MLA puts former rival on district council

They were political opponents during the May 2017 general election, but Newlands MLA Alva Suckoo has announced that local businessman Raul Gonzalez, Jr. will now serve as deputy chairman of a new advisory council for the district.

“I am … pleased that Mr. Gonzalez and I will be working together,” Mr. Suckoo said. “We made that commitment prior to election day; we agreed that whoever won the seat would have the support and assistance of the other. This is not a political body and Mr. Gonzalez’ presence is proof of that.”

Olson Anderson will serve as chairman of the Newlands council. Other members include Richard Christian, Mia Powell, Jalon Linton and Alfredo Whittaker, Mr. Suckoo said.

Although the creation of district councils was permitted by the Cayman Islands Constitution in 2009 and enacted in legislation two years later, few Legislative Assembly members have put those bodies in place. District councils are unelected advisory panels selected to focus on local issues, aiming to free up the district MLA to concentrate on the bigger picture.

Under the 2011 legislation, the council appointments in each elected district are supposed to be made by the premier. However, both North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and now Mr. Suckoo have selected their own advisory panels.

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“We don’t really expect government to come pull the rug out from under us,” Mr. Suckoo said Thursday.

At the moment, the councils do not receive any funding from government, but Newlands Council Chairman Mr. Anderson said, at the moment, the group believes it can raise funds to meet its needs.

“It would be nice to have the support of the government, but we are not going to wait,” Mr. Anderson said. “There are a number of pressing concerns in the constituency of Newlands and we plan to begin tackling them immediately.”

In a statement released last September, the Cayman Islands Constitutional Commission urged the creation of district advisory councils for each constituency.

The 2009 Constitution Order makes reference to councils “for each electoral district to operate as advisory bodies to the elected members of the Legislative Assembly.”

However, since the advent of the 2009 constitution, Cayman’s electoral map has changed. There are now 19 separate constituencies, 17 in Grand Cayman and two in the Sister Islands. Before 2017, there were just six electoral districts. The government’s constituency allowance budget has already increased as a result of having 19 MLAs.

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