How to make policy?
New mayor of Black River gets advice
BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large South/Central Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — AS is natural, new mayor of Black River, Everton Fisher (PNP- Braes River Division) has received his fair share of advice since being sworn on March 29.
However, there were numerous raised eyebrows when Fisher's immediate predecessor Jeremy Palmer (JLP -- Pedro Plains Division) and the council's secretary manager David Parkes appeared to have conflicting perspectives as they proffered their advice.
Palmer grabbed everyone's attention at last Thursday's swearing-in ceremony when he told the new mayor that he should not under any circumstances give up his and other councillors' responsibility as elected officials to make policy.
"Our greatest responsibility as councillors is policy making," declared an assertive Palmer.
"An important part of policy making is to decide priorities and where and how the available resources are to be prioritised and used... do not surrender that authority to anyone," Palmer told Fisher.
— Palmer added that if "anyone wants to make policy" they should take to the hustings, doing the "walk" and the "house-to-house" campaigning as councillors had done in order to get themselves elected.
Listeners were startled when Parkes took the mic a few minutes later and announced that while he fully appreciated the work of political representatives "all policy making must be properly operational and ... accountability must be the buzzword".
The council, he argued, should "fashion policies in a way that is properly operational, accountable, transparent, smooth and efficient". Furthermore said Parkes, the work of the council should not just be about "drain cleaning and cutting bush" but about economic and community transformation and development.
Speaking separately to the Jamaica Observer following the swearing- ceremony, Palmer and Parkes sought
to downplay any suggestion of "differences".
Palmer's comments had come as he pledged the "loyal and critical support" of JLP councillors for the new mayor whom he said had done "seminal" work in the council over the past four years. He expressed "confidence" that Fisher would exercise "fairness and balance" in his management of the local authority.
Pending the completion of yesterday's magisterial recount for the New Market Division in northwest St Elizabeth, the PNP commands a
9-6 parish council majority in St Elizabeth following the March 26 Local Government Election.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) had controlled the previous council with Jeremy Palmer (Pedro Plains Division) as mayor of Black River and chairman of the council.
Those sworn last Thursday included five new councillors, among them the PNP's Cyril Martin of the New Market Division. Martin — said to be the first Rastafarian in the St Elizabeth Parish Council — won by just one vote over the JLP's Ernest Hendricks. That result led to yesterday's magisterial recount. Hendricks had held the New Market Division since 1998.
The other new faces in the council are former West Indies fast bowler Daren Powell (PNP- Malvern Division), Gregory Myers (JLP — Southfield Division), Vinceroy Blake (JLP- Lacovia Division) and Layton Smith (PNP — Myersville Division).
Fisher and Palmer a part of those St Elizabeth councillors returning for a new term are: deputy mayor, Mordant Mitchell (PNP- Black River Division); the minority leader in the previous council, Donovan Pagon (PNP — Braes River Division); Audie Myers (PNP — Siloah Division), Stallyn Brown (JLP — Santa Cruz Division); Errol Hummingbird (PNP- Ipswich Division); Cetany Holness (JLP — Junction Division); Sandra White (PNP — Brompton Division); Derrick Sangster (JLP — Mountainside Division).