By Christopher Tobutt
With the slogan, “Community Builds Country,” Wayne Panton, former Minister of Financial Services, Commerce and the Environment (2013-2017) held a big meeting at the ICCI parking lot, to share his vision with the people of Savannah and Newlands, ready for the April 14 Election. He was joined onstage by Community Builds Country running mates Osbourne Bodden and Heather Bodden.
Taking up her place on the podium, Heather Bodden said, “Wayne’s desire to serve you is a passion and an undying commitment to the Newlands community and the country as a whole. He has always been a man of his word, and is well-respected. Wayne has carried out many projects for the benefit of the Savannah Newlands communities without any publicity. Wayne Panton is extremely knowledgeable and professional in all his undertakings. He will not only represent us here, but on the international stage.”
Wayne Panton outlined many plans to improve electoral district. He said he would push for a revision in the law relating to district councils. Having a strong district council with regular meetings would, he said, “Bring resolution to problem issues that are raised, aimed at enhancing quality of life in the district.” He also said he wished to establish more Neighbourhood Watch programmes. “To build a strong community you need to have events you need to have engagements that Involve Cayman community as a whole,” he said. Mr. Panton added that he would also like to establish more Community Emergency Response Teams in the district, using the situation that arose after Hurricane Ivan as an example of why they are needed. He also said he would like to see more Automated External Defibrillators across Newlands at strategic places along with trained personnel to operate them. Turning his attention to transport, Mr. Panton outlined his plans for a reliable public transport system, which involved busses that would go into the heart of Newlands, rather than leaving nannies and helpers to walk up Hirst Road for miles before getting to work. “We also want to complete the acquisition of a community van to assist with the transportation of minors,” he said, as well as “Identify road improvements that are needed. We also have issues with drainage here. Drilling deep wells brings water from the surface so we need a proper drainage plan in place,” Mr. Panton said.
On the topic of maintaining roadsides public spaces, Mr. Panton said that clearing bush was a disincentive to people dropping litter. Many landscapers are also tempted to dispose of their garden waste in bush too, and Mr. Panton suggested a community composting facility as a remedy. “Properly resourcing, beautifying and maintaining public parks was also necessary, as many of the parks have fallen into a state of disrepair, Mr. Panton said. Parks that were done 10 or 12 years ago have degraded. Our children deserve better than that – a place they can play safely without getting hurt.”
On the topic of education, Mr. Panton said it was sad to find that the Savannah Primary School, recently renamed after education icon Joanna Clark, had consistently scored “weak” designations in reports. He said that it was necessary to find out what was going wrong in the education system, when more money is spent than private schools, but with “worse results.” He also suggested mobilizing all the talented people in the community who would love to volunteer their time to read to school children or mentor them in some way, “We can come together as a community and get involved in their lives,” he said, “and help them to overcome any temporary issues that they have.”
On the topic of the environment, Mr. Panton said that he has found that young people are very keen on the subject as well as very knowledgeable. “Young people are talking about it. They have more vested in the future,” he said.
On the problem of affordable housing, Mr. Panton suggested a law which forces foreign land investors to either begin building on land or to sell it, within the timeframe of around a year, in order to prevent them hanging onto the land out simply out of speculation, a process that was inevitably driving land prices up. He also wondered why a government guaranteed mortgage scheme had been shelved in 2012. “You would think they would want to put something like that in place,” he said. Housing Government Guaranteed Mortgage scheme shut down in 2012.