My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Category: Andy’s Stuff (page 1 of 103)

Freeport on my mind

As I've written previously, half of the "adventure" in this vacation was actually getting there.  Turning what should have been a leisurely flight requiring but a single Gin & Tonic into a 40 hour oddyesy can only be executed with such precision by American Airlines.  We've finally recovered from that so I'll not dwell on it.

We have, 6 years ago or more, been to Nassau (southern Bahamas) for vacation.  Well, more accurately, we drove through Nassau to Paradise Island.  Most folks know about the gigantic Atlantis resort on Paradise Island but we stayed at a more modest time share that was right next to the Atlantis.  Watching the yachts go in and out of the marina, including the massive 240' long "Utopia" (pics) was just amazing.  In our little timeshare on that marina, we really were in the little house on the big side of town.  The "Beach Club" next door was where part of the James Bond film Casino Royale was filmed – although not while we were there. palmtree

As Yin to Nassau's bustling, gritty and British self, Freeport's Yang is more of a wide open, well organized development.  The middle of the island is actually governed by a "Port Authority" and is where most of the commercial activity takes place.  The roads are much closer to what an American (or Brit) would expect (roads around Nassau are frequently not wide enough for two cars!) and there are American franchises present in Freeport….but don't take that to mean that Freeport does much else other than look like it might be vaguely American….or British in nature.    There are very few stop lights but many traffic circles.  Drvining on the other side of the road is just wierd.  

If you want to enjoy a trip to the Bahamas, always keep this phrase in mind (as relayed to us by a tour bus driver): "In the Bahamas, we have two speeds, slow and stop."  The Bahamian people have a fundamentally different way of looking at life and if you do not keep this in mind you are going to be a frustrated tourist.  The national motto seems to be "no problem."  

At least part of this mindset results in a dearth of entrepreneurial drive in the Bahamian people.  Yes, you do find pockets of it here and there but something our tour guide said has really stuck with me: "the government raised the minimum wage last year so we all got a raise."  Now, this isn't to say that they're a lazy folk but they do operate at a fundamentally different speed than Americans do.  Theirs is just a different way of doing things.  That isn't bad, it's just different.  Embrace this and you'll enjoy yourself.  If you can't, stay on the resort.  Enough background….strawmarket

Recall that when we arrived in the Bahamas we had the clothes we were wearing and no other.  There is at least one "Target" style store in Freeport but we went with the "Straw Market" that we could walk to from the resort.  Anticipating that our luggage would show up sooner or later we stuck with inexpensive shirts and whatnot.  We've seen straw markets in many places in the Caribbean and they're all variations on a theme.  It's pretty much wild west action.  Knock-off pocketbooks, watches, shirts, drug paraphernalia, fruits, vegetables and Cuban straw-stallcigars.  It's all there.  Number one mistake that Americans make in the Straw Market is taking any price at face value.  I admit that it does feel odd to argue with a vendor over price – countering a price in Walmart would probably get you thrown out – but if you don't you will pay ridiculous prices.  The reply to the initial price should be "No", followed by another number.

The first few days that we were at the resort, the weather wasn't great.  It was chilly and very windy.  The wind, in fact, stuck with us the entire time.  I don't recall that it was that windy when we stayed in Nassau.  However, the old saying "a bad day at the beach beats a good day at work" pretty much sums up where we were.  The family was having some time together although the shadow of lost baggage did hang over things a bit.  Late afternoon on the second day the weather began to cooperate some and we got to spend a fair amount of time outside although the wind never really relented.

About the only thing we did outside the resort (which is a little odd, we usually do more) was to go on a tour of the island that included a botanical park (The Garden of the Groves) that was built some years ago as a tribute to one of the "Founders" of Freeport, another straw market – the "International Bazaar" and a perfume factory.  The route wandered through some of their residential areas – both affluent and less so – as well as through downtown Freeport.  waterfallThe Garden of the Groves seems like a well established fixture on the island, the other features seem somewhat more transient.  The Bazaar was evidently trashed by a hurricane some years ago and never recovered.  My main takeaway from the entire adventure is that the Bahamian people are, by and large, very proud of where they live. Our guide pointed out essentially every enterprise and amenity that we passed.  Including KFC. To them it is a big deal.

I could ramble on forever but here's the long and short of it: While Freeport and Nassau share that same slow – stop mentality I think I'd rather go back to Nassau.  Of course, with the exception of Shenandoah and Nags Head, we don't revisit vacation destinations so we won't see either for quite some time.


A little local politiccccccs

Hey, so, I haven't written much lately.  I'm pretty wound up in my business and a few other boards that I'm involved with.  I am, for right now, the Vice-Chair of the local GOP and that's enough politics for me.  It keeps me a little involved in but not too much.  Kind of like when Grandpa hands that darling grandbaby back when it starts yelling.  🙂  In that role, a couple of things have come accross my desk and, as we have no paper, I thought that these items warranted a few words.

The first is the notion of giving the Mayor a vote.  Currently, the Mayor may break ties on all votes except those involving the expenditure of public funds.  This expanded "vote" could take the form of a a full-blown vote on everything or just an expanded vote to allow for breaking ties on "money votes."  Either would require a change in the City's charter.  This requires a vote of the General Assembly.  This issue has been around for a long time but has never made it past the discussion stage.  For my part, I think that the Mayor has a pretty powerful office to begin with so I'm not sure he also needs a vote.  A very useful byproduct of the Mayor not having a vote is that it does keep him out of the "weeds" during Council's public deliberations.  It leaves him free to guide the process.  Having been on the inside for 8 years I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the Mayor doesn't need a vote to get things done.  If we're looking to head off a budget stalemate by giving the Mayor a vote, we're solving the wrong problem.  Short-term thinking like that is why we are where we are.  Currently this idea is on the back burner but it'll come back at some point.

The other issue that I hear in the background from time to time is moving the election for local office to odd-numbered years.  I honestly have less patience for this one than I do the Mayor's Vote issue.  Background: recall that a couple of years ago there was a ballot referendum on moving the election of local officials from May to November.  The idea behind this was that there would be more people involved and the election results would more accurately reflect the will of the people.  This referendum was succesful and so the election of local officials was moved to November in the same year that Federal elections are held.

Before I left Council I heard this bounced around a few times and it was sugested by some that the City Council could simply vote to move the election to odd-numbered years so that they wouldn't be mixed in with Federal elections.  I was not really a fan of moving the election to begin with: I feel as though many local issues are simply lost in the hullabaloo of a Presidential election.  Face it, local issues like lousy maintenance of our public works can't compete with Trump closing borders, constructing walls and building databases.  Moving the elections a year would reduce this "competition for attention" somewhat.  In that I agree.  However, as this was a referendum, I feel as though another referendum is required to move the election again.  There is little more sacred in a democracy than the voice of the voter.  Having the elected body move the election by fiat violates that principle.  It just doesn't pass the smell test.

Just my .02

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