Branding Bermuda – An Addendum

In my previous post I intended to provide the relevant excepts of the various legislation that the America’s Cup Act 2014 exempts the America’s Cup (and its associated ‘corporate’ partners) from in Bermuda. Unfortunately, it was just getting to be a far too big an article, so I ended up just dealing with the most relevant one for that article.

And so, here, I provide the remaining advertising exemptions granted by the America’s Cup Act 2014.

Just as a reminder, this is the relevant section of the America’s Cup Act 2014 concerning advertising exemptions:

3 – In relation to advertising of and at the Bermuda Events, ACEA and its designated commercial partners, and the Teams and their designated commercial partners, shall be exempt from –

(a) sections 2, 3, 4 and 6(c) of the Advertisements Regulation Act 1911;

(b) section 14(4) of the Development and Planning Act 1974;

(c) the Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952; and

(d) sections 3 and 4 of the Alcohol Advertisement (Health Warning) Act 1993.

I addressed subsection (a) in my previous post. As the entire Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952 is exempted, I’m simply going to direct you to read the entire Act than reproduce it here… (opens as a pdf).

Development and Planning Act 1974

Section 14 (Development requiring planning permission) – Only subsection (4) of this section is exempted under the America’s Cup Act 2014.

Section 14(4)

Without prejudice to the Advertisements Regulation Act 1911 [title 20 item 9], the use for the display of advertisements of any external part of a building that is not normally used for that purpose shall be treated for the purposes of this section as involving a material change in the use of that part of the building.

Alcohol Advertisement (Health Warning) Act 1993 – Only sections 3 and 4 are exempted under the America’s Cup Act 2014.

Section 3 (Alcohol advertisement in printed publications; Schedule)

(1) No person shall print or publish an alcohol advertisement in a printed publication to which this section applies unless the advertisement bears the health warning as set out in the Schedule.

(2) This section applies to – 

(a) any newspaper with majority ownership by Bermudians printed or published in Bermuda;

(b) any periodical, magazine or other publication with majority ownership by Bermudians printed or published in Bermuda.

Section 4 (Health warning when alcohol advertisement displayed; Schedule)

No person shall – 

(a) display; or

(b) publish or distribute for the purpose of display,

an alcohol advertisement in writing or other permanent form or semi-permanent form unless the advertisement bears the health warning as set out in the Schedule.

Summary

Basically the America’s Cup Act 2014 exemptions here remove the need to include health warnings regarding alcohol and remove the need for planning permission (and all the related checks and balances that involves) for advertising on the outsides of buildings.

Although I haven’t included the Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952, it is a relatively short Act (six pages). Some of the key sections though are:

Section 4 (General Principles)

The superficial design and colour of restricted motor cars and trailers and of any advertising matter displayed thereon shall be regulated and controlled by order of the Minister –

(a) so as to conduce to road safety; and

(b) so as to preserve as far as possible the amenities of Bermuda, notwithstanding any consideration of private gain.

Other sections generally provide regulations for lettering, colour, designs, etc, mostly with regard to ensuring road safety. I encourage readers to read through it fully though. It is mostly an Act about advertising on vehicles, as is indicated by its name.

Thoughts?

Branding Bermuda

“As a private person, I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bicycles, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship? —David Ogilvy, founder of the Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, in Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1963”An excerpt from Naomi Klein’s No Logo.

There’s some questions on social media about the erection of various giant-sized corporate logos around the island, on various key landmarks. The first one I believe went up on Seon Place the other day, however most of the focus (and, I think it should be said, concern) is on Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.

From the America's Cup Twitter account.

From the America’s Cup Twitter account.

Quite a few people are pointing out the apparent hypocrisy between the Government recently clamping down on various breaches of the Advertising Regulations Act 1911 and this America’s Cup advertising campaign.

So, why is the America’s Cup advertising okay?

The answer to this lies in the exemptions, regarding advertising, granted in the America’s Cup Act 2014 (which Bernews pointed out). Specifically, the exemptions in question are in Part 2 of the Act ‘Concessions & Exemptions’:

Advertising

3 – In relation to advertising of and at the Bermuda Events, ACEA and its designated commercial partners, and the Teams and their designated commercial partners, shall be exempt from –

(a) sections 2, 3, 4 and 6(c) of the Advertisements Regulation Act 1911;

(b) section 14(4) of the Development and Planning Act 1974;

(c) the Motor Car (Control of Design, Colour and Advertising Matter) Regulations 1952; and

(d) sections 3 and 4 of the Alcohol Advertisement (Health Warning) Act 1993.

I won’t go into detail on (c) above, however I thought it might be educational for readers to understand what the other exemptions above are. So below, to save people the trouble of going through all the various Acts themselves, are the relevant sections relating to advertising that the America’s Cup Act 2014 allows.

Advertisements Regulation Act 1911

Section 2 (Restriction of exhibition of advertisements)

No person shall, except as otherwise provided by this Act, exhibit any advertisement, upon or over any land except – 

(a) advertisements upon any land relating solely to any entertainment, meeting, auction or sale to be held upon, or in relation to such land or to any property thereon; or

(b) announcements of the sale or letting of such land; or

(c) announcements or copies of any proclamation or official notice published by authority of the Governor, the Supreme Court, any Justice of the Peace, either branch of the Legislature, any Government Department, any Government Board, or any officer holding a commission in Her Majesty’s Forces; or

(d) announcements or notices duly published by proper authority of any meeting of freeholders or others for any parliamentary, municipal or parochial election, or other purpose; or

(e) advertisements or announcements upon any land, within either municipal area, being land duly licensed for the exhibition of advertisements by the respective municipal corporations : Provided that in all such excepted cases, the advertisements shall not contain letters, effigies, figures or other advertising emblems exceeding twelve inches in height; or

(f) advertisements or announcements exhibited inside a display window of an agent’s business premises of any business, entertainment or occurrence in respect of which such agent acts; or

(g) advertisements or announcements exhibited inside of any shop, store or place of business, other than any public vehicle or ferry boat; or

(h) advertisements relating to the sale of land at auction or otherwise; or

(i) advertisements relating to the arrival or departure of any ship belonging to or employed by any line or company the ships of which ordinarily ply between Bermuda and elsewhere; or

(j) advertisements published in any book, newspaper, magazine, calendar or periodical; or

(k) announcements, in letters not exceeding fifteen inches each in height or width, of the business name of the company, firm or person carrying on business on the premises and the general character of the business carried on therein.

Section 3 (Illuminated and other signs visible from street; sky-signs)

(1) No person shall – 

(a) erect upon, or fix to, or exhibit above, any land, any advertisement supported on or attached to, any post, pole, standard, framework or other support which, or any part of which, or the support of which, is visible against the sky from some point in any street or public way; or

(b) use or exhibit any kite, balloon, parachute or other similar device, employed wholly or in part for the purpose of any advertisement or announcement, over any land or street; or

(c) exhibit any flashing or illuminated sign which is visible to any person on any public street or public way.

(2) For the  purposes of subsection (1)(a), an advertisement, the uppermost part of which is no higher than the roof line of any building on the plot on which it is situate, shall not be deemed to contravene the provisions of that paragraph.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (1)(c), an “illuminated sign” means a sign used or intended to be used for the purpose of advertising the lettering or design of which is illuminated from within the components constituting the lettering or design. 

Section 4 (Vehicle exhibiting advertisements; sandwich man)

No person shall – 

(a) act, or employ any other person to act, as a sandwich man or for similar purposes to walk through any public street or highway, solely or chiefly for the purposes of exhibiting advertisements; (b) in any public street or highway draw, wheel, ride or drive any vehicle used solely or chiefly for the purpose of exhibiting advertisements.

Section 6 (Corporation of Hamilton)

The Corporation of Hamilton may grant a licence in respect of any land within the municipal area of the City of Hamilton, for the purpose of posting, placing or exhibiting advertisements:

Provided that – 

(a) before any licence is granted in respect of any land not the property of the Corporation, the permission of the owner or occupier shall be first obtained;

(b) any such licence shall be subject to such terms, conditions and notice of discontinuance as the Corporation may deem expedient; and

(c) the space on any hoarding, or other structure used for advertising purposes, shall not exceed six feet in height.

I’ll post in a separate article what those other exemptions are, as I think this post is long enough as it is.

NB – Only subsection (c) of section 6 (Corporation of Hamilton) above is relevant as regards the America’s Cup Act 2014, however I felt it wouldn’t make sense without reading it in the context of the entire section.

So, what do you think? Are you happy with these big advertisements going up on our landmarks? Are you looking forward to the other exemptions relating to advertising still to come?

This post is essentially a public service announcement, an ‘educational’ article. Happy to hear people’s views on it all though.

If anyone wants to read Ms Klein’s excellent book ‘No Logo’, this link opens to a pdf version of it.

Becky’s Beach Glass Design – An Example of Irresponsible Tourism?

This is a news story that has developed over the last few days in local media.

Basically, a US tourist, who happens to be a jeweler specialising in incorporating sea glass into her works, came to Bermuda, scooped up about 70 pounds (about 32 kilograms) of sea glass from Bermudian waters, and took it to the USA where she’s made a handsome profit from it. By her own admission she came to Bermuda explicitly for this purpose, as part of her business.

Now, there’s a few problems with her actions here.

For one thing, that she came to Bermuda for this explicit purpose breaches our laws regarding work permits. She would have required at least a temporary work permit for this action – it was illegal for her to do what she did as a tourist.

More importantly, it is against Bermudian law to remove sea glass from the beach in the first place, and it’s also against the law to export this.

The relevant legislation in question can be found here…

Now, Ms Fox, the jeweler, has since compounded matters, by being quite frank in the US media about what she did, and then blocking, and deleting comments by, Bermudians and others who have been critical of her actions and pointed out how she broke the law and has been quite insulting to our people.

She’s also playing the victim here and telling folk she’s being bullied and people are making things up. As she’s deleting comments pointing out exactly how she broke the law and refusing people the right of reply, some of her readers are indeed believing that she is being bullied and has done nothing wrong.

Now, I don’t intend to get into a whole discussion about Ms Fox here.

Quite frankly, she broke the law, she’s acted very insultingly to Bermuda and Bermudians, and her behavior has been quite poor and disappointing. I think she could have defused the whole thing immediately after her wrong-doing was pointed out to her. She could have simply said something along the lines of:

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise what I did was wrong and clearly misunderstood the laws of Bermuda. I am sorry to anyone that I have hurt and will be contacting the Bermudian authorities to work out how best to resolve this issue in an amicable way, and all the profits that from sale of Bermuda glass jewellery is being donated to these environmental charities in Bermuda. Lesson learned.”

That would have been enough I think.

Our people are largely forgiving, and an honest recognition of making a mistake and taking steps to make good would have been welcomed. Heck, we probably would have helped advertise her wares – it would raise money for our charities, boost awareness of our local artisans and be a good little tourism advertisement for Bermuda. Her refusal to even accept any wrong-doing and compounding it by insulting our people and trying to silence us, yeah, that’s left a rather sour taste and won’t be forgotten.

I for one hope that our Government will be taking steps to:

  • Seek compensation from Ms Fox;
  • Tighten up regulations concerning sea glass and other artifacts;
  • Boost local artisans;
  • Ramp up inspections.

Responsible Tourism

However, I digress. There’s really not much more that can be said on this story that hasn’t been said already in the media or by hordes of my righteously irate compatriots on various social media.

What I find most interesting about this incident, other than the imperialist mindset of a White American tourist in appropriating other peoples natural and cultural resources, is how this allows us to really focus on what kind of tourism we want for Bermuda, and what are the possible consequences/impacts of tourism in Bermuda?

The Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”.

I think that’s a pretty decent definition, and should really be the ideal form of tourism that we want – and the kind of tourists we should be when we travel.

Now this definition is not simply ‘green’ tourism. One can build a resort with the latest green tech, or go on an explicitly nature vacation (hiking in a natural park, etc), without meeting this criteria. It also has to ensure economic benefit to ordinary people and not threaten or undermine the local economy and culture.

If one were to apply this concept to this particular incident, then not taking our sea glass was the responsible thing to do. Supporting local artisans was the responsible thing to do. Perhaps asking to work with some of our local sea glass artisans would have been the right things to do, and even arranging to help sell their products in the USA through her site would have been the responsible thing to do.

Doing all this would have ensured the sustainability of our sea glass beaches (certainly a lot more than carting away 70 pounds of it!) and boosted the local economy and artisans.

This principle can apply to tourism in general for Bermuda. It means making sure that the impact on our environment and infrastructure is sustainable, that it doesn’t destroy the very nature that attracts tourists here in the first place (and environment here means more than just beaches, clear blue waters and greenery – it extends to pollution, litter, energy use, waste management, food, water, traffic, etc).

And it also means that tourism should benefit ordinary people. I don’t mean the bank accounts of the elite, of the 1%. I mean ordinary people overall. We all recognise that there is some degree of trickle down from tourism, even if it’s just revenue collected by the government and used for public services.

However, I’m thinking more in terms or increasing local economic links and reducing leakage of the tourist dollar overseas (or into the bank accounts of the elite), and this means ensuring the tourist dollar is more equitable spread (through using local entertainers, boosting local artisans, using small businesses as much as possible, relying on local farmers as much as possible). Doing this – and shifting to renewable energy – all keeps the tourist dollar local and spreads it around more equitably, while also supporting local enterprise and culture.

Starting a Conversation?

There’s A LOT that can be written about responsible tourism and how it can be applied to the benefit of Bermuda.

I’ve already written a longer piece than I like writing – I just think that if some good is to come out of this incident it is that we might be able to start a conversation about tourism in Bermuda – what are it’s negative impacts, how do we address them, what kind of sustainable tourism do we want and how do we go about realising it? Just for starters…

 

Trash Problems in Bermuda – Bernews OpEd

Bermuda’s having some issues with trash collections, due to various reasons. Trash container

I can’t speak to the particular causes of the latest problems, but I thought the situation made for a useful segue to highlight some policies that I’ve put forward concerning residential trash, both in the 2012 General Election and in my submission to the SAGE Commission last year.

You can read over the policies in my OpEd over at Bernews.

Of course, they’re only an outline.

There’s only so much information (and words) one can fit in an OpEd without boring people with the minutiae of policy details and technical specs.  The aim is more to convey some ideas that can be developed.

All of the suggestions are already done elsewhere.  As much as I’d like to take credit for creating wholly new ideas, in this case I’ve looked at what works elsewhere and put forward those which I think would also work in Bermuda.

Quite frankly, we don’t have to re-invent the wheel, and we can learn from how these ideas work elsewhere.

I will note, after reviewing some of the comments on the Bernews OpEd, some points:

  • I would change the wording on the compost bit to simply ‘food waste’, as in including meat.  I don’t think it would make that big a problem, and it’s all compostable.
  • In addition to the curb-side composting, a focus should be on encouraging households to compost at home.  This isn’t going to be possible for everyone, but for many it will be.
  • Curb-side composting, yes, it has to be picked up pretty quickly otherwise it’ll stink.  However, it’ll no more stink than trash currently does containing food waste.
  • The ‘free’ container would already be paid for by the land tax.  Paying extra for extra trash space makes it so that those who produce more trash (or choose not to separate out recyclables, etc) pay more, helping to recuperate the added costs involved.  Right now, those who produce more, or don’t separate, increases the overall cost of trash collection for us all; the PAYT model seeks to remedy that.
  • Each container can be personally marked, including a serial number, for each residential unit involved, reducing the risk of theft to a degree.
  • These trash containers are used elsewhere; there’s risk of vandalism, but we can see from how they operate elsewhere how to deal with that.  I’d imagine their omnipresence, combined with fines, would be an effective way to minimise such risks.
  • In multi-unit complexes, a larger dumpster, with a 32-gallon container per capita equivalent can be introduced.
  • A bottle bill would work here (it works everywhere it’s in place, so no reason it wouldn’t work here), although the deposit value will have to be figured out to be effective in the Bermuda context.  I’d imagine that the 5 cent or 10 cent deposit value we see in the US would be too small for Bermuda; 25 cents is probably closer to what would work in Bermuda.  A policy analysis would be able to get the general figure, to be fine tuned as the policy is implemented and evaluated.

As I’ve said, these policies exist elsewhere.

Bottle bills exist in the Caribbean and North America (and elsewhere).

PAYT exists elsewhere, including North America and Europe.

Curbside composting exists throughout North America and Europe, including cities with roughly comparable climates to Bermuda, like San Francisco or north east Florida.

The trash containers I based the policy outline on is that I saw being used in Fife, Scotland, which now uses a four-bin waste collection system for trash, food and garden waste, paper and cardboard and plastics.

Quite frankly, these systems already exist elsewhere, and from all the evidence I’ve reviewed, it leads to a more efficient waste management system, including overall cost savings.

They exist, they work, and we can adapt them for the Bermuda context.

All it takes is the political will to actually act on them.

Prospects for a Green Party – A Postscript

What Happened?

Despite my draft notes on the prospects for a Green Party in Bermuda, as should be obvious, nothing came of it.  I approached a number of people who I thought would be partial to the idea, and, while there was some support, the general consensus was that now was not the time, and that the focus should be on working within the PLP.

The idea was that while it may be necessary in the future to set up a new party, the balance of forces was such that any move to do so at that time would be impractical and would doom future initiatives.  The emphasis instead should be on working within the PLP to defend what was left of its radical heritage and to seek to advance more leftist policies.

If the radical resurgence of the grassroots from within the PLP proved impossible, then at least any move towards a new party would have a better prospect only once it was demonstrated that an internal PLP approach had been exhausted.

Such was the approach I took.  I rejoined the PLP and did my best to advocate for socialism and green initiatives within the PLP.  I did this until 2008, at which point I felt the PLP, at that stage, was now a largely hopeless case in terms of recovering its radical heritage.  I decided to let my membership expire at that point (it expired in the summer of 2009).

A Liberal Option?

In 2009, in the wake of the June days of the Uighers, I became involved with a group who were disillusioned with the status-quo of the PLP and UBP.  This group consisted of disgruntled PLPers, some disgruntled UBPers and some non-affiliated individuals I considered simply as ‘liberals’.

The idea was to organise a new party, somewhat along the lines of the liberal option I outlined in what I’ve posted here as ‘Part Two’ of the 2004 notes.  It was hoped that this new organisation would force the ideological differentiation of the two established parties, as well as be able to take the liberal wings from both of those parties.  That is consisted of both PLPers and UBPers, as well as non-aligned individuals, was seen as an advantage in terms of legitimacy.

Unfortunately, around the same time as this group was finalising its policy platform and preparing for a formal – and public – launch, the Bermuda Democratic Alliance split from the UBP.

While this group, right up until the time it reunified with the UBP to form the OBA, never seemed to develop a coherent policy framework (although some defecting members of ‘our’ group taking aspects of our policies to them) compared to ourselves, it was felt that they had stolen the thunder of a new centrist political organisation.  It was felt that ‘our’ group was now largely unviable.

It wasn’t necessarily abandoned, but the group decided to give the BDA the benefit of time to see where they developed, and if they failed the group could always restart.  This period of observation however rendered our collective energies dormant, and the group never shook of this dormancy, even after the BDA project failed and the OBA was formed.

Such an option remains however.

People & Ecology Party

In the wake of the collapse of that liberal option, I, and a few others that were involved in that, along with some new individuals, considered the prospect of a new party.  While this never got off the ground either, it served as an updating of the 2004 Green Party idea.

While no platform was developed, a People & Ecology Party of Bermuda – Constitution was, with the idea being that it contained the outline of a vision on which a platform would be developed.

PEP_Bda_Cover

Creating a party constitution and manifesto, along with a general circle of members is, however, relatively easy.  Building an actual party organisation from those is a whole other story however.  It was not possible to commit the resources required to develop such a party in time for the 2012 election.

While I ran as an Independent, it was my hope that the manifesto I ran on would influence our overall political discourse, as well as lay the foundation for further political development.  I knew the chances of my winning were slim without a party machinery to support me, but I felt the potential for affecting long-term political change made it worthwhile.

I continue to believe this to be the case – and I feel that my platform did, indeed, influence both the OBA and the PLP, with the OBA having since at least spoken favourably on some policies outlined in it.

Future Political Developments

I have also since been asked to help form a new party based on my platform.

Quite frankly, I do not have the time or resources to do so, but I have welcomed those interested to do so and they may freely use my platform for that purpose.  I remain non-aligned.

It is my hope, however, that if those who do have the resources also have the will-power to persevere, they may benefit in some small way from the notes I made on this issue.  If they find the draft constitution for the People & Ecology Party or my 2012 election platform to be useful in setting up a new party, I wish them well, and will offer constructive criticism of their work.

If nothing develops, well, so be it.

Notes on Prospects for a Green Party – 2004 – Part Three

As noted in the immediately previous posts, these notes were drafted in 2004.  I was exploring options for political strategy, particularly the prospects for a Green Party in Bermuda.

A Green Party – Pros & Cons in the Bermudian Context

If the option of setting up a Green Party for Bermuda is taken, being seen as more viable than a Socialist Party or a Liberal Party, what are the pros and cons of this option?

Pros:

A Green Party benefits from an established international Green Party movement.  This leads to:

– Direct assistance from sister parties for organisational issues and help with policy/platform development;

– Indirect benefits through shared ‘branding’ in popular consciousness;

– This will strengthen as international Green Parties continue to advance.

Environmental issues are coming increasingly to the fore in politics, local and global.  This provides the Green Party with a unique niche and foundation to advance on.

From a Green Party perspective, all issues can be addressed.  They are not simply ‘single-issue’ focused solely on the popular concept of ‘Green’ as purely environmental.  There is an inherent connection between the environment, the economy, society (race, class and sex) and wider issues, such as imperialism.

There exists an established (though small) environmental activist core in Bermuda, which could serve as a core cadre.

Cons:

The biggest challenge would be overcoming the conception of a Green Party as being one-sided, of being solely an environmentalist party in the crude perception of being about trees, reefs and nature generally, rather than having relevance on race, class, sexism and wider socio-economic issues.

The above is further compounded by what can also be a pro – the already existing environmentalist movement in Bermuda.  Too often the environmentalism already present is seen as inherently conservative and White.  Environmentalism is seen to protect the environment solely from an elite perspective, and is seen to ignore the wider socio-economic implications that a true environmental perspective (which a Green Party would have to be) would address.

It is possible that there will be two wings to any Green Party in Bermuda.  One inherently radical, connecting environmental issues to wider socio-economic ones, including racial, class and sexism issues.  The other wing would be inherently conservative, focused on conservation and preservation rather than radical restructuring of society to an environmentally conscious society.  Conceivably there would be a third wing, of eco-capitalism.   So, an eco-socialist wing, an eco-capitalist wing and an elite environmentalism.

These three are, ultimately, untenable as a single party, and should be seen more as a temporary alliance.  Even as a temporary alliance though, a coherent and unified Green Party might be sufficient to radically change the landscape of Bermuda’s political discourse.  These three tendencies will contest for dominance.  Ultimately it will come down to the eco-socialist faction against the eco-capitalist faction.

One big obstacle to overcome is the perception of environmental issues as a White issue.  For a Green Party to be viable it must have a strong focus on social justice.  A purely eco-capitalist and elite environmentalism focused Green Party would be unviable, and would be readily absorbed by the UBP.  Only a social-justice (eco-socialist) perspective renders the Green Party initially viable.

From a purely branding issue, the colour ‘green’ is already branded with the PLP.  Indeed, adding to the confusion, the colour green is so identified with the PLP that a ‘Green Party’ in name may readily be misunderstood as referring to the PLP.

 

 

Notes on Prospects for a Green Party – 2004 – Part Two

As noted in the previous post, I drafted these notes in 2004, during a period of estrangement from the PLP.

This estrangement resulted from my general disappointment in the PLP under Premier Smith, the concern I had over the unconstitutionality of the ‘palace coup’ which removed her during the 2003 election, and frustration with the PLP’s failure to oppose the neo-imperialism of the US (Bermuda playing a supporting role for military units).

As a result of this, I investigated the options for novel political directions.  One of these was the prospects for a Green Party.  Ultimately, I abandoned those efforts and decided to try again to advocate green and socialist positions within the PLP.

Green Party – Why?

The UBP has historically been the party of the oligarchy, and one that benefits and seeks to perpetuate (in the modern era ‘unconsciously’ the racial divisions of Bermuda (especially as this maintains class divisions).  Based on its ideological heritage and its organic (in terms of racial and class strata) composition, it is an inherently conservative party.

Paradoxically, it maintains some more socially liberal views in certain areas vis-a-vis the PLP, itself a unique product of Bermuda’s complex socio-economic development.  At best the UBP represents a national-capitalist force, and so is useful against the worst excesses of the international capitalist interests.  There is the prospect for some alliances with the socially liberal wing of the UBP.

The PLP has, like its sister parties in Canada and the UK, abandoned what was left of its ‘radical’ heritage.  It has jettisoned its ideology for the sake of power; like Judas and his 30 pieces of silver.  It maintains its organic link with the ‘masses’, with the working class, but it is led by the Black bourgeois, who cynically use ‘the masses’ to pursue its own bourgeois agenda.

In as much as it now pursues a ‘progressive capitalist’ objective, of rendering Bermudian capitalism representative of its racial demographics, it is preferred over the UBP.  Furthermore, its links with the masses leave open the prospect for a genuine radical resurgence of the grassroots.

Nonetheless, the recent events, both internal and ‘external’, as in policy, render the prospects for immediate recovery of radicalism unlikely.  There is the question of whether or not this genuine radical resurgence can be best initiated internally or externally.  Internally allows the Leadership to clamp down and suffocate, potentially.

An external force, a new party, even a small one, is free from these constraints, and can articulate a new vision, which may then spark the internal reclamation of the PLP’s heritage as a genuine radical force of ‘progressive labour’ in its truest sense.  If so, what kind of new force can fulfill this role?  And is it viable right now?

The PLP maintains a significant hold, more by inertia of its own legacy and the euphoria of 1998.  This will be hard to overcome, and it may be more strategic to fight within it, and to emerge as a new force (to spark within it) as the balance of forces changes, as its inertia gives way, its euphoria passes, and the rot sets in.

Options?

If the external route is taken, now or later, what options are there?

A full-on socialist party?  The confusion over the term ‘socialism’ remains.  The nightmare of the 20th Century versions weigh heavy on any decision to reclaim the mantle of socialism in name.  It could be viable for sparking discussion on radical alternative visions, but will need to fight a consistent reclamation of its legacy and distancing from Stalinism.

Green Party?  Of late the ‘Green Party’ movement has scored some successes internationally.  The coalition between the SPD in Germany with Die Grunen has lent an air of legitimacy to the Green Party as a movement, beyond a protest vote.  Even the candidacy of Nader in the 2000 US Presidential Election, while coming in for grief and criticism from the US left for ‘helping’ the Republicans win, has greatly boosted the ‘brand’ of the Green Party.  One would expect future successes of the Green Party in the coming years.

There is an inherent connection between environmental issues and racial, class and sexual matters.  It provides a potent vehicle for serving as a radical vision.  It could be viable, and has less ‘baggage’ than a socialist party, although it could risk being defined as a socialist party nonetheless, and so have to expend resources on this issue.

Perhaps one of the best benefits of adopting the Green Party route is benefiting both directly and indirectly from international Green Parties.  Directly, it may benefit from assistance and solidarity with the international movement.  Indirectly, it benefits from brand spillover; Green Party successes elsewhere bolster the image locally.

An alternate route, resurrecting the NLP, in spirit, if not name?  The NLP is, currently, essentially a spent force.  It is either dead already or in its death throes.  But a resurrected NLP (even if in an ideological sense) could, potentially, take the liberal wings of both the UBP and the PLP, uniting them into a new force, a new entity.

If this is done, it would help break the racial polarisation of our politics, and, potentially, kickstart both the ideological and racial restructuring of our politics.  By claiming the center, it pushes the PLP to the left (in reaction) and the UBP to the right (in reaction), as well as representing Bermuda’s first truly racially transcendent party.

The challenge is that the PLP and the UBP are both squabbling over the center ground (there is little ideological difference really), and this squeezed out the NLP.  The NLP’s initial creation had the opposite effect.  Rather than pushing the PLP-UBP away in terms of ideological differentiation, it served as a magnet, drawing them in to the center.  With their superior organisational and numerical forces (the NLP being limited, as a result of its formation as a PLP splinter group), the NLP was unable to compete and got pushed out, being the one party unable to go left or right, by definition.

Of these options, a Green Party appears the most viable…

Rough notes ‘on the waterfront’

The current admin of the CoH has recently announced a ‘new dawn’ for the regeneration of the waterfront.

To what degree does this proposal gel with the City Plans, current, proposed and past?

There would seem to be a number of issues which the City has said they don’t have the finances to proceed on, but they ‘find’ the money for this?

This leads to question of ‘who benefits’?

With the loss of wharfage fees from the docks, the docks are no longer of importance to the CoH – if anything they are now a loss.  So it makes sense for the City to dismantle the docks and replace it with something else which they can use to generate revenue.

It will also benefit much of the traditional ‘Front Street’ although this should be qualified to add the southwest corner of the City, roughly from Parliament to Church and over to Queen (although it arguably should include the non-City extension to the southwest along Pitts Bay to Hamilton Princess).

This proposal risks a number of issues.

It will increase existing wealth inequalities.  The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

It will increase existing spatial inequalities.  The ‘already successful’ part of the City (the southwest corner) will benefit, but the back of town (in particular) and the rest of town (in general) do not really stand to gain anything.  They actually stand to lose more, as investments in their areas may be sacrificed in order to ensure the ‘success’ of the waterfront development.

There is a risk of ‘cookie-cutter’ development – as in, what will define the CoH waterfront compared to any other waterfront that the tourists and businesses will see elsewhere.  This may be irrelevant to those interests, in as much as standardisation may actually benefit them, but it also impacts on ‘us’ the Bermudians, and makes our waterfront interchangeable with any other waterfront.

In the effort to ‘keep up’ with rivals, we end up running faster just to stay in the same place (as in the Red Queen of Alice in Wonderland).  And in that we actually not just stay in the same place, but in losing distinctiveness, we actually fall back, collectively.

It raises the question of ‘whose city is it anyway’?  The city of business interests (and which interests?), or the city of the people, of the workers and residents?

It leads to the irony of the current admin being thought of as the first admin elected to represent the people versus business interests, in that the property vote was abolished and so the admin was nominally elected by the residents and not the businesses.  And yet they risk here serving the interests of business and undermining the interests of the residents.

Perhaps it would be better to think of ‘Team Hamilton’ as a vehicle which certain business interests either developed or co-opted to serve their purposes, and that the talk of being a ‘new democratic force’ was just so much spin.  Parallels could even be drawn with the failure of the PLP government to be ‘the people’s government’ in this way.

Sure, the question of ‘a rising tide raises all boats’ will be the propaganda reply to these criticisms.  But it is a worn-out and debunked theory.  The trickle-down effect is meaningless in that it ignores the fact that while a trickle may occur from the rich to the poor, in the process a river flows from the poor to the rich, leaving the poor even worse off in the long-term.  The slight of hand of the capitalist system!

The investments required for this, would better serve developing the back-of-town, in conjunction with the EEZ.  IF anything, the greatest ‘rising tide’ that could legitimately benefit all of Bermuda, would be a focus on improving the back-of-town, especially as regards Pembroke Dump.

Yes, this is outside of the existing boundaries, but this issue depresses the whole of the back-of-town, and leads to a number of social stresses to the community there.  And this spills out into the wider community, in as much as it becomes a source, a space, of criminality.

The built environment has a role in contributing to our social problems, as well as public health problems, all of which cost us – and the city – more in the long-term.  Even just improving the basic infrastructure of the northeast corner of the City – electricity, roads, paintings, parks, security – would have a profound benefit to the people, much more so than the proposed waterfront development.

There is also the question of where do the docks go now?  What is the environmental impact of this?  Is this considered in the plan?

And what is the added cost to the island of relocation?

And what would be the wider sustainability impact of its relocation (traffic stress, noise pollution, visuals, etc)?

Even the following of the original 1981 City Plan, of converting the City Hall car-park into an underground car-park covered (at the surface) by a nature park (joining up Victoria with Par-la-ville, in essence) would provide greater benefit to the island.  And would allow for the car-parks at the waterfront to be redeveloped and landscaped into parkland complete with the odd kiosk or cafe (the views would be excellent for a restaurant).

My own ‘platform’ called for the redevelopment of the car-parks into such landscaping, but was not as ambitious as the proposed CoH one.

The CoH proposal could be seen as a missed opportunity for regeneration, a white elephant or even a vampire sucking away the life-force of the island, or at least the less-well-off side of the island, and especially north-east Hamilton.

Cleaning up after the Americans…

Walton Brown, former PLP Senator and current candidate for the PLP in the next general election, has recently written on his blog (and published in the RG) about the pollution left behind at the former US naval and air bases, primarily Morgan’s Point. In his article he argues that the responsibility for cleaning up after the Americans lies with the UK, who made the deal with the Americans in the midst of the Second World War. Essentially the British, at that time virtually the main opposition to the Nazi assault in continental Europe (I don’t think the Soviets or the Americans had at that time joined the war), desparate for military assistance and hardware to defend itself, made a deal with the USA to provide the Americans with land for military bases throughout the British Empire in exchange for much-needed military hardware and supplies (mainly naval ships for protecting supply convoys heading to UK ports).

The Americans were able to use this deal to position themselves for hegemonic power following the war, with these new bases providing them with a global presence which they used to their advantage economically and geopolitically. With the rise of what I consider the Third World War, the Cold War between the US-led West and the Soviet-led Eastern bloc (with various allies such as North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba, as well as Communist China, at least up til the Sino-Soviet Schism). Bermuda was an important location for the Americans in this brave new world, serving as a key defence for the US eastern sea-board during WWII and a vital role in the Cold War, providing a key base for surveillance of Soviet submarines in the Atlantic. One has only to look at aerial photos of the island during the Cuban Missile Crisis (these exist but are not easily viewed) to see how important the military bases here were, with rows of fighter jets and bombers ready for the feared ‘hot’ war with the Soviets. The bases also provided a crucial element in the Space Race with the Soviets, with the airport runway’s being designed explicitly to allow space shuttle landings and as a key tracking station for rocket launches (a legacy of which continues today, albeit now with the European Space Agency rather than NASA).

The construction of the bases themselves were not without controversy. The original plans called for the levelling of Gibbs Hill and the partitioning of the island in two, with the debris from a bulldozed Warwick used for landfill to create a single base stretching from the South Shore all the way to the islands of the Great Sound. The final decision to build in St. David’s resulted in the loss of approximately a third of our mangrove forests, destruction of a unique coral reef system (still unrecovered, with the fluid dynamics of Castle Harbour post-construction keeping the water column there full of suspended sediment, restricting coral growth), as well as the known loss of at least three endemic marine species (I believe all endemic fish who spawned or were found only there). Socially it caused the de facto destruction of the St. David’s society, with families being relocated throughout the mainland and the island itself firmly brought into the mainstream of Bermudian life, with the resulting destruction of livelihoods and traditions. The presence of the Americans in Bermuda also helped accelerate the destruction of Bermudian culture in general, with a creeping Americanisation which accelerated with their presence and has accelerated further with the development of satellite and cable TV.

Over the years of their operation the base areas were contaminated with various heavy metals, sewage, asbestos and hydrocarbons. One of Bermuda’s largest and most important caves, ecologically speaking, was turned into a combined cesspit and dump for oil, gasoline and various chemicals. This pollution is not restricted solely to the baselands themselves, but, through diffusion in the watershed systems around Morgans Point/Port Royal renders residents in those areas, at least those drawing water from the water shed there, exposed to various levels of carcinogenic chemicals. While these levels are monitored regularly, and well water is generally not used for consumption purposes anyway, it is still possible that the general health of communities in that area has been compromised.

Of course, there have also been benefits from the construction of the bases. While the contribution to the various war efforts (and thus Bermuda’s political and economic welfare) is debatable, the construction of the bases themselves have played a pivotal role in our recent history. Labour disputes over wages and working conditions between Bermudian workers employed on the bases and Americans brought in for the labour were a central aspect to the development of the Bermuda Workers Association, which, ultimately, served as the genesis of the current Bermuda Industrial Union and, by extension, the Progressive Labour Party. In addition, the construction of the airport positioned Bermuda in a way to capitalise on the post-war growth of mass tourism; later it helped contribute to our position for international business.

When the Americans left in 1995 they left their pollution with us. An attempt at negotiating compensation with them dragged on, and eventually the Government accepted a fraction of what was required (and were roundly criticised for this), which was used, nominally, for repairs to Longbird Bridge. Bermuda is hardly alone in this situation though, with the US facing calls for compensation from other countries which housed US bases (Trinidad springs to mind). The US refuses to clean up any of these bases on the premise that doing so for one would set a precedent and they would be liable to clean up all of their mess (one wonders what the problem with that would be?), claiming they cannot afford to do such (while spending billions on imperialist adventures, military technology and propping up multi-national corporations, as well as subsidising polluting industries and supporting dictatorships and apartheid regimes such as Israel). The Americans have only ever cleaned up one of their bases. This base, in Canada, was close to their border and it was argued that the pollution from it could affect US populations neighbouring it. As such, due to American lives being at risk, they acted. One wonders if claims of racism could be raised here?

For me, I hold both the US and the UK responsible for this mess. Ultimately the deal was made between the UK and the USA, not between Bermuda and the USA. The UK cannot shirk it’s responsibility by hiding behind a cloak of Bermuda being ‘self-governing’. They are still responsible for our foreign affairs, and were the ones who made this deal in the first place anyway. They need to either get the Americans to clean up after themselves or clean it up themselves. The Americans themselves shouldn’t need to be told what to do. They should do the right thing. They have no right to come and pollute our island and walk away. Friends don’t trash others houses; perhaps the Americans aren’t our friends?

Until the Americans do the right thing we, Bermuda, should take some steps to help encourage them to act in a civilised manner. As they wish to treat us as a dump, perhaps we should start dumping our trash at their consulate? Or store our sewage there? And the Governor, as representative of the UK, he should be treated similarly. And we should close our ports to all American military vessels, planes and ships, or, alternatively, confiscate them and sell them off to cover the cost of cleaning up their mess.