Bernier Presents Proposals for Community Transformation and Self-Management
LOÍZA – Popular Democratic Party (PDP) president and gubernatorial candidate David Bernier presented Saturday his proposal for community transformation and sustainable development aimed at Puerto Rico’s low-income communities.
Among the initiative’s 12 specific actions is restructuring the Special Communities Office to transform it into the Office of Community Economic Development, which contemplates a board of directors composed by the governor and some government agencies -including the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) and the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa)-, as well five elected representatives from the community.
Community autonomy is a main objective in the PDP politician’s platform: “The country’s fiscal recovery can’t be achieved hurting the most vulnerable sectors. This includes our public servers, our pensioners, our small and medium-business owners, and also our communities […] An organized community is more effective than the government at overseeing most things,” he said, using as an example the 254 communities that administer their own drinking water system without government assistance, citing community aqueducts as another objective.
“Those communities are in the front row in my efforts as governor,” he added. Under his proposal, communities would receive budgetary assignments directly, without municipal intervention. Additionally, there would be a tax reform, which would exempt most small businesses from the Sales & Use Tax (IVU, by its Spanish initials).
The gubernatorial candidate emphasized the importance of public-community partnerships, explaining his government platform intends to consolidate different funds in government agencies for community aid, in addition to creating a social investment fund “that will nourish from incentivized private capital, among other initiatives to promote culture, volunteering, and self-management in communities.”
Similarly, his plans for tourism and culture include integrating Cultural Institute programming to communities’ efforts to stimulate economic and social development, and a social mobility program that provides educational tutoring, preventive healthcare, and easy transportation access.
Regarding community safety, the gubernatorial candidate emphasized the importance of providing formality, resources, and technological access through maps of criminal behavior, supported by community technology centers, which would bring access to technological gadgets and offer workshops to older adults.
Another proposal aimed to help he older and low-income population is food safety, which prioritizes agriculture and allows produce to be distributed through the family market program, aside from becoming a food reserve for senior citizens and disadvantaged families in communities. Meanwhile, the artisan fishing development program would transform agricultural extension offices in coastal municipalities into centers for fishermen.
Environmentalism plays a key role in some of the Bernier’s projects as well, including clean air, water, and soil, which would prohibit ash deposits; and promote reuse and recycling as first options, requiring the revision of agreements or contracts that declare waste incineration as a first option to dispose of Puerto Rico’s solid wastes. The PDP president proposed to boost legislation that guarantees all products sold in the island are 100% recyclable.
Akin to Juan Dalmau and Denis Márquez, Senate and House candidates under the Puerto Rican Independence Party, Bernier also noted the importance of reviewing the possible environmental impact of a proposed incinerator in Arecibo, which has already garnered numerous protests.
“I will present legislation early in 2017 so [the projects] become public or state policies ready to be assumed. This, along with necessary economic resources and personnel,” he punctuated.