Wayne Panton and Heather Bodden have announced their candidacies for the upcoming 2021 Cayman Islands General Election where they will once again contest seats in the Newlands and Savannah Electoral Districts respectively, this time as aligned independents.
Mr. Panton says it is his compelling desire to serve his country and his love for public service that made him decide to throw his hat in the ring once again. These feelings are equally supported by the substantial qualifications and experience necessary to confidently represent his district and the Cayman Islands. Ms. Bodden echoed his sentiments.
“As a child my father told his children to ‘be honest, work hard and do good while you can’. That is what has guided my life”, explained Ms. Bodden when explaining why she is aiming to represent her community once again.
“I have always had a passion for community service and being the elected member for Savannah will provide the opportunity for me to do the most good for my community and by extension my country.”
Ms. Bodden has spent the past 30 years giving back to her community, from organising senior citizen events, to serving as a trustee on the ICCI board to fighting for overall improvements to the Savannah and Newlands communities. She also served as a representative for Bodden Town from 1995 until 2000. During her tenure in Government, she brought the motions for establishing handicap parking and creating a safe house for battered and abused women and children island wide, which is known today as the Crisis Centre. She also worked to strengthen the litter laws and contributed to many other important initiatives.
Panton, the former Minister for Financial Services, Commerce and Environment (2013-2017) did not retain his seat in the last General Election but continues to serve the residents in the Savannah/Newlands community. He has kept his Savannah/Newlands Community office open, which is managed by Ms. Bodden, and both have been addressing various issues in the area, from the maintenance of roadsides and beautification of the community parks and the safety and security of homes and businesses to public transportation and road improvements. They have also been partnering with Savannah Primary School to meet some of the needs that have been identified at the school and to continue to fund various projects and initiatives in their respective districts. One of those is the upkeep and improvements to Savannah/Newlands playfield on Pedro Castle Road.
Campaigning under the theme “Community Creates Country”, Mr. Panton and Ms. Bodden believe that everyone, using their individual strengths and abilities, has a contribution to make to his/her community and, by extension, his or her country.
“We cannot underestimate the impact that is made, and the momentum that is created when individuals in their communities throughout the islands come together in their own neighbourhoods, working to help their neighbours and care for their districts. Those seemingly small acts and demonstrations of community spirit by separate groups all combine to create a strong, united country that is heavily invested in the wellbeing and future of all its citizens,” Mr. Panton said.
Mr. Panton believes that Cayman is a leader in the region as it relates to growth and opportunity but still has a significant way to go when compared to other developing nations around the world. This deficiency, he says, can be seen in areas such as social justice, equality, income inequality, climate change resiliency and education – all issues with which other countries are also grappling, and contribute to the success of a nation, or lack thereof.
There are many challenges facing the Cayman Islands, including those brought about more recently by the pandemic and the associated stress and economic impacts, all of which Mr. Panton is ready to tackle with practical and achievable solutions. However, some of his major concerns today are similar to what they were four years ago, if not more heightened by the time that has passed. They include improving education results, supporting district schools which build the foundations in young students, achieving sustainable development and protection of the environment, initiatives to address growing income inequality and tracking and improving the wellbeing and overall quality of life of all of Cayman’s residents.
“I’m frustrated that we have been putting so much money into education and not getting better results, and yet the private sector seems able to do more with less investment and produce better results than the public sector,” said Mr. Panton.
Mr. Panton says that there is no doubt that education is the key to greater opportunity and success in broader Caymanian participation in our economy.
“We need to view education as a priority for ourselves, our children and the future generation and so must redouble our efforts and work together to encourage and achieve this,” he said.
Mr. Panton also thinks that teachers need more support overall and should be performance-managed, and that those who are achieving good results should be appropriately rewarded and hopefully emulated so that the standards increase.
“We have a system that still does not appropriately regard environmental issues as important to our success as a country and our wellbeing as citizens of the country. Some people still have the idea that the environment is disposable. They do not understand that we do not have a real, sustainable tourism product without a protected environment,” said Mr. Panton.
Mr. Panton said that Cayman cannot label itself a success without an environment that supports an enjoyable quality of life. He argued that a balanced, holistic approach across all of Government is needed to achieve this instead of the current situation where progress is being made in little pockets but with no consistent and aligned objectives.
“To be clear, I believe in sustainable development. That means sensible growth which takes into consideration other important factors such as quality of life; the quality of the tourism product; climate change resiliency; proper infrastructure management; and renewable energy options,” he said.
Quality of Life
“The metrics that are too often relied on by Government to measure the success of the country are not necessarily a true indicator of what the majority of people feel in their everyday lives. Using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita as a measurement of prosperity does not accurately reflect the general feeling of the majority of the Cayman population as it relates to satisfaction with their overall quality of life,” stated Mr. Panton. “Issues such as health, education, employment, the environment, personal security, work-life balance and traffic all contribute to citizens’ perception of whether they are leading prosperous, happy lives.”
If elected, Mr. Panton said that he will seek to utilise other methods, in addition to the usual metrics, to measure the perception of success, ones that give a better sense of the quality of life as perceived by residents. He believes this can be assessed and must be done regularly. Then he will work to develop policies and initiatives that are aimed at achieving the desired outcomes which contribute to a better experience for all citizens.
Mr. Panton cited New Zealand as a great example of a government which establishes specific programmes and strategies, backed by budgets, that attempt to improve the quality of life of its citizenry. He admits that this type of governance will require a deliberate, long term change management strategy that will not necessarily be easy because it will be different, but it is attainable.
“We have to plan for the long term, not simply four-year plans based on election cycles. It is difficult to get things done in four years, but it is possible through constant communication and engagement with the public to manage their expectations, show them the benefits and allow an opportunity to achieve better results in the medium and longer term,” he stated.
Mr. Panton said the key is future proofing these areas of concern for generations of Caymanians to come. This means anticipating the future and developing processes, policies and laws that can withstand any changes to the country’s circumstances and/or leadership.
As it relates to their respective constituencies, Mr. Panton and Ms. Bodden have a to-do list of actions, improvements and enhancements for the Savannah-Newlands communities. They include:
• Monthly public meetings to discuss local and national issues
• A separate website with local and national news/information and activities
• Neighbourhood watch programmes for all communities
• Ensuring that there is the setup and training of sufficient Community Emergency Response Teams
• Ensuring each constituency has access to at least one AED for emergency use and a sufficient number of persons trained in its use
• Safety and security of home and businesses
• Public transportation
• Road improvements
• Traffic management tools
• Effectively addressing drainage and flooding issues
• Management and maintenance of public spaces
• Improving the coordination and delivery of public services
• Implementing a local composting facility
• Beautification of roadsides and community parks
• Ensuring clean and trash free waterways
• Upgrading of community parks with solar lighting and a restroom facility for the larger parks
“We do not have the right to ensure our own prosperity today at the expense of the prosperity of our children tomorrow. As leaders and stewards of the country, we have an obligation to leave something equal or better for them, a legacy upon which they can build for their children,” said Mr. Panton. “If elected, Heather and I are committed to continuing to have our focus on work for our communities even as we do the country’s work.”