The Hope Town District Council held a formal swearing in ceremony on July 4, 2017 at the Hope Town Community Center where Jeremy Sweeting was returned as Chief Councillor, with newly elected John Pinder II serving as the new deputy.
The ceremony was conducted by Senior Island Administrator Charles Moss who swore in each of the elected members; Cheynea Turnquest from Guana Cay, Haziel McDonald, Arthur Elden and Jeremy Sweeting of Man-O-War and Donnie Carey, Don Cash and John Pinder II of Hope Town.
Member of Parliament for Central and South Abaco and Parliamentary Secretary, James Albury spoke briefly, offering congratulations and said the he looks forward to working closely with them over the next few years. He encouraged them to work hard and persevere especially through hard and unpopular decisions.
Each member stood and thanked voters, friends and family members for their support and dedicated themselves to the task ahead.
After a brief recess after the swearing in which the council voted for their new Chief and Deputy Chief Councillors they were presented to the audience and the Chief and Deputy sworn in for their positions.
Deputy Chief, John Pinder II spoke first and thanked his family, friends and supporters that put their trust in him. “I believe this is a special place with exceptional people, and working together we can preserve and enhance the quality of life that we’ve been accustomed to for future generations.”
Mr. Sweeting addressed the audience as the newly sworn in Chief Councillor, thanking God first for His blessing and divine direction.
He thanked each of the members for their confidence in him and said that the Council works as a team and “every member works very hard to maintain the Hope Town District Council’s coveted reputation as the model Council in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.”
He spoke of the accomplishments of the Council over the past several years culminating in the most recent development which allowed the Hope Town District Council to be the first local government body to collect real property tax on behalf of the Bahamas Government in a pilot program.
Mr. Sweeting said that through the help of members of council as well as members of the community they made their petition for this to happen and were finally rewarded and beginning in February this year began to collect taxes.
He said that “in just five short months from February, along with what is projected to be collected by the end of August from commitments, we have collected $250,000. Of this figure, 80% of this quarter of one million dollars collected, are taxes that were in arrears and had been owed to the Treasury for many years.”
Despite the prevailing disinterest in local government Mr. Sweeting made the case that “in some ways, your local elections are just as important as the general elections. In some ways, your local elections are more important. Persons in your community will be elected and making decisions that could affect you, locally. It is very important. It is the government that is closest to you.”
He said that twenty-one years after the first council met, “We have made tremendous progress, across the length and breadth of our Commonwealth. But we have just scraped the tip of the iceberg, there is so much more that can be done. More autonomy and more home rule is needed for each and every district in the Bahamas. True local government will be realized when this happens.”
He said that “the strength of our district comes not by the district council but because of people in our communities that will go the extra mile or do what’s necessary to keep our communities going.”