You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category.

The mechanic said to me,

“I don’t have much to say. I’s just keep my head down an’ do what I could to survive, cuz them people don’t talk no sense. They wan’ keep spennin’ an’ borrowin’ money an’ then when they need money they tell the people to sacrifice. So why they don’t sacrifice? Why they don’t stop promisin’ stuff they cyan afford ‘till they could afford it? No. They know they could always put it on the people.”

What incredible insight, I thought (probably because it mirrored my own views). The increase in the VAT is not about a number – 12% or 15% – or about any International standards or what our neighbours do or don’t do. It’s about the Government’s plans for the next while, how much they will cost and how they intend to pay for them.

Like each of us, the Government has obligations – salaries, rent, maintenance etc. – for which they must raise money. Also like us, the Government has stuff -new stuff, trips, ceremonies- it would like to do or buy for which money must be set aside. But unlike us, the Government does not have to worry about running out of money. They, you see, have a fairy godfather/mother. It is us. We provide them with the additional money they need either through taxes or by allowing them to borrow in our name with our commitment to repay.  Unlike us, they do not have to worry about what they can or cannot afford.

So, as our agents, you would expect them to tell us when we can’t afford stuff so we don’t have to borrow money or pay higher taxes unnecessarily. Wouldn’t that be the responsible thing to do?

The answer is that they have the excuse that they are the victims of our selfishness and lack of discipline. We demand stuff from Government with absolutely no concern for cost, then judge Government’s “performance” by the extent to which we get those things. Public discussions about whether Government should lay people off or not, for example, make no allowance for the fact that those people must be paid if they are kept on the payroll. And their union will not even discuss lowering salaries to keep them on. So we demand that Government both hire more people and pay them higher salaries.

We demand better utilities, cheaper homesites, more Government services and social programs and imagine these things will not affect our personal pocket-books. After all, our Government has a social conscience. We even ignore the fine print in the announcement in the newspaper that says “This is a loan” from the “generous” international agency.

In fact, we hear the term “National Debt” and are unmoved by the staggering increases. Our “experts” tell us we are doing better than our friends, so we can afford to borrow more to get more “stuff”.

The increase in the VAT is a wake-up call. We could choose to continue this undisciplined spending and pay for it in increased taxes to fund higher levels of unemployment (as businesses fail because of higher operating costs), higher grocery bills to pay for untaxed essentials and a greater disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. But we would have more “stuff” to brag about.

Unfortunately, we talk about “leadership” as though we expect those in front-line politics to help us out of this pattern. That can never happen. Politicians have one overarching concern; getting re-elected. When campaigning, they promise whatever they believe we want (not need). When they become the Government, if they wish to remain the Government, they must deliver, or at least appear to deliver on those promises. So for them the clock is always ticking. They must spend as much of your money in five years as possible to give you stuff, so that you will return them next time around. There is no limit to what they can afford, because they can always borrow in your name or take more from you in taxes.

So it’s not about the VAT. It’s about whether we have the discipline to demand that our Government buy only what we decide we can afford or that we have the commitment to pay for the things we really believe we need to have RIGHT NOW.

(Unfortunately, as the only country in the world without a vehicle for citizen participation in governance, we will never really have that discussion, will we?)

Advertisements

Words have the power to shape the world. The instant a word is spoken, it begins to manifest the thought that gave it birth. That is why we are admonished to “speak our world into existence” by so many sages. The mind creates our world, our tongue shapes it into words and the Universe responds with its manifestation.

This is true whether those thoughts are positive or negative, since the process does not discriminate. Whether productive or not, the Universe manifests the world we create in thought and shape into words. This is a law of the Universe, set in place by whatever we believe God is.

It is important, then, that we should be careful with the words we use, especially when we are consciously seeking to build the world we would share with the future. Some words build prisons, others build gardens.

We have identified three words in common use that we believe have destructive effects on our world, words used as tools for manipulation rather than emancipation. Those three words are “poor”, “free” and “rights”.

For those having followed my writings, my concern for the society’s role in the development of self-image would come as no surprise. All human behavior is driven by self-image (You can’t do what you don’t think you are!”). it is a primary job of the socializing process to feed th self-image of its members with the diet that builds a strong and positive self-image. That diet begins with a sense of personal history, a spiritual connection and a sense of community. At the end of the day, that is how identity is established.

It is therefore distressing to have whole communities declare that their self-image is rooted in the word “poor”. As suggested above, this means that the behavior associated with being “poor” is expected to be the accepted behavior within those communities. Other words, complete with their behavior assignments, tend to come with this “poor” identity, words like “ghetto”, “inner city” and “hood”. This is bad enough when it is generated by odd members of the community, but when it becomes the basis for Government programs the word “poor” is truly destructive. It makes the assumption, for example, that dignity is based upon the conditions of the world around us, and that quality of life is based upon possessions. As Bob Proctor, an American pastor says, “Poor is not what you are. It is how you live.” We must reconsider the use of this word in connection with the planning of our communities.

The second destructive word is “free”. My marketing friends tell me it is the most important weapon in their arsenal of customer manipulation. With it, they can literally get anyone to do anything. They can get a very private person to expose their personal details online with the promise of a free ebook or a cosmetic sample, or to declare allegiance to something they hate in order to win a trip. It is therefore suspect when public programs get public support by promising “free” access to tax-payer services.

“There is no such thing as a free cup of coffee.”

The use of the word “free” in connection with taxpayer services does not mean there is no cost, just that other citizens are making the payment, and while many citizens may happily pay for their brother’s welfare, it is disrespectful to pretend that there is no expense involved.

Finally there is the word “rights”. There are no “rights” in a vacuum. There is no “right” to own property, drive a car, have a job or get an education. These are the privileges of citizenship (and legitimate visitation).They are the result of living up to the responsibilities of citizenship, including contributing to the cost of providing those things, creating and supporting the legal framework within which to enjoy those privileges. Suggesting that the fact of birth gives us “rights” is both dishonest and counter-productive, as it separates the benefits of citizenship from the responsibilities of citizenship.

The recently-announced Over-The-Hill revitalization program makes liberal use of these three dangerous words, even suggesting that the program will be expanded to include other “poor” communities which would also be “free” of taxes and where people would have the “right” to cheap housing. This “free” stuff may well be considered “rights” for “poor” people, but the only way they will be paid for is either by higher contributions to the public purse (taxes) by those outside those areas or by borrowing yet more money. This may all seem highly academic and, as Athena Damianos says, negative, but If we create our world with our minds and our words help make it manifest, should we not use only the best words?

Think about it.

 

 

Let me tell you a story. In 1953, in the belief that the government of the day was not delivering adequate governance, in that it was not protecting its citizens from racial discrimination, it allowed a small, privileged class to vote multiple times in elections and it refused women the right to vote at all, a group of men organized themselves into the first political party in the Bahamas. Their mission was clear. Those three conditions noted would have to be eliminated. The government of the day, which soon formed the second party, was less concerned about social issues than about bolstering the economic regime, from which they benefitted personally. This difference in perspective provided the separation needed to offer the electorate a choice,

. It also provided the two parties with their missions for the next decade.

By the end of that next decade, although not yet the government, the socially-oriented party had created the public conversation that, even under the reign of the other group, resulted in the correction of all three conditions. The country was finally democratic, with one man, one vote, universal franchise and a law against discrimination. Having achieved their formation goals, they now found a new goal – becoming the government on behalf of the African majority.

By 1967, the first election held under the new democratic conditions, they had achieved that goal.as well. Their new mission now became political independence. The other party considered independence a worthy goal, but “not now, not under those conditions”. This slight difference drove the two parties into the 1973 declaration of independence.

Standing on the threshold of a brand-new country, both sides now needed a vision to guide them into the future. Neither found one. They both seized upon the same, perfect goal; they would “take good care of their people”. The socially minded group would have the advantage of sharing both race and poverty with the majority, while the other side offered the promise of access to economic power.

For the past 45 years, Bahamians have switched from government to government, demanding to be better taken care of. Younger Bahamians in particular now firmly believe that the job of government is to take personal care of them and are angry that neither party seems ready to take that responsibility seriously.

This concept of benevolent government has unfortunately produced a generation of totally dependent yet somehow entitled, risk-averse, insecure people, lacking the confidence, self-determination and entrepreneurial spirit of their parents. Rather than embracing the challenges of growth they complain about the lack of government-created opportunities.

If government’s job is not to take care of the people, then what is it?

In a recent talk on autism, my daughter, Anne Rahming Jovanovic, who lives in Canada and has an autistic son, declared her objective for seeking programs and strategies for the development of her son:

“….to get him to the point where he is able to live an independent life in his own private environment, sustaining himself doing something productive.”

That must be the objective of EVERY parent, and it is government’s job to create the conditions and the processes within which each citizen can pursue an independent, personally satisfying and productive life. Citizens are assumed to become adults, not remain children who must remain under protective care and handed success as a reward for “good” behavior. They are expected to grow up and take responsibility for their own success.

These conditions are outlined clearly in Abraham Maslow’s schedule of human needs. For an individual (and by extension, a society) to develop an independent, productive life there must be conditions within which he can feel safe and secure, find food and shelter, build and maintain community, know that he is valued by his community and is able to pursue whatever he feels his potential is. These are the conditions a government is expected to maintain.

The processes it must therefore build and maintain are those that create and sustain these conditions. For example, to feel safe and secure may require good street lighting at night, buildings that withstand the weather, a general respect for privacy and personal space and the rule of law. To support these conditions, we might need a good public works system, an effective Building Code, private property laws, a legal system and a Police force.

Government’s job is not to protect citizens from competition in business, failure in enterprise or from themselves socially. The child must be allowed to grow up and embrace the responsibility of citizenship if the country is to function productively.

It is time for Government to do what governments are suppose to do, and not what spoilt children wish it to do.

 

 

 

The hippies once saved America.  In the 1960’s the US had fallen into a dangerous time, drunk with its military and economic might. Internally, racial division, gender division and class division were ripping away at its core, while leaders like Johnson and Nixon were unprepared for the outright bigotry of people like Governor George Wallace, therefore for the blossoming of the civil rights movements or for the loss of the space race to Russia. It seemed that America had no conscience. In fact their conscience was asleep, and it was awakened by the hippies.

At the heart of the hippie movement was a powerful need to know why. It was a need to link policy with purpose, action with intent. For them, life’s actions had to be justified. So they made music or poetry that demanded justification for the wars, especially those far away like Southeast Asia, for the publicly-supported bigotry and for the mistreatment of the earth. Their adopted lifestyles explored their personal purpose, often using religious practices and philosophies alien to North America. They questioned the adoption of a robot-like suburbia, with its uniformed business class. Their rhetoric suggested that the mental independence with which the country was created had been lost to a factory-like adherence to social and political rules that simply made no sense.

While they were called “drop-outs”, the majority of the hippies either were or had been college students. Many were well educated. But most had not gone to college by conscious choice. Their wartime parents had lived up to their promise that their children would get the college education they were denied because of the war. So they went, and many graduated without a personal agenda for the future.

The leaders of the hippies were not people on podiums preaching political dissention. They were artists, simply doing what artists do – sharing their particular insights. They looked at their society, saw its rotten core and made what they saw visible to others. Many of those others may not have left suburbia or ditched their Wall Street uniforms, but they slowly found their conscience, saw that their children were dying in unjustified wars, internally and externally, and began demanding that their governments change their policies. They began embracing the idea that all men and women should be equal under the law, as they were in creation. They protested the image of the Ugly American, raping the world with the threat of his war machines. Their leaders were artists like Bob Dylan Jimmy Hendrix, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ritchie Havens and dozens more, not the makers of LSD and other hallucinogenics, as popularly thought. It was music and art that saved America.

My own heroes during those hippie years were Bob Dylan, Ritchie Havens, Paul Simon and the Mighty Sparrow. They opened my eyes to the world I am a part of, and I thank them for sharing their insights.

Today, the Bahamas is in need of a hippie movement. We are a rudderless country with only politicians for leaders. Having recently lost one of our most powerful visionaries in Ronnie Butler, there are fewer and fewer left prepared to share their insight as a guide to our future. And the few that are left we consider only entertainment. For vision we have chosen to look to the very source of our ailment – a political culture designed only for victory at the polls, not for social or cultural integrity.

Phil Stubbs. Eddie Minnis. KB. Patricia Glinton-Meicholas. Dynomite Daisy. James Catlyn. Max Taylor. These are the kind of leaders whose agenda is the health of the society, not a seat at the table. These are the leaders with vision to offer  if only the rest of us were not so blinded by politics.

We need a hippie movement.

Listening to talk radio and reading the letters to the newspapers, I am amazed at how important people seem to feel it is to live down to the title “Third World”. Few actually use the term, but the concerns chosen to discuss and debate, and the subjects chosen for headlines and topics are overwhelmingly from that concern, being worried about the “requirements” for being judged a “Third World” country by others.

For example, while so-called First World countries plan their economies with an allocation for cheap, immigrant labour, Third World countries worry about losing jobs to immigrant workers. Therefore, while First World nations manage their immigration, Third World nations fear it. While First World nations think of taxation as a device for improving the standard of living for their citizens, Third World countries think of it as Government-sponsored robbery and making up for poor planning. While First World countries think of education as a way to create a more productive and empowered citizenry, Third World nations use it to create social classes; the “educated” vs the “un-educated”, the “technical” vs the “academic”.

The Bahamas has seen itself as a Third World country since declaring its independence from Britain. Its political, social and economic policies have been shaped by the need to be seen as such by the wider world, with low expectations in trade, governance and living standards, a low level of discipline in both the public and private sectors, a high reliance on external thinking, advice and judgement and complete reliance on the benevolence of International social and financial agencies. As a nation, as well as individuals, we have welcomed being dependent.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful New Year’s resolution to recognize ourselves as the gifted and creative people we are and begin managing our affairs from the perspective of a First World nation?

We could begin by making citizenship a responsibility, rather than just a right of birth. That responsibility would require us to “pay our way”. That is what a tax system is for. We would choose (and pay for) social goals that strengthen the values we choose to embrace, rather than relying on the “programs” created and discarded by others and the “goodwill” of a benevolent Central Government. We would expect and demand participation in the governance of the country, and take responsibility for its successes as well as its failures. We would accept responsibility for the economy and decide whether we wish to embrace competition with the wider world or whether we prefer protective dependence on the State. We would recognize that “small” is first of all a state of mind and celebrate the bigness of our spirit and of our accomplishments. We would seek assistance when it is in our interest, based upon our own plans, not just those blessed by outside agencies.

Finally, we would dismantle the infrastructure of dependence on foreign direction, reliance on foreign aid and the assumption of local incompetence and discover our own capacities. Wouldn’t that be a New Year’s resolution worth keeping?

Just sayin’.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a First World or Third World country, just a First World or Third World mentality. There are powerful, globally-feared nations that in some instances behave like those Third World countries, like the US and its present immigration efforts, or Greece and its reliance on foreign aid. And there are small countries with little global power whose internal agendas are determined completely by their own development plans, like Singapore and Switzerland. Being “First World” or “Third World” is an attitude, not an expression of size, military might or physical wealth. It’s like the sign on the wall of the football locker room says,

 “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR, BAHAMAS.

 

Think of the last time you went somewhere overseas. Maybe it was to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando or London. Or maybe it was a cruise. What made it worthwhile? How did you measure its value in relation to its cost? In all likelihood, it was the specialness of the memories you shared with friends and relative, even after many year. Just listen to a grandmother share the memories of her honeymoon in Acapulco decades ago with her teenage grand-daughter. The gleam in her eye transforms her whole face. The cost of the trip was well worth whatever it was.

The business of Tourism is all about the creation of memories.

The way memories are shaped for a tourist – including you and me when we travel – is by getting the inside story of the lives and stories of the people in the places they visit. They get to experience the special places, share the unique history and lifestyle of those people. And the door through which visitors are invited into these inner stories are the stock of attractions created to share that story.

  • Tours, the most important attraction, provide safe, guided access to the unique and special details of local life.
  • Events bring them to places where they can be exposed to local lifestyle and customs.
  • Resorts expose special natural or man-made attractions while hosting visitors.
  • Retail attractions are the point-of-sale for the creative output of the community.

 

This is how the visitor gets what every tourist has always looked for– memories and tales to share with those they love.

I hear you asking, “But how does this affect the economy?”

Well, attractions require a wide range of skills, from business planners to architects and their many consultants, from human resource training and supply to creative consultants and performers, from marketing and promotional specialists to producers and many others. Attractions are one of the most potent ways for a tourist destination to provide employment and build wealth while building market success.

They are, indeed, “economic indicators”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Bahamians, we underperform. As individuals, we are phenomenal. For a country of under 400,000 we produce a simply freakish number of high achievers. Yet as a community we underperform in every aspect of public life. We underperform in business, education, cultural development and in our responsibility for the environment. Why?

One answer is, we give ourselves permission with our words. Language is such a powerful tool, one we use most aggressively to support our underperformance. Listen to these:

It’s our Colonial heritage”

“It’s a hold-over from slavery”

“Black people can’t work together”

“The white man holdin’ us down”

“Politicians only wan’ keep the power for themselves”

“The Chinese get’n all the business”

“I’s a small man”

None of these statements is either true or relevant. Our Colonial heritage is only the framework from which we make the decisions about our future, from which we choose the objectives to work towards. There is no ghost of Queen Victoria that forces us to decide against our own interest. We are responsible for our decisions, and if our decisions are not producing positive results for us, we are responsible for changing those decisions. Not the Colonial past. Imagine believing that I have to be a drunkard because my grandfather was one. Or maintaining an education system that does not produce productive citizens because it was introduced by colonists.

Black people CAN work together. In business, the Sunshine Boys proved that. The early PLP proved it in politics. Junkanoo groups prove it every parade. The idea is clearly nonsense. In any case, our citizens are not all black, so why is that important? We should instead be focused on all of us learning to work together.

There is no such thing as a small man. There are men who have not yet discovered their value or their potential, but there are no small men. In this arrangement, is a small man’s child also a small man? I hope not.

These things we repeat without thinking get their power from our repetition, whether they are true or false, positive or negative. Unless we repeat them, they have no power and they are not truths for our children.

So perhaps it is time to take the first step in improving our national circumstance. Rather than searching for some messiah to “cure” the mantras with which we keep ourselves enslaved, we might simply stop repeating them. Marley said it this way:

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

It is time we stop giving ourselves permission to underachieve.

December 1st 2017

Fish Fry at Anchor Bay – 6pm- Location: Anchor Bay, Eleuthera RECURRING: CLICK LINK FOR MORE DETAILS

The Hero World Challenge – Location: Albany, Nassau

Grill & Chill- Location: Great Harbour Cay Marina

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

Festival Of Lights – 6PM- Eleuthera

 

December 2nd 2017

Neely’s Under The Tree- Location: Berry Islands

The Hero World Challenge – Location: Albany, Nassau

Authentically Bahamian Marketplace- Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

Annual Abaco Christmas Festival – 12PM- Location: Abaco

Berry Islands Jollification- Location: Berry Islands

December 3rd 2017

Authentically Bahamian Marketplace- Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

Manuka Doctor Necker Cup – Location: Bahamar

Sunday Jazz- 3pm- Coral Harbour, Nassau

December 4th 2017

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

December 5th 2017

December 6th 2017

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

Expressions: Wine, Poetry & Open Mic- Location: Bistro Underground, Nassau- Time: 8pm

Valentine’s Farmers Market- Location: Duncan Town, Harbour Island

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 7th 2017

Wahoo Smackdown IX- Location: Bimini

Best of the Best – Location: Nassau

December 8th 2017

Best of the Best – Location: Nassau

Wahoo Smackdown IX- Location: Bimini

Changing of the Guard- 11am – Location: Governor’s House, Nassau

Grill & Chill- Location: Great Harbour Cay Marina

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 9th 2017

Authentically Bahamian Marketplace- Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

Neely’s Under The Tree- Location: Berry Islands

Best of the Best – Location: Nassau

Junior Junkanoo: Location -12PM – Nassau

Wahoo Smackdown IX- Location: Bimini

December 10th 2017

Best of the Best – Location: Nassau

Wahoo Smackdown IX- Location: Bimini

Sunday Jazz- 3pm- Coral Harbour, Nassau

Authentically Bahamian Marketplace- Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 11th 2017

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

December 12th 2017

December 13th 2017

Expressions: Wine, Poetry & Open Mic- Location: Bistro Underground, Nassau- Time: 8pm

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

Valentine’s Farmers Market- Location: Duncan Town, Harbour Island

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 14th 2017

Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Invitational

December 15th 2017

Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Invitational

Grill & Chill- Location: Great Harbour Cay Marina

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 16th 2017

Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Invitational

December 17th 2017

Atlantis Crown Gymnastics Invitational

December 18th 2017

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

December 19th 2017

December 20th 2017

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

Valentine’s Farmers Market- Location: Duncan Town, Harbour Island

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

Expressions: Wine, Poetry & Open Mic- Location: Bistro Underground, Nassau- Time: 8pm

December 21st 2017

December 22nd 2017

Bahamas Bowl-12:30pm – Location: National Stadium

Grill & Chill- Location: Great Harbour Cay Marina

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 23rd 2017

Berry Islands Jollification- Location: Berry Islands

December 24th 2017

Sunday Jazz- 3pm- Coral Harbour, Nassau

Authentically Bahamian Marketplace- Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 25th 2017 (MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!)

The People’s Rush & Christmas Junkanoo Parade- 8PM- Location: Berry Islands

Christmas Day Junkanoo Parade: Gregory Town- 8PM- Location: Eleuthera

December 26th 2017

Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade- Location: Nassau

St. Peters & St. Pauls Catholic Church Bazaar: Location Long Island

The People’s Rush & Christmas Junkanoo Parade- 8PM- Location: Berry Islands

 

December 27th 2017

Living History at Fort Charlotte- 11:30am- Location: Fort Charlotte, Nassau

Valentine’s Farmers Market- Location: Duncan Town, Harbour Island

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

Expressions: Wine, Poetry & Open Mic- Location: Bistro Underground, Nassau- Time: 8pm

Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade- Location: Nassau

 

December 28th 2017

December 29th 2017

Grill & Chill- Location: Great Harbour Cay Marina

Creative Nassau Market – Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

December 30th 2017

December 31st 2017

Stella Maris New Years Eve Formal Dinner Party: Location – Long Island

Authentically Bahamian Marketplace- Location: Pompey Square, Nassau

WANT TO BE FEATURED ON OUR PAGE!?

Message us today!

c64fd4cd1ee3436cf64483ee8a050188--merry-christmas-to-all-christmas-time

 

 

Cascadilla

I read with some concern the article in the Tribune by Diane Phillips, someone I respect, entitled “It takes courage to go where you haven’t gone before”. My first observation, unfortunately, was that what the article promotes would take no courage at all. It is what the downtown landowners, realtors and some politicians have lobbied for for many years. I am told the previous government administration had already agreed to that position and the present one is ready to do the same. They have all bought into the argument that vertical construction (that is, building skyscrapers) is the only way to “make the numbers work” on such expensive waterfront property. Further, they have been convinced that there is an urgent need for waterfront residences so that people can be convinced to move back downtown. Unfortunately, these two “urgencies” are built on fundamental untruths.

The need to “build vertical” is based upon the so-called “value” of the waterfront property. That is, it is so expensive that an investor could not make his money back without being allowed to build three or four times the allowable area of building on it. The first question to ask is how the value for the property is established. Some years ago, a friend of mine had his waterfront property declared a “no-build” property, supposedly for planning reasons. When he asked to be paid the commercial value of his property if he could not use it for the purpose intended, the then Prime Minister is reputed to have said, “If you can’t build on it, it ain’ worth nut’n”. The fact is that if a property has restrictions, the value of that property can only be based upon what is possible under those restrictions. If the property is valued such that it cannot be developed, I would argue that it is not properly valued.

The second untruth is that no one lives in the city. This would only be true if the city limits extended only from the sea to the back of Government House grounds, a definition that last existed in the 1840’s, when the then Governor declared that Africans could not live within the city limits. I trust that we all agree that the City of Nassau extends well beyond Government House, at least to Wulff Road, and that the people of Bain Town, Grants Town and Mason’s Addition all do live in the City of Nassau. What is meant by the suggestion is that no one lives in the downtown, which is true. And the key observation is the successful downtowns have lots of people living there. But downtowns are not successful because people live there. People live there because the downtown is successful. When a downtown is created that is convenient to live in and provides an exciting urban experience, people will return. Importing oranges to an orange grove does not create a productive orange grove. The trees must be planted and nurtured so that it produces oranges.

The roots of these misdirections are two-fold.

The first is the idea that limiting the “historic zone” to the area west of East Street is a matter of convenience. Having already lost such treasures as Cascadilla, half the buildings on Elizabeth Avenue and the whole of Dowdeswell Street, and been fortunate enough to find productive uses for a few of the buildings near the bridge, there are people who believe it would be OK to lose those important remaining areas from East Street to the Pond, especially if the promise is a vibrant, new downtown.

The second is the idea that building residences on the waterfront would bring people (and therefore life) back to the downtown.

Both are misguided. The historic zone is what it is. St. Matthews, which anchors the eastern end of the zone, is one of our most treasured historic resources. Dowdeswell Street, Victoria and Elizabeth Avenues still has examples of the style that was created by the elegant two-story, delicately detailed residences that we celebrate as our building heritage. Sears Road and Sweeting Lane still celebrate the ship-building details, the narrow streets and the tiny gardens that we call Bahamian with pride. The suggestion that continuing to turn our backs on this heritage to build buildings that would be just as successful outside the historic zone is ridiculous.

Let me be clear. I support vertical construction on New Providence. Unequivocally! I believe the cost of housing and the advancement of other areas of the City would benefit from increased densities. What I do not support is the short-term thinking that trades convenience and laziness for opportunities to pursue real development. The American organization “Project For People Places”, which provides guidance for the development of successful downtowns, among other things, offers us two bits of advice.

The first is to avoid building on the waterfront downtown. Rather, leave the water’s edge to people and the ability to connect the points of interest in the downtown.

The second, from an article entitled “9 Steps To A Successful Waterfront”, suggests

“2. Make Sure Public Goals are the Primary Objective

Waterfronts everywhere are too valuable to simply allow developers to dictate what happens there. . This is not to say that private development is unwelcome and should be discouraged – on the contrary, it is often necessary to the future of a healthy waterfront. But the best solutions for revamping waterfronts put public goals first, not private short-term financial objective. As long as redevelopment plans adhere to the notion that the waterfront is an inherently public asset, it will be relatively easy to follow the rest of the steps here.  “

The question, then, is not one of verticality. This conversation would not be happening if the proposals were for another part of the city, like the top of the hill or over the hill. It is all about avoiding the establishing of an historic zone that maximizes the preservation of our Old Nassau heritage. Especially because our national business is telling our story, the preservation of our heritage should be the basis on which we propose development, not its destruction. More importantly, the question of the preservation of our heritage must be the subject of public debate, rather than hoping someone else will “look after our interest”. Please, let’s talk about our own business.

 

 

I love magic. The magician waves his white-gloved hand, the drums roll, there is a puff of smoke and…….ta-dah….. his assistant vanishes into thin air! Where’d she go? The magician jokes with the audience for a minute, then raises his magic wand, shouts his favorite magic words and…..poof!….. The spotlight suddenly finds the assistant waving from a faraway balcony seat. How’d he do that? I just love it.

Of course, magic is the art of distraction. The waving hand, the smoke, the jokes are all designed to distract the audience from the execution of the illusion (which is usually very clever and requires lots of practice and preparation) and to help maintain that sense of wonder and surprise.

So I consider the way we are running the Bahamas an example of an attempt at magic. We have become accustomed – no, addicted – to avoiding the core issues of our national development by creating elaborate distractions. Supposedly, the desired results will magically appear at some pre-determined climactic moment. In the meantime, all we seem to have are waving hands and puffs of smoke.

Let’s take the subject of the economy, for example. What is needed is to increase everybody’s income while reducing the cost of running the country. Now since more than two thirds of the country’s income comes from tourism, and since tourism is the most profitable business in the world, the logical place to look for more income would be from tourism. This means involving the population in the creation and maintenance of more and more tourism product and providing a larger range of services to that sector.

Instead, we distract the public from their wealth-building opportunities by suggesting that tourism is an inadequate base for the development of the economy (while more of the countries in the world are building their economies through it) and needs to be replaced, that there is a need to “diversify”, and that hotels, not the destination’s unique geography, history, belief systems and lifestyle, are the keys to a successful tourism business. Further, even when we focus on tourism, we distract ourselves with statistics that “show” that we are the leaders in the region. Unfortunately, we also know that those numbers are mostly (75%) someone else’s customers, who account for just over a tenth of our income. Our own 90% customer, who spends between 16 and 22 times as much as the cruise visitor, is seldom even part of our conversation, and nor is how to attract them. When our customers tell us that we have nothing for them to do, we distract ourselves by changing marketing organizations and increasing the budget rather than building attractions to satisfy that need. There is an opportunity to develop real wealth through the development of an attractions industry yet we are satisfied with the distraction of opportunities to have jobs in new hotels.

Or the subject might be Downtown Development. The need is to create an environment that is first of all a thriving marketplace, then a repository for our rich history, a celebration of our accomplishments and our personality and an icon for our civilization or sense of order. Most of all, however, it must be characterized by lots of people enjoying life, which demands a preponderance of opportunities for dining, entertainment and cultural activity, designed primarily for local consumption.

How does the magician distract us this time?

First, by making property ownership and value the most important part of the conversation. Then by promoting mantras from “studies” that have no real role in the development of a successful downtown, although they may be features in one:

“You have to have people living downtown”

“We’ve got to allow taller buildings to encourage development.”

“We should pedestrianize Bay Street.”

“We’re going to build a Boardwalk.”

None of these suggestions create a sustainable customer base or what is called critical mass of customers on the sidewalks, enjoying their experience. But they do distract us from asking what does.

Finally, we distract ourselves by making downtown an idea dedicated to short-stay cruise tourists, with programs of “cultural” activity that last a few weeks at a time. After over thirty years, locals still avoid the downtown, the sidewalks are still bare, and the area is still shut down after six, when most spending takes place. The magician’s jokes are beginning to annoy us, but we still somehow expect the rabbit to pop out of the hat someday soon.

As far as running the country for less, while the largest key to that object is reducing the size of the national payroll, the distraction is remaining the nation’s largest employer and being proud of it.

I really love magic. But my favorite part is trying to spot the key to the illusion. I know it’s an illusion, but the magic in magic is that it is also real. It produces results. Whether I spot the key to the illusion or not, the rabbit is real when it pops up, to everyone’s delight. There is a very real purpose for the magician’s distractions. They give him time to do his thing.

But then there is empty attempted magic that does not work. There is the waving of the hand, the drum rolls, the puffs of smoke, then……nothing happens.  Just meaningless distraction. Now that’s a drag. At least at a magic show I can get up and leave.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 951 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 7,691 hits

ARTICLES BY PAT RAHMING

Advertisements