Riddle me this…

October 28th, 2009 by De Onion

So, we’re seeing a public-private partnership to build large docks. Smells like an opportunity for more legal corruption.

Cross Island Marina will be built under a private-public partnership between the West End Development Company (Wedco) and South Basin Development Ltd….

“The multi-phased Cross Island Marina project will offer approximately 200 slips, along with support and club facilities. It will include a mix of slip sizes —100 to 250 feet and possibly in excess of 300 feet long — to accommodate both mega-yachts and those smaller in size. The marina will offer exceptional services for yacht owners, captains, crews and their vessels and it is anticipated that a large number of local yacht owners will take advantage of the new facility.

Here are my questions:
– Who is “South Basin Development Ltd.”? EVERY SINGLE SHAREHOLDER.
– Has the contractor been chosen? ie. is this just to keep Correia’s Gravy Train continuing after the cruise ship terminals and other Dockyard work is finished?
– Is it going to be public risk, private profit?
– Why would mega yachts come here to be serviced?
– Is there a shortage of slip space in Bermuda?
– How do the financials work? Who pays for what? How much will it cost?
– What local yacht owners (I can think of 5 “local” boats and some ferries that may be large enough to use such a facility)?
– Where are the people going to come from to run it/do the work?
– How will the average person be better off?

This smells like another hair-brained idea ripe for corruption and self-dealing. Convince me it’s not, given the history of government projects down there the burden of proof is on those claiming not to be crooked.

Change we can believe in.

October 14th, 2009 by De Onion

IMHO in order to succeed a political party/action organisation needs the following:

Membership Management
Know who your supporters are. Once you have that information then you can 1) ask them for money, 2) communicate with them directly, 3) Ask for volunteers, 4) Take lobbying action.

Volunteer Management
If your organisation has a worthwhile reason to exist and goal then it’s not difficult to find people who are willing to devote a few hours a week to help a cause they believe in. Then use their unique skills – better yet, produce a database of people, their skills, and their availability and call on them to help you. Suddenly you end up with a staff of several hundred part-time finance professionals, graphic designers, writers, administrators, proofreaders, and coffee makers.

Donation Management
In order to fund your organisation you need to use your volunteers and your membership and contact lists to continually ask for donations, then put them to good use. The value of an $5 donation is not the money, it’s having someone buy into your mission financially and personally. They become invested and they are more likely to join your volunteer army.

Produce good talking points for the different levels of argumentation, from the very simple headline for the entire organisation to the bullet point breakdowns of specific policy points and spreadsheets for sophisticated readers. Directly mail your supporters and ask them to help you lobby, raise funds, or recruit new supporters.

These are the things that Obama did better than his competitors.

In Bermuda the PLP does the above relatively well while the UBP does them terribly, that’s why they’re winning elections despite a demonstrated inability to govern effectively. The PLP’s results speak to this: winning elections while flagrantly mismanaging housing, education, contracting, the budget, etc. Not to mention the general rampant unethical self-dealing and corruption.

To beat the PLP it’s a matter of:
1. Developing a platform and strong identity.
This same process happens in the US, where the Republicans own the brand of “individual freedoms and fiscal responsibility”. Their performance in these areas is irrelevant, it’s the branding that matters. In Bermuda the PLP has their strongly defined black/labour brand, even if their actual record has overwhelmingly favoured the wealthy/landowners.
2. Communicating effectively.
Use talking points communicating the headlines of the platform. Get everyone involved on board and publicly saying the same things about the same topics. This will both lower the constant infighting has plagued the UBP, and produce an us vs. them where simple truisms of talking points make it very hard to oppose the organisation saying them because people find themselves agreeing with them.
A lie repeated loudly and often enough becomes truth. The PLP knows this, that’s why they repeatedly smeared their opposition using the same language over and over again. No matter how crazy it would seem if said once by Marc Bean, it becomes very effective when the whole team, even Paula Cox, is up on a pulpit spouting the same rhetoric. To combat this, an organisation must shout the truth loudly, stick to places where it can be impeccable with its word, and constantly put the PLP on their back foot by both combating their attempts to spin their record and attacking them for the things they haven’t done – which presumably would be addressed in #1.
3. Using the above two to build an army.
Right now we have the poorly defined “combined opposition” from unaffiliated sensible and educated commentators like Larry Burchall and Stuart Hayward to the haphazard organisation of Shawn Crockwell, and the still sensible if ineffective UBP. When all voices of reason are coming from one defined source and one brand then it becomes powerful. There is more than enough wrong with this country to get everyone on the same page (see #1 and #2). We can ALL agree on education, fiscal management, etc.

You’ll note that these largely are functions of the organisation’s staff and executives, not of the politicians themselves.

What we’ve got here…

October 9th, 2009 by De Onion

…is a failure to communicate.

#1 Problem with the UBP

Slow motion trainwreck.

October 8th, 2009 by De Onion

Looks like the Gazette is picking up on what some of us have been predicting… in 2007 I was bullish on the construction industry because I thought that increases in employment would continue and demand for housing would rise to a corresponding degree. The combination of term limits, tighter financing, and global recession has taken us toward the scenario that became more clear in mid 2008.

Overbuilding of commercial buildings is the culprit this time.

In July 2008 I wrote:

The next casualty if real estate goes will be the construction boom. Prices of construction have already risen substantially in dollar terms If the public’s ability to buy falls then builders will not be able to sell quickly, returns to speculative builders will fall, and some may lose money and those most dependent on leverage will fail while most slow down the pace of building. Then the workers building them may then be unemployed – the failure of education and lure of the drug industry have sent a large number of young Bermudians into the combination of drug dealing and construction work. They are going to be pissed off and the effects on Bermuda will be quite painful.

Denis over at 21square.com has also written about this.

Odds of a large hotel project are very low, although there may be a lot of cleanup work done at Morgan’s Point I think we can be sure that the ultimate beneficiaries will be the usual Friends and Family Plan members. At the same time, the overspending by government during the boom times and deficit spending to fund current expenditure has left the government unable to prudently pursue large capital projects now in a time of cheaper construction.

More hot water… no, not the Mid Ocean News

October 5th, 2009 by De Onion

Tips makes a couple of good points in a comment.

…the difference in efficiency between an old tank-type water heater and a newer one is minimal at best. Tankless is a bit better but probably not worthy of a subsidy.

Tankless can be really good in some situations where hot water demand is not regular and constant such as spare bedrooms.

Heat pump water heaters offer very substantial energy savings (comparable to even solar which actually DOES require electricity) but don’t seem to be ready for the single-family home market yet.

My understanding is that there are corrosion issues that make Bermuda especially troublesome.

When it comes to the typical Bermudian household, solar water heating is the greenest and most cost-effective way to heat your water. In my opinion, it should be legally required for all new home construction as it is now in places like Israel.

There is a proposal to do just this circling at the moment (or was a few months ago). I’m not sure I agree because we’re talking a few thousand dollars extra added to the cost of each housing unit. This comes as essentially a fixed cost of more debt and more interest and lower affordability for housing… on the other hand, it is much cheaper to install the plumbing and hardware on a new build than it is to retrofit an older house. As a compromise I might argue for renovations to include mandatory hot water. That way we’re not limiting new housing supply but still able to manage the growth of electricity demand to some degree.

Convince me either way.

Government spends millions to save thousands!

October 2nd, 2009 by De Onion

Government misses the point. Spends millions to save thousands. Shows utter inability to invest our money wisely. Again.

The Solar Photovoltaic Rebate Initiative, which launched yesterday, will offer residents a rebate of up to $5,000 for the instillation of solar panels.

Rebates are offered at $1 per watt up to a limit of 5,000 watts, or five kilowatts, per home.

A single solar panel can produce more than 300 watts from sunlight.

The Department of Energy spokesperson said that initiative will continue until the funding, $500,000 according to the 2009/2010 Budget, runs out.

The spokesperson said: “The subsidy programme is designed to encourage hundreds of homeowners to install photovoltaic systems on their property and to stimulate the local solar instillation market.”

Great, right?

Not so much. They’re spending half a million dollars ($7.36 per resident) to subsidize the solar electric industry… With current technology solar electric systems produce small amounts of power at huge cost. Meanwhile, solar water heaters pay for themselves right now, today.

In short – spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to save thousands of dollars of electricity when there are options that allow one to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to save hundreds of thousands of dollars of electricity.

Terrible cost/benefit. Terrible use of our money.