The Hope Town District Council held a banquet celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Local Government in The Bahamas on October 22 at the Hope Town Harbour Lodge.
Distinguished guests attending included the Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, Hope Strachan, South Abaco MP Edison Key, Stuart City Commissioner and former Mayor Troy McDonald and other government representatives.
During the banquet all former Hope Town District Councillors were honoured with a special plaque and were thanked for their service over the years. There was also a twenty minute documentary presented that was produced by Randy Curry on the Hope Town District Council covering 20 years of local government in the Hope Town District.
Mrs. Strachan said that the Council’s work on waste management and preservation of the environment in their respective communities is “a model program; you are the example to follow.”
“I am proud of the fact that local government has demonstrated that it is the best way to govern, not only in an island environment, but also where you have an archipelago of islands,” she said. She added that it is difficult for Central government to truly know what the needs of these communities are.
She said that the Hope Town District Council has distinguished itself as a role model for the entire Bahamas and is worthy of recognition.
“It is for this reason that the Government of The Bahamas has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Hope town District Council allowing them to collect certain taxes in their community,” She said. She added that she absolutely and totally support this initiative and will continue to advocate to see the project to its successful completion.
Chief Councillor Jeremy Sweeting thanked Mr. Key for being a “strong advocate for our district and a true champion for the people of Central & South Abaco”, and for his recent allocation of funds for the district through his constituency allowance.
Mr. Sweeting spoke of how, in the summer of 1996, newly elected Chief Councillors and Councillors who for the first time took their seats in Councils and town committees across the length and breadth of this Commonwealth faced challenges in the way to implement local government.
He said that as local government, along with island administrators, and paved the way sorting through their new found authority and many legal gray areas, “it fell on the shoulders of these first time Councillors to set precedents for successive office holders to follow.”
He thanked former Chief Councillor Suzanne Bethel for “leading the way in those first terms in local government and for your sound judgment in setting some strong precedents that laid a firm foundation for others, including myself to build upon in later years.”
Mr. Sweeting gave thanks “to all that have served and sacrificed for your communities.”
He said that the local government system has grown in two decades, but there are identifiable flaws and areas which need improvement.
“But we embrace local government, despite the setbacks and learning that this job does require an extraordinary amount of patience, despite all the negativity that we can talk about the system, it is still far better than what was in place 20 years ago,” he said.
Former Mayor MacDonald presented a proclamation from the City of Stuart in recognition of the 20 Years celebration. The proclamation supports and encourages the Hope Town District Council to continue to use its local home rule, much like the Stuart City Commission does, to provide for the common good of its residents and visitors.
Mr. Key said that the Hope Town District Council “is the most well run local government entity anywhere in the Bahamas. You have to give Jeremy and his team great credit.”
He said that from the $100,000 he receives each year from the government to spend within his constituency that he will be giving $30,000 to the district; $10,000 each for Guana Cay, Man-O-War and Hope Town.