Bahamian icon and renowned architect Patrick Rahming started speaking about local government in the early 1970s, and he felt that it should be a part of the country’s constitution. Two decades later, although there was “no constitutional provision for local government”, the empowering legislation, Local Government Act 1996 for the Family islands, was passed, which excluded New Providence.
He does not believe in a limited application of local government. As part of the system, it must exist throughout a system, even if it looks different depending on the circumstance.
Speaking at a recent Imagine Local Government (ILG) event arranged by Rise Bahamas, Rahming shared his five reasons for local government.
First, he felt that we see the government as one entity that is separate from the people.” The government is busy with national issues and fostering relationships. Those who pick up the garbage or paint the schools are minor things that are not a priority. He also stated, “It’s ridiculous that central government and the Ministry of Works manage over 1000 buildings spread over 100,000 square miles, and they would have to know the condition of each building… it is not feasible.”
Second, “Most of the people of The Bahamas feel as though their only participation and the governance of the country is to wait for five years (when elections are held).”
Third, “Sustainability…Suppose a program begins at a local level. In that case, it doesn’t matter when the government changes because the people affected by that program have an opportunity to maintain the focus on that program; therefore, they have sustainability.”
Fourth, “Local government can maintain a focus on the vision for the local economy, and to make decisions that are in keeping with the vision.”
Fifth, “The strongest of all the reasons that local government is necessary is that it is the training ground for leadership. Growth in the quality of leadership comes with local government.”
Rise Bahamas began an education campaign in 2022 to get citizens thinking about this level of government for the capital. A survey was published, social media campaigns and media tours on the radio and television stations were conducted and partnerships included Org Bahamas and One Bahamas.
The www.risebahamas.net website states, “We believe that The Bahamas would benefit from local government in New Providence. Currently, we operate with a Central Government system. A move to Local government would be a layer below Central Government with the impact of bringing government closer to the people. In 2018 the government of The Bahamas established an advisory committee to make recommendations regarding establishing local government in New Providence. The following year they published a report detailing their research and consultations. They proposed options of how the system could work and divided the population into five districts.”
Two of those advisory committee members, Ed Fields and Valentino “Scrooge” Brown, joined Rise Bahamas’s founder and president, Terneille “TADA” Burrows, on the panel that Azaleta Ishmael-Newry moderated. Well-known media personality, Naughty hosted the event, and Fields discussed the report and local government benefits. Community advocate Brown shared his vision of Grants Town strengthened by local government programs and management. The recorded meeting is available on the Facebook page of Rise Bahamas as well as a petition calling for the implementation of local in New Providence.
Source: Azaleta Ishmael-Newry