running with the fledgling party the People’s National Alliance, said employment, crime and quality of life are the three most critical issues in West Bay.
He said he and his PNA running mate Cline Glidden advocated the continuation of the model of Superior Auto Apprenticeship programme, “where we go to companies with a world-class apprenticeship programme that provides training and opportunities for real jobs”.
“We also are going to ensure that during the next four years, this district has residing within the district real possibilities for upward mobility to ensure that persons who have fell through the proverbial cracks have real opportunities for whatever skills enhancement they need, whether it be literacy, numeracy or ensuring they have the first shake at real jobs in this community,” said Mr. Anglin at a Chamber of Commerce District Candidates Forum last month.
He also wants to see a harder line taken on crime in the district and supports a move to have more police stations set up within the districts of the Cayman Islands, so that beat police officers are better acquainted with local residents.
United Democratic Party candidate Bernie Bush identified unemployment, crime and the high cost of living as major challenges in West Bay and across the Cayman Islands.
He said his party has launched an initiative called “Cayman Works” to help get unemployed people get back into the workforce. “It is a 100-day work comprehensive plan to help get people back to work,” he told the same forum meeting.
“We hope to begin a plan for a national apprentice scheme. Initially, we also intend to target the hospitality industry; begin a plan to provide for micro-business financing scheme to provide finance for micro business, because we always hear about the government giving initiatives to outside investment but very little has been done to help inside small business,” Mr. Bush said.
He said his party also intends to tackle the issue of housing for those who cannot afford to meet their mortgages.
“We will begin work on another 50 affordable homes. We also will assist homeowners in Save The Mortgage programmes… Right now, a lot of people are losing their homes, they don’t have electricity; we have to get them back to work and get the cost of living down. By doing this in the first 100 days, [we] get this out of the way and get to the mid- and long-term plans,” he said.
People’s Progressive Movement candidate Dalkeith Bothwell told the Chamber magazine that he considered social decay due to the lack of good governance addressing social, environmental and economic issues as a major issue in the West Bay area.
“There has been an absence of any meaningful changes to our development planning laws and regulations, including the zoning plan within the district to improve commerce,” said Mr. Bothwell.
“This has had a profound effect on the lives of West Bay residents. Amendments to the above could have given opportunities to West Bayers to participate in the growth of our rapidly changing economy over the years.
“Much emphasis needs to be placed on preserving our scenic coastlines, beach right of ways and existing coastal roads while enhancing our public beaches, parks and road infra-structure,” he added.
Former Premier and incumbent UDP MLA, McKeeva Bush stated that more unity was needed among all the districts, which share “similar aspirations, hopes and concerns”.
He told Chamber magazine that rooting out the cause of crime to reduce criminal activity would be a subject of his party’s focus, adding: “We will commit time and resources to ensuring all levels of the RCIPS are focused on preventing and prosecuting crimes that impact our districts on a personal level, especially robbery and burglary.”
Mr. Bush said the UDP would also work to improve the standard of living of all Caymanians.
“We have the experience and commitment to develop our Islands as a high-wage, high-skill community. This is critical for resilient economic performance, the creation of new jobs. We understand that this is the only road to true growth, equity and broad based opportunity,” he said.
Independent candidate Andrea Christian cited four areas of concern among the West Bay electorate – the ForCayman Investment Alliance deal, the cost of living, unemployment and minimum wage.
Ms Christian is calling for the FCIA actions and contracts to be reviewed to determine if the closure of a section of West Bay Road followed legally binding procedures. “There were protests from more than half the electorate in our district and the cost-benefit analysis reports have yet to be seen, or provide for the social and environmental impact,” she said. “Interestingly the recent actions of supposedly compensating the public could be argued as further reason to question the contract and if elected, [I] would review and re-negotiate all contracts with the FCIA to ensure proper account of the value of this strip of road to Caymanians.”
On the cost of living, she advocates the immediate removal of fuel charges on electricity bills. “The cost of living affects all and could have been addressed by successive governments if they had the will to look for other sources of reducing expenditure in order to avoid placing the burden of a fuel duty on individuals and businesses, creating tremendous stress during low, global activity,” she said.
While acknowledging that among Cayman’s unemployed may be seasonal workers and people who may need counselling for drug abuse or mental challenges or have a police record, Ms Christian said statistics showed most of the local unemployed were unskilled, university graduates and seniors/retirees or workers made redundant. “There are enough work permits that fit these groups of unemployed Caymanians who should be matched with appropriate work permit holders immediately, otherwise no work permits should be granted for that particular industry for which the applicant is qualified,” she said.
Ms Christian supports assent to the Employment Law 2004 and, in particular, supports a national minimum wage per industry. “A minimum wage is the starting point and employers should be able to attract hard-working Caymanians who will retain pride for an honest living. This moral obligation will also decrease employers’ work permit fees and provide positive contribution to the community, while abiding by the law to employ Caymanians first,” she said.
Progressives candidate, Woody DaCosta is also focusing on the unemployment situation among Caymanians as a major issue concern locally.
He told the Chamber magazine that the immigration policy needed to be reviewed and modernised to protect Caymanians and give security to long-term residents.
“One of our goals is to increase the number of Caymanians in managerial positions in the workforce. I submit that successful implementation of just this one goal will usher in a more optimistic outlook for all citizens, thus addressing and/or improving the socioeconomic issues that appear to be on the increase,” he said.
To specifically address unemployment in West Bay, he said the Progressives would open a branch of a New Human Resource Authority “to allow greater opportunities for persons desirous of work to be registered and accessible”. < /p>
On the issue of crime, Mr. DaCosta said he had earlier advocated for CCTVs in the district and was glad to see that some were now in place to help thwart crime in hotspot areas. “I think it needs to go that much further,” he said.
He also called for sea ports and airports to be better secured, saying fingerprinting should be mandatory for anyone entering and leaving the Cayman Islands.
“I disagree with the current administration of not wanting to fingerprint people coming in and leaving these islands. If we go to any jurisdiction, we are fingerprinted on a daily basis, we are photographed, why can’t we do that? … We need to be able to track people and understand what is happening here.
“It is not farfetched to say a lot of crimes are committed by people who fly in and fly right back out…”, he said.
Captain Bryan Ebanks
Progressives candidate Captain Bryan Ebanks wants to see more people in West Bay involved in the tourism and hospitality field.
Describing West Bay as the home to the second most important pillar in Cayman’s economy – tourism – he said it was “only right that the residents of West Bay are able to participate in and contribute to its development and growth”.
Mr. Ebanks said in the Chamber magazine that the people of West Bay needed to be armed with the requisite skills to compete for jobs within the hospitality industry and this could be done by establishing a hospitality facility in the district to train job seekers.
“A hospitality institute in West Bay with linkages to partner hotels and restaurants for job attachments is a must if we are to continue to develop our people and ensure a stable, law abiding society,” he said.
Independent candidate Dwene Ebanks highlighted unemployment, cost of living and a “system of dependency” as among the major issues in West Bay.
He plans to address unemployment by ascertaining the number and type of jobs currently done in the district by work permit holders; assigning a labour officer to the district to match available jobs in the community on work permits with the unemployed of similar skills; and implementing a business retention and expansion strategy.
He said there are 350 jobs were available within West Bay, which included positions as diverse as dishwasher to accountant. “I would work closely with the Labour Department to… match those jobs to the unemployed within our community, one person at a time,” he said.
Mr. Ebanks said a mind-set of dependency in the district had been created by some incumbent politicians in West Bay and he called on constituents “not to sell your souls”.
“Please understand the very real issues we are facing. If we do the same things we’ve always done, we’ll get the same results,” he said. “It’s important that you decide for yourself and realise your very intrinsic value is not dependent on any one person.”
Mr. Ebanks also highlighted that West Bayers were concerned about the perceived and actual levels of crime, lack of education and training and struggling local businesses in the neighbourhood.
Captain Eugene Ebanks
United Democratic Party incumbent MLA Captain Eugene Ebanks also sees the need for more jobs for the people of West Bay was a major concern.
“For my district, we have to get our people back into jobs so that they can advance the standard of living for them and their families,” he told the Chamber.
“We need to address the boat ramp facilities, support the development of the Barkers National Park, and look about the possibility of a Hurricane Hole-Safe Harbour for boats,” he said.
He said the government has to “find ways to create jobs, jobs, jobs. Until we put our people back to work, we’re going to be increasing social welfare burden,” he told the audience at a candidates forum in West Bay last month.
He also identified the cost of living and assistance for indigents as other elements that needed to be addressed urgently.
Progressives candidate Ray Farrington wants to see improved training and employment opportunities for the people of the district.
“Government must provide district level training programmes in tourism and vocational studies in West Bay,” he told the Chamber. “Our citizens must be able to compete for decent jobs if they are to improve their economic circumstances.”
He added that improved or expanded skills mean better job opportunities, potential business ownership, an improved social environment and longer term stability.
“The opportunities exist, we need to ensure that our citizens have the matching skills and are given the best and first opportunity to succeed,” Mr. Farrington continued.
Incumbent MLA and tourism minister Cline Glidden, who is running as a member of the People’s National Alliance, also identified unemployment as a area of concern in West Bay.
“As a local leader, my first priority for the district is providing more employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for our residents,” he said.
“As an entrepreneur myself, I know first-hand West Bay has all the assets we need to continue as leaders of the country’s economic development engine. I’ll work to encourage the start of small businesses in a diverse range of industries, while continuing to support the development of hotels and other tourism-related businesses,” he told the Chamber.
United Democratic Party candidate Velma Powery-Hewitt says the three main areas of concern for West Bay are unemployment, cost of living and the related social impact that come with those.
She plans to address after-school programmes in West Bay, which she said are under threat.
“As it stands, the programmes are now facing a financial dilemma and under threat of closing. These programmes are much needed, as they provide educational assistance in school work and are a safety net for our children who would otherwise be left alone without proper care and adult supervision,” she told the Chamber magazine.
“I will ensure that these programmes are further expanded with adequate facilities and funding through partnership with local businesses and the churches, This will enable all children to be accommodated in the programmes,” she added.
On the issue of crime, she said the lack of community policing in Cayman is detrimental to the districts. “Sometimes I’m amazed at the lack of knowledge of some of police officers when you call to report or ask for assistance,” she said, adding that it was important that the police were familiar with the areas they policed and the people therein.
Coalition for Cayman-endorsed independent candidate Tara Rivers said that although high unemployment and crime were national issues, they were “particularly troubling” for West Bay.
“While West Bayers have held some of the most prominent ministerial positions in government in the last decade and the majority of the country’s development is on the West Bay Road corridor, West Bayers represent some of the most disenfranchised persons in the country,” she said.
She vows to work to ensure that the people of West Bay are better equipped to take advantage of economic opportunities, which in turn will help reduce both unemployment and crime rates.
Another Coalition for Cayman-endorsed independent candidate Mervin Smith identified joblessness, crime and a sense of hopelessness as the most pressing issues facing West Bayers. He and his running mate Ms Rivers have a proposal which they say could help Caymanians re-enter the tourism industry and earn livea
ble wages therein.
“We have an initiative that subsidises Caymanians for the first two years, by which time the establishments will take up the additional pay,” Mr. Smith told a Chamber of Commerce forum audience in West Bay last month. “We feel this is important because we feel that with this additional stimulus, we will get Caymanians looking at the industry as a viable industry again where they can make a liveable wage.”
On the issue of crime, he said: “Crime happens when people are struggling, and our people are struggling. Our people need hope. They need us to provide the necessary framework and leadership that allows for them to succeed. Too many of our people have fallen behind. No disrespect to anyone, but I think the leadership has to take some of the blame.
“We need to work to ensure our people are brought along and not strung along, that people have opportunities that are afforded to the rest of the nationalities in this country and let’s work together to get it done.”