| July '07
Hail To The Chief
Just as the 2008 presidential campaign is heating up in the United States, and a mere month after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as the new president of France, the little island of Saint Barth is poised to have a president of its own. A president? Here in little old Saint Barth? This eventuality is the end result of many years of political positioning that has finally resulted in the formation of the Overseas Collectivity of Saint Barth, known as the COM. No longer just a town in Guadeloupe, as it has been for the past 61 years, Saint Barth is now free of the yoke that tied it to the larger island a few hundred miles away. Stands to reason as the political, social, and economic issues in Guadeloupe are pretty far afield from those of our own little island where the streets are reportedly paved in gold (but are really made of cracked concrete). In any case, elections were held on Sunday, July 1 with incumbent mayor Bruno Magras sliding easily into the role of the island’s first president. Actually it’s not as simple as that. The elections were not exactly for a president. They were to elect the COM’s first territorial council, a 19-person entity that replaces the former city council. There were four slates jockeying to win, but the one led by Bruno Magras was the hands-down winner, with over 72% of the votes in his favor. The other three lists had just enough votes to win one seat each on the council, giving Bruno and his team a super-sized majority with 16 seats. More than even he expected to win. Once the council meets later in July, they will elect their president, and one assumes it is just a formality. Bruno Magras, president. It has a certain ring to it. But it also comes with a huge sense of responsibility. The island is at a crossroads, and all four candidates expressed their concerns about the environment, safety, urban planning, and the evergreen issue of taxes. Now that the island has more of a say in its own destiny, the island council and its president must listen to the concerns of the population that echo across the valley of Grand Fond and ricochet off the promontory at the Eden Rock: Too many cars; too many people; too many houses. Maybe its time for a little ‘less is more.’ But how can an island in the throes of an economic flush pull in the reins. It may be a time for some pretty tough decisions. I suspect that our new president has what it takes to get tough as the island’s future hangs in the balance. I hope the members of the new island council have long enough memories to remember why we all love Saint Barth in the first place. It’s always been the kind of place you can kick off your shoes and relax, far from the madding crowd.
Can we keep it that way? Bruno Magras, it’s up to you.
More to come,