Increasing concern about serious crime and illegal firearms marked the opening discussion at a debate among George Town East candidates on Monday night.
“I think it is absolutely imperative that the relationship between the police and the community has to be restored. It has broken down over the years and there is a level of distrust,” said Progressives party candidate Roy McTaggart.
“In order for the police to effectively do their work, there must be that respect, participation and engagement with private citizens in this country.”
Theresa Bodden of the Cayman Democratic Party and independent Kenrick Webster echoed the need to build community trust in law enforcement.
All four constituency candidates, including independent Sharon Roulstone attended the Chamber of Commerce forum at the First Baptist Church.
They also talked about the prison population and education, among other issues.
Ms. Bodden noted that “Community policing is also very important. If people in the community get to know their police officers, it is easier for them to give information and for police to monitor.”
Ms. Roulstone called for the National Security Council to step up activity to address law enforcement needs and communicate plans with the public.
All four candidates agreed that recidivism rates are a problem and that greater measures must be taken to rehabilitate Cayman’s prison population.
“Where we are truly failing them is we do not prepare them for re-entry to society, and society itself is not ready to receive them,” Mr. McTaggart said.
Regarding the current minimum wage of $6 an hour, Mr. Webster was the only candidate to support an increase.
“The minimum wage currently where it is, it’s not affordable for our society to maintain their families on $6 an hour,” he said.
Ms. Roulstone said, “I don’t subscribe to having a minimum wage because it only serves to drive up the costs. The only people who benefit are the ones who send their money home every week.”
Ms. Bodden questioned whether the current minimum provides a livable wage but opposed changing the rate without further research.
Mr. McTaggart said an increase would be “one of the biggest brakes on the economy that you could ever impose.”
He added that he originally opposed the $6 minimum for fear that it would lead businesses to close. He said he has been happy to see that this did not occur.
On healthcare for elderly and vulnerable populations, Mr. McTaggart said current government assistance options are adequate to address their needs, but greater public education is needed to promote available resources.
Ms. Roulstone suggested implementing a previously drafted national health plan.
All candidates voiced support of public-private partnerships to improve education, but had different ideas about what a such a partnership should look like.
Ms. Bodden proposed giving more authority to schools and administrators.
“For a school to really be successful, you need a partnership between the board, teachers, parents and the kids,” she said.
“We need to get back to communities. In education, the school needs to be a community. It needs to take responsibility for itself.”
Ms. Roulstone encouraged taking control of education out of government hands as a means to reduce costs. She said the cost to educate students in public schools exceeds the cost per capita in private schools, indicating that government has not properly managed costs.
Mr. Webster praised the government-funded Passport2Success job training program as an example of a successful private-public initiative.
To build on Cayman’s main economic pillars – financial services and tourism – Ms. Roulstone and Ms. Bodden supported expanding medical and sports tourism services.
Mr. Webster suggested building a world-class conference center to attract more businesses and trade shows to Grand Cayman.