Online poll Replace, or end liquor board

The Liquor Licensing Board of Grand Cayman, after years of questions and recent concerns over the appearance of conflicts of interest, may be headed for change, a move supported by a majority of those polled online last week by the Caymanian Compass.

Authority over the board was assumed in mid-September by the Cayman Islands Department of Commerce and Investment, taking over from the Ministry of Finance, Development and Tourism after the panel collapsed under the pressure of vested interests, a series of recusals making a quorum impossible and accusations of prejudice.

Last week’s Internet poll asked readers the best way to clean up the situation. As they counted the results, our poll administrators said they discovered 106 repeat votes from a single IP address, insisting the most sweeping solution to the problem was to declare the Cayman Islands “dry,” that it should have no liquor at all.

Clearing the redundancy, however, webmasters found 48 votes also advocating the end of all liquor sales, and while that number was only 14.4 percent of the 334-vote total, placing third among the five options, comments nonetheless shed light on a particular strain of opinion.

“Just imagine how much Jesus we would all have time for then. Our islands would be free of sins such as murder and homosexuality,” offered one respondent.

“God gets me high!! Rejoice in the lamb,” said another. Finishing with a clear majority, however, were the 203 votes, 60.8 percent, who thought the volunteer members on the Liquor Licensing Board should be replaced. Five of the six board members are volunteers.

“Appoint people who are not business owners or drinkers,” suggested one voter, pinpointing the issue.

An innovative idea came from another voter who suggested the Department of Commerce and Investment might “enlarge the board so that [it] can still function when there is a conflict of interest.”

A more radical solution placed second in the poll, drawing 54 votes and 16.1 percent of the total: “End the board entirely.” No replacement body was suggested, although one person proposed leaving decisions to the marketplace, while another thought a governing magistrate might be a better idea.

“Just another corrupt board in the Cayman Islands,” said one respondent. “The fact that people can sell licenses privately is also a joke.”

Others were more constructive, even pointing to the folly of America’s 1920-1933 Prohibition Era.

“Has history not taught us prohibition of anything does not work?” the voter asked, lamenting the social and political costs of the abortive effort.

Finally, two different ideas: “Let the free market reign,” said one, while another said, “There is no need for a board – and the present one has created all sorts of problems for itself. A magistrate can deal with licensing, as in U.K.”

In fourth place was “Let the civil service run it,” drawing 20 votes, 6 percent of the total. Voters left three comments, relying on the overall integrity of the civil service.

“This should be an administrative function with the board overseeing the implementation of a framework in line with the policy of the current majority government. There is absolutely no need for the board to be involved with decisions on individual applications,” offered one.

”The board … should be run administratively with local court reference and police views,” said a second, while a third believed that the move to the new department was exactly right: “DCI can handle it. Look at what they have done with Trade and Business.”

The “other,” category, drawing nine votes and 2.7 percent of the total, proved the usual mixed bag of observations, the most strident of which was the recommendation that “the board should be tried for malfeasance in a court of law.”

Another voter repeated earlier counsel that appointees should have no conflicts of interest, while a third wondered how liquor and dance licenses could be openly sold through classified ads.

Next Week’s poll question

Robberies are up, murders have spiked. What should police do?

Bring back the British police that helped previously

Suspend civil liberties for offenders

Increase neighborhood patrols

Require faster police-response times

Other (explain)

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