Columns

Bernard Lodge development and more than just housing

By Howard D Hamilton

Thursday, August 09, 2018

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The proposed Bernard Lodge housing development, with its promised 17,000 housing solutions, will have a very serious environmental impact on not just the community of Portmore but also on the entire St Catherine. Already the current mayor of Portmore Municipal Corporation is seeking external assistance to point out the impact the project will have on the existing Portmore.True, there will be serious challenges to the current infrastructure as it relates to road, sewage disposal and water supply, and these should be addressed before the project proceeds any further than Cabinet approval. But wait, the biggest change to the environment will not be the normal infrastructural, but political.

Portmore has always been written off/down as belonging electorally to the current Opposition People's National Party (PNP). However, the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is making some investments which will challenged this status quo in Portmore and is making it a real political game-changer for them. The Bernard Lodge housing project will transform the political landscape in Portmore in a similar way that Greater Portmore housing project solidified Portmore as PNP country.

If and when the Bernard Lodge housing project is realised, the first casualty will be the stronghold of St Catherine Southern, which has been held comfortably by Member of Parliament (MP) Fitz Jackson. Bernard Lodge provides a rich source of voters for the current PNP chairman. With 17,000 housing solutions and a projected two to three individuals per household will translate to over 45,000 eligible voters. Bernard Lodge will have so much people that the upper limits of the St Catherine Southern will be exceeded, creating the need to realign the constituency boundaries. This realignment of boundaries might also see the rich voting areas of Clifton, etc, going into a new constituency. With those large voting blocks removed, the St Catherine Southern constituency will be challenged severely by a JLP which has tried unsuccessfully in the past to remove the long-standing MP.

Housing developments normally vote according to the Government in charge of the construction, and in this regard the governing JLP would ensure that they benefit from this large influx of voters. With a vulnerable and possible weakened St Catherine Southern, plus a St Catherine South Eastern, which was always viewed as a winnable seat in the political landscape in Portmore, all would surely be at risk.

Another discrete but visible move by the governing party is the construction of a new municipal building for Portmore. When one looks at the political demographics surely it would and should raise questions as to why would a party invest so much in a community in which it is viewed as weak politically. The facts, though, are that Portmore councillors are very integral to the balance of power in the wider St Catherine Municipal Corporation. The political majority in the St Catherine Council will be unquestionably for the green party if and when the Portmore councillors are taken out to be housed in a more comfortable and modern structure. There, however, might be no comfort as seats will be won and seats will be lost, as we must not forget that when municipality status was given in 2003, the 11 Portmore parish council was closely divided 6:5 in favour of the PNP, with the first elected mayor being George Lee. In 2007 the JLP's Keith Hinds was victorious, even though his party had a reduced majority in the divide ratio 7:4 . The last two local elections has been for the dominant PNP organisation, but as the mayor is saying the Bernard Lodge housing project will affect the environment. It will!

Howard D Hamilton, JP resides in Portmore Pines, St Catherine. Send comments to the Observer or how_hamil@yahoo.com.

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