Three of five candidates running for election in George Town South debated healthcare, traffic congestion and a cruise berthing facility, at the South Sound Civic Center on Thursday evening.
Organizers of the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum invited all five of the constituency’s candidates. Progressives candidate Barbara Conolly and Cayman Democratic Party candidate Michael Adam declined the invitation.
In their absence, independents Alric Lindsay, Paul Hurlston and Catherine Tyson made the case for voters to ditch the party system in the May 24 elections.
Mr. Lindsay voiced a need for greater transparency and openness to hold government accountable.
“Over the years, we’ve noticed the Cayman Islands have developed an environment for career politicians. Becoming career politicians, they have failed to focus on our issues,” he said.
Both Mr. Hurlston and Ms. Tyson echoed dissatisfaction with recent governments and the attention paid to George Town South.
All three candidates criticized extensive delays in completing construction of the new John Gray High School.
Mr. Hurlston called for government to take education more seriously and to set a higher standard.
“There are $54 million sitting at John Gray for the last 10 years in an incomplete school. Obviously we’re not too serious about education if this is happening,” he said.
Regarding community revitalization, he proposed turning Smith Barcadere into a proper park and moving to secure greater beach access in general for the public.
Mr. Lindsay identified rising crime as one of the greatest issues facing the area. He called for the creation of world-class rehabilitation facilities to address the root causes of crime.
“We find that crime is normally committed by re-offenders, so this suggests there is an issue in the system with rehabilitation and mental health services,” he said.
The debate took a positive tone on LGBTQ rights. Ms. Tyson said the topic is a human rights issue in which all people must be respected.
“I think when we beat the human rights drum so loud, we cannot forget that means everyone is a human being,” she said.
Mr. Hurlston added that people should have the right to live how they choose.
“I believe everybody has a right to determine who they want to be with and what they want to do,” he said.
On the topic of elder care, the candidates agreed that government should take a greater role in protecting access to health services. Ms. Tyson said government should accept greater responsibility for protecting vulnerable populations, including senior citizens and children.
Mr. Lindsay proposed that Cayman companies offer more employment opportunities to the elderly to provide them greater economic support.
Regarding construction of a cruise berthing facility, Mr. Hurlston pointed out that the project has been attempted many times to no avail. He said planners should consider why the facility has not succeeded, including environmental and funding issues.
“We need to brush off the national tourism plan and perhaps update it to determine where we want to go,” he said.
Given the high cost of building such a facility, Ms. Tyson said the public should be provided greater information to avoid surprises down the road.
The candidates proposed several ideas to reduce traffic congestion and improve pedestrian safety in South Sound.
Mr. Hurlston highlighted the serious safety issues currently faced by cyclists and joggers who live in South Sound. He proposed better lighting as a possible remedy.
Ms. Tyson pointed to the need for sidewalks to keep pedestrians off the road. To decrease street congestion, she suggested government set up offices in Bodden Town and East End, to ease the traffic flow to George Town.
Mr. Lindsay said sidewalks would not be feasible, given space limitations. He proposed instead to increase police presence in South Sound to protect pedestrians from bad drivers.