Sunday, 27 November 2011

An Illegal Air Terminal?

I have no doubt that Gibraltar's Air Terminal needed improvement. I also have no doubt that before spending 75,000,000 Euros, the GSD Government should have resolved Gibraltar's energy problems. Energy, in the form of electricity generation, is the lifeline of Gibraltar and its economy. No electricity equals no economy, today we are relying on skid or "emergency" generators. I have asked the question, how is this to be resolved, over and over again without a reply being forthcoming from any political party but importantly not the GSD Government who have been in power for the past 16 years. 

Now, to add to the issue of bad prioritisation of expenditure, I wonder how people will feel if I were to suggests that the new Air Terminal has been built illegally? That is what I will argue in this blog because it is a prime example of a lack of good governance in Gibraltar. It would be right to say that an argument of illegality on many projects could be made against most past governments of Gibraltar. There is now one major difference: the new Constitution. In the past Governors have had more power, under the new Constitution, the GSD Government have been the first Government to have had more power: with power comes responsibility.

There is a basic requirement under the British system of government that everything must be done according to law. This requirement applies equally to a government, by which I mean the executive arm of government. In Gibraltar (because we have a subsidiary Parliament) this means that an Act of Parliament is required to authorise a government to do anything. The additional layer to this rule is that "... government should be conducted within a framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power." (Wade - Administrative Law 5th Edition). All of these are the core principles that underpin parliamentary democracy. It is the basis of the principle of Parliamentary Supremacy, which in Gibraltar is only curtailed by the Constitution. 

It is only by this principle of the Rule of Law that power flows back to the people through the medium of an election and so underpins democracy. It is only by the strict adherence to this most basic of rules that a government is accountable to the people who elect it. It is through parliamentary debate and questions that Minister are brought to account in a democracy. The only other remedy is recourse to the Courts because governments and Ministers are equally liable for injury as any citizen if they act outside their powers granted by  law. This is known by lawyers as acting ultra vires.

Let me now turn to the issue of the new Air Terminal. Armed with this very basic knowledge of Administrative and Constitutional law, which any lawyer worth his salt will know, I decided to research how the construction of the new Air Terminal had been authorised by law. Lo and behold I have discovered that there is no law that allows the Government to build an air terminal. It seems to have been built in exercise by the GSD Government of a power that it does not have in law. Its construction has never been authorised by Parliament. It seems to have been built on the basis of Ministerial diktat worthy of Soviet Russia or maybe even Franco's Spain.

Having come to this conclusion, I decided to consider the potential repercussions of this situation. The first, undoubtedly is that it undermines all the principles of democracy because it sidesteps the democratic safeguard provided by Parliament. The second is that it is palpable and incontrovertible evidence (if any further evidence were to be needed) of a breach of the 1996 GSD promise of open, transparent, accountable and democratic government. The third is an analysis of the potential financial consequences of such a huge mess.

In order to unravel this huge mess I went first to the new Constitution. Government Finances are dealt with in Chapter VII of the New Constitution. This deals with the requirement that all government revenues (except as authorised otherwise by an Act of Parliament)  have to be paid into the Consolidated Fund. No money can be withdrawn unless charged on the Consolidated Fund by the Constitution or an Act of Parliament or as permitted by an Appropriation Act. Neither the Constitution nor any other Act of Parliament charges the expenditure to construct an Air Terminal on the Consolidated Fund. Therefore this throws us back to an Appropriation Act.

Section 69 of the Constitution requires the Minister for Finance to prepare and lay before Parliament "... estimates of the revenue and expenditure of Gibraltar ...". It is this provision that founds the basis of an Appropriation Act, which is what authorises withdrawals of government expenditure. I went, therefore, to the Appropriation Act 2011. Sure enough, no mention of expenditure for a new Air Terminal, but there was an "Improvement and Development Fund" amounting to £95,887,000. One assumes that the cost of the new Air Terminal is included in this figure.

The question that then arises is, is this appropriation sufficient legal authority to permit the GSD Government to construct an Air Terminal? I can only answer this question with a "NO". First an Appropriation Act only authorises withdrawal of expenditure and not the doing of any act. Second, I would refer the reader to the words that I emphasised in bold in the immediately preceding paragraph. Only expenditure that is "... of Gibraltar ..." can be authorised by an Appropriation Act. How can the  expenditure on  the illegal and so ultra vires construction of an air terminal be " ... expenditure of Gibraltar ..."? It cannot be precisely because if it is illegal it is not "... for Gibraltar ...". If I am right (I believe that my legal analysis is correct), then, the inclusion of any expenditure in the Appropriation Act for the Air Terminal is an attempt to fund an unconstitutional act and so also illegal and ultra vires.

What are the repercussions of this illegality? In my view the first is that, under section 74 of the the new Constitution, the Principal Auditor has the exclusive and unfettered duty to audit and report on the public accounts of Gibraltar. An audit includes a requirement to ensure the legality and vires of any expenditure. In this regard those who have had anything to do with any illegal expenditure should bear in mind the provisions of section 68 of the Public Finance (Control and Audit) Act. This section makes any public officer personally liable for improper or illegal expenditure, if the Financial Secretary considers that it has been incurred negligently, carelessly or by the default of any public officer. Readers should bear in mind that Ministers are also public officers.

The second repercussion is that under the new Constitution the responsibility to ensure good governance in Gibraltar lies with the UK Government and is exercised through the office of the Governor. I ask myself, can it be good government to be governed outside the Rule of Law? If my argument is correct (I believe it is) it cannot be good government for the construction of an air terminal at a cost of 75,000,000 Euros to have been undertaken without the authority of a law. At the very least it undermines Parliamentary Supremacy and so democracy.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Gibraltar- An Elective Dictatorship?

The GSD persist in advertising how well they have done over the last 16 years. The GSLP/Liberals and PDP, in stark contrast are taking the election, in part, to one place where it should be: the issue of good governance. Good governance is not about trusting who governs us, although that does come into play. Good governance is about many things. Primordially it is about systems built into the machinery of government that prevent or, usually, reduce abuse

Lord Hailsham, Lord Chancellor of England and Wales, in his 1976 Dimbleby lecture famously described the system of government in the UK as an "elective dictatorship". I believe that there is some truth in that statement but it exaggerates the reality, probably purposefully for effect. The UK has  democratic checks and balances, for example an element of separation of powers, an independent Civil Service and the truly free and very incisive press. Gibraltar has virtually none. The fundamental safeguard, namely the separation of powers simply does not exist. The phrase "elective dictatorship" is a perfect description of Gibraltar's system of government.

The one and only check on government that presently exists in Gibraltar is an election every 4 years. We are now at that juncture. Is re-electing the GSD a real option? I do not believe it is because the GSD is truly and exclusively at fault for Gibraltar's democratic deficit. In 1996 it promised reforms to improve democracy, accountability and transparency of and in government. It promised these reforms ostensibly to counteract the strong feelings, then running, against the GSLP administration. The GSLP at that time had failed to provide good governance. It seems to have been an election gimmick on the part of the GSD: the GSD has given us the exact opposite. We have been given no democratic reforms. Instead, we have been subjected to a form of centralised and authoritarian government that is not acceptable in a Western Democracy. 

The only brake on bad government in Gibraltar is the fear of losing an election. This brake will no longer work for the GSD if it is re-elected at the forthcoming election. The reason is simple: Peter Caruana has indicated that this will be his last election as leader of the GSD. The GSD has governed Gibraltar exclusively by and through Peter Caruana. Each reader can and will assess his manner of government over the past recent years. I believe it has been unchecked. It can only get worse, if he knows that he will not be contesting the next election, as the brake of fear of losing an election will no longer apply to him. It will not be a good place for Gibraltar to be at.

It is impossible to believe that the GSD will keep any promise about democratic reforms. It has promised these for 16 years and not delivered any at all. Why should it do so now when Peter Caruana will not need to face the electorate again? He has no incentive to do so. The argument that he will be forced to do so by his party is sterile. When has Peter Caruana been forced by his party to do anything? Not even his Ministers have ever succeeded on this front.

On the other hand the GSLP/Liberals and the PDP have grasped the issue of democratic reforms fully and are committing to major policies on this front. Will either deliver, if elected? Well, that is a risk that we all take on all promises by all parties when we elect one into government. What can certainly be said is that history shows that the likelihood that the GSD will deliver is very low. Not only has it not delivered in 16 years but Peter Caruana, if he does not stand again, does not have to fear being punished at the polls in 4 years time. On the other hand if either the GSLP/Liberals or the PDP get elected, then, they both do have to fear an election in 4 years time. Not delivering on central promises during a first term in office is frequently punished.

The argument for change in order to achieve greater democracy in Gibraltar is inviolable by the GSD's own making, namely, its omission to undertake any reforms on this front in 16 years. The counter-argument that we hear is the GSD boasting about how well it has done for Gibraltar during its time in Government. There is no doubt about this on several fronts, mainly providing stability within which the private sector has prospered. The private sector has provided the wherewithal by which the GSD has been able to do much of what it now boasts about: money. 

The issue is has it spent this money properly? Well I heard Peter Caruana on GBC rubbishing criticisms about the Theatre Royal, the electricity generating station and the sewage treatment plant, as though these were minor failings. This either shows that he has a total loss of perspective and judgment or that he needs to diminishing the importance of these failures precisely because these failures are so huge. The amount spent on the Theatre Royal was massive. The lack of a power station undermines the entirety of Gibraltar's economy and provision of power by skid generators is harmful to the environment. This failure adds to the possibility of having to resolve Gibraltar's energy needs by connecting to the European grid. The lack of a sewage treatment plant, aside from its adverse environmental impact, breaches international obligations. 

I want to know from the GSD what, steps, if it is re-elected, it will take, or has in mind to take, to find the money required to fund the construction of the power station and a sewage treatment plant. I want to know from the GSD in what time span it will resolve these huge problems for Gibraltar. The GSD has been in power for 16 years, so it has a duty to provide the electorate with these explanations, if it wishes to be re-elected. The GSLP/Liberals and the PDP do not have the same obligation. However, if elected, one or other of them will be left with a massive legacy problem to resolve, caused by GSD misspending. They both need to give these issues much thought.  If either is elected, it will fall on one or other of them to resolve these problems, despite that they have been caused by GSD failures.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Trust, Change, Real or Fictitious?

It is over a week since the 2011 Election was called. The period for campaigning is the minimum possible under the 2006 Constitution, yet the campaigning has not started. The initiative on policies has been taken by the GSLP/Liberals but not on the announcement of its candidature. The Alliance has for various weeks been issuing press releases setting out its stall on governmental reforms and good governance. Thus it has been filling a massive void left during the 16 years of GSD Government. A void that exists despite the GSD manifesto promises to tackle this central and important subject. The GSD promised to do this in 1996. They have failed, so KEEP TRUSTING?

Let us have a quick tour of party bylines. The GSD's is "Keep Trusting". The GSD site is full of boasts of what it considers to be its achievements over 16 years. Its glossy publication, distributed recently, also does the same. This strategy is weak. It is paternalistic. The slogan says it all. We know what is best for you, so just vote for us, go home and do not worry, we will deliver, but deliver what? That is the core question that the GSD needs to answer if voters are to flock to vote for the GSD. In this regard, the GSD have greater difficulties than the other two parties. It has been in government for 16 years. Elections are about the future not the past. What is the GSD going to do in the next 4 years? Why has it not done it in the past 16 years, especially those policies that it promised to do in its past manifestos?

The GSD manifesto at the last election promised everything but has it delivered? In my view, it has not delivered on many fronts. I list a few, wrongly prioritising capital expenditure, i.e. a beautiful (cannot be denied) but expensive to run, man, illuminate and cool air terminal in preference to an essential power station and sewage treatment plant. Additionally throwing money at social services without a root and branch review of the system to tailor make it for Gibraltar, which should be possible due to its size. The GSD's failure to deliver democratic and governmental reforms. The centralisation of power under the GSD conjoined with the scant regard it pays to Parliament. The lack of regard paid by the GSD to fairness in the grant of contracts, employment and promotion and in appointments and removal from public positions. These are all breaches of central promises made by the GSD in 1996 and subsequently.

One interesting development manifested itself on Main Street on Saturday. One constant criticism of the GSLP by GSD diehards is that the GSLP has extremist (and in GSD eyes unsavoury) elements amongst its supporters. Well is the GSD immune from this? Clearly not, Mr John Culatto, a self-confessed GSD supporter, has taken it upon himself to make the most outrageous and extreme assertions about the GSLP/Liberals. I will not waste words by repeating what he is preaching, most of you will know already.

Mr Culatto's views may be an extreme manifestation of GSD religious and reactionary beliefs. However, I am not prepared to accept that, in slightly moderated terms, it does not reflect, in part, the religious thinking of many GSD supporters. This extreme Christian influence within the GSD was very evident from the stance of the GSD on the gay rights issue. Whatever one's religious beliefs might be, the only place these should have in lay government is as a guide to moral standards. Such beliefs are not the holy grail of religious sectarian politics. Criminalising certain acts is not a solution. Criminalisation can be the cause of much hardship and suffering. Let us not forget the English Catholic martyrs who were put to death due to a bad law.

The slogan for the GSLP/Liberals is "Change you can Trust". The retort from the GSD is no change for the sake of change. I agree with this retort. Change has to be because it is needed and it is right. Right because there is a need to re-invigorate government. Right because complacency and security in office has led to failures of implementing manifesto promise. Right because the manner of government requires those who govern us to be reminded that we live in a democracy. Right because the policies it espouses will improve Gibraltar. Right because the candidates that a party fields promise more than those of another and all candidates promise delivery of policies. It is not for me to tell anyone what is right. I can but suggest what type of factor, in my opinion only, should be looked at before voters decide who to vote for.

The matter of candidature is important for the GSLP/Liberals, so I will proffer an opinion on this subject. There is a danger that we may fall into the trap of criticising that the GSD Government is too centralised in one person, Peter Caruana, and yet shying away from voting for the Alliance because of personality politics arising from a prejudiced view of its leader, Fabian Picardo. This is hypocrisy at its best. It is visiting the sins of the GSD upon the Alliance, without evidence or giving them a chance. Simultaneously the sin of the GSD are forgiven because of a negative perception that the GSD is an evil but the lessor of two. If this is the state of democratic politics in Gibraltar, it is an unbearably sad state for Gibraltar to be in, after it fought so bravely for democracy during the closed frontier years 

One should and must take a holistic view. The Alliance is promising wholesale governmental reforms. It is promising Cabinet government. Yes it is possible that the Alliance will not deliver this but that failure will not be down to one person, Fabian Picardo. It will be down to a collective failure of the entire candidature of the Alliance. It is this failure that has manifested itself in the GSD. In order to avoid a repeat with the GSLP, one has to look at its individual candidates. If they come through as strong characters, that is the greatest safeguard to, first, avoiding rule by Fabian Picardo (so the issue of personal mistrust is mitigated) and secondly ensuring that those policies that are promised are actually delivered.

The slogan chosen by the PDP is "The Real Change". Unfortunately, a highly optimistic slogan for two reasons. First, its policies do not sufficiently distinguish it from the GSD to actually make it the real change. Secondly, the current electoral system does not militate towards that type of change becoming a reality. So does having the PDP with a full candidature improve democracy? Undoubtedly, in my mind, it does. It does because, in the worst scenario, it stimulates debate and ideas and so agitates innovation in the other two parties. It does so, further, because the PDP provides a home for voters who are disillusioned with the GSD but cannot find a home in the Alliance. It does so because the PDP increases the choice of individual candidates for those of us who wish to vote for persons and not parties. It does so because it shows that our democracy is vibrant. I have nothing but praise and respect for those who are standing as candidates for the PDP in the knowledge that the party's and each candidate's chances of success under the present electoral system is minimal.

So there we are, keep trusting, change real or fictitious? That is what the parties think is the core of the forthcoming election. Keep the past or trust in the future? Well bring on those party manifestos, so that we can decide on policies and not solely on personalities, rumour and innuendo. Gibraltar deserves to be governed by the best of the available choice. Gibraltar deserves a better electoral and parliamentary system and to be governed by the Rule of Law. I want to vote for the people who, I believe, will deliver that. I do not believe the GSD has delivered on democracy despite its promises in 1996 to do so. It is sad for them because it should have delivered on this promise. If it had it would not be faced with the nigh on impossible task of having to convince the electorate that it will do so in the next 4 years. The evidence is that the GSD cannot be trusted on this core and centrally important issue for Gibraltar. I make no apologies for being a democrat. I am repelled by the use of that word in a party name , if in practice it fails to deliver democracy, especially after it has so fervently promised to do so.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Caruana, Lights, Shadows and Picardomania

On Thursday 1st November 2011, coincidentally just days before the election was called for the 8th December 2011, the Chronic, which publishes under the banner "The Independent Daily", printed F. Oliva's opinion about each of Peter Caruana (Caruana: Lights and Shadows) and Fabian Picardo (Picardomania). His views merit some comment. Both of Paco's pieces, in my opinion, contain bland conclusions without sufficient analysis or argument. I will provide as examples a critique of the opening sentences of each piece. One should bear in mind that, importantly, opening sentences of any publication set the tone.

About Peter Caruana he opens his piece with praise. "The lights speak for themselves" referring to what Paco views as Peter's successes. Well, actually, the "lights" do not speak for themselves. For there to be "lights" they must be switched on. For the credit for switching them on to be attributed to someone, there must be evidence that it is that particular person that switched them on. It is not enough to say there are "lights" in Gibraltar as Paco seems to do.  According to Paco, it seems that it has been Peter Caruana and his GSD Government who switched those "lights" on. However, he does not show by argument that that is the case. It may have been others or events beyond government's control or just inevitable circumstances that switched on those "lights" or contributed to them coming alight.

Paco goes on to write, "Gibraltar is more stable, prosperous and overwhelmingly, residents enjoy higher standards of living than at any other previous time in our history ... ' I agree with all of that. However, he then goes on to write, "This is an achievement that has not happened by coincidence and should not be underestimated.I do not agree with this statement, if that comment is intended as an allusion to all the successes he mentions being exclusively or primarily due to the works of Peter Caruana and his GSD Government. In making this broad brush statement, Mr Oliva has not asked himself and so does not answer a fundamental question: what factors have led to all this happening? He implies that the successes that he alludes to are entirely down to Peter Caruana and his GSD Government.

It would be churlish not to admit that the ending of the fast launch saga set the background for the success of the private sector. It is also true that, albeit forced to by public opinion, the legislation that brought this about was enacted by the Bosanno GSLP administration in 1996. I just hope and pray that the present day cross-border tobacco trade, that is now so rampant, does not have the same adverse effect on Gibraltar and switches off the "lights" that Mr Oliva attributes to Mr Caruana having turned on. It must also be said and emphasised that stability provided to date by the GSD Government has been fundamental to Gibraltar's success and the success of its economy. It is for this reason that I have voted at all elections for the GSD, sadly no more.

However, I would like and would challenge Paco to tell us what specifically Peter Caruana and his GSD Government has done to give rise to the "new" Gibraltar that he refers to? It is only if he can answer this question that he may be able to convince readers that Peter Caruana did, indeed, switch the 'lights" on. His bland and unsupported by argument writings are not convincing enough for me. I actually believe that Gibraltar's turnaround has been achieved down to the efforts and innovative activities of the private sector. This has been based on an economic model the foundations of which were laid by the 1988-1996 GSLP administration. It has been the success of the private sector that has resulted in Gibraltar creating jobs and wealth. In turn this increased employment and wealth has resulted in higher tax revenues to the government. Once there is more revenue, governments have the necessary wealth to spend more extravagantly. 

Thereafter the analysis has to be, has this revenue been properly spent by the incumbent GSD Government led by Peter Caruana? I have argued in past blogs that much of our money has not been spent or prioritised properly by Peter Caruana and his GSD Government. It has been spent primarily on projects that were perceived to be electorally advantageous, especially in the months leading up to the election.

Much has been spent on projects that substantially increase recurrent government expenditure. I dread to think what, for example, will be the annual recurring expenditure required to run the new air terminal. A terminal that is unlikely to generate much income for the government. Additionally, how much will it cost to maintain all the new housing (rentals being decidedly low and an opportunity to increase, the Mid Harbours Estate, having been missed by reason of electoral opportunism) and all the new playgrounds etc etc? I dread to think but know that the resultant recurring public expenditure, together with the cost servicing the public debt that has mostly paid for the GSD Government's largesse, will over time reduce ability of future governments to undertake essential projects.

One important such essential project is the electricity generating station. All economies rely on the ability of each to provide energy to its businesses and people and Gibraltar is no exception. Gibraltar's longterm energy needs have not been catered for at all by Peter Caruana's GSD Government. Gibraltar is reliant on what, in a home or business, would be classified as "emergency" generators, for spin purposes called "skid" generators. Without power Gibraltar has no economy. I would like to be told by all political parties what they will do to provide Gibraltar with a sufficiently large electricity production capacity. I want all the parties to tell me how Gibraltar will pay for it too. 

The GSD (and so Peter Caruana) has the prime responsibility to explain itself on this core policy failure during its 16 years in government. This omission could have disastrous consequences on Gibraltar and its economy. We may even be forced to connect to the European Electrical Grid, via Spain, (not that I personally object to that but most do) as a result of this act of negligence by the GSD Government. The environmental excuse used by it is no excuse at all. The "skid" generators are far more environmentally unfriendly than any power station that might have been built, whilst money was available to do so.

The sewage treatment plant, which is a EU requirement, is a further failure. I would like to know from all the parties, how each intend to fund the construction of such a plant. I specifically want to know this from the GSD. It is Peter Caruana's GSD Government that has failed, over many years, to provide such a plant despite it being required by law and for environmental and health reasons,

It is all very well for the GSD to boast in glossy brochures about everything that it has spent our tax money on. However, what is important is not what it has spent it all on but rather what it should have spent our money on and has not. So Paco, what "lights" has Peter Caruana's GSD Government switched on in regard to electricity production and the treatment of sewerage? I fear none but he has left a massive legacy problem for Gibraltar. I sincerely hope it can be resolved in the best interests of Gibraltar. Government is about issues like energy and environmental policies not simply about projects that are considered, subjectively, to be electorally opportunistic.

So what does Paco have to say about Fabian Picardo? Well his opening paragraph sets the tone of antipathy:"He [Fabian Picardo] has long realised that the GSLP in its current format was unelectable" This about a party that in the 2007 election failed to get elected by approximately just 600 votes. This differential means that if 300 voters had shifted their allegiance from the GSD to the GSLP/Liberals then we would have had a completely different government.

Paco goes on to make his dislike known, "With Bosanno having become a type of Michael Foot of local politics leading a sclerotic party that had its roots in the Gibraltar of the 1960's with outdated dogmatic intransigence with Spain and a style of government as centralised and authoritarian as anything ever seen locally ..." All UK parties and those of most democracies were founded scores of years ago and have their roots moons ago. The depth that comes with years of political experience within parties is widely considered to be beneficial and a sign of a developed democracy, not a ground for adverse criticism. The nub of Paco's issue with the GSLP it seems is its policy on Spain, which is expressed by Paco in judgmental and pejorative language. But hey Paco, open your eyes, it may not be what some of us advocate but it is the wish of the vast majority of Gibraltarians. To cap it all he then accuses the GSLP of having exercised centralised and authoritarian government. It may be a justified criticism of the GSLP but, hey Paco, where have you been over the last 16 years or even since the 1968 Constitution?

Mr Oliva is then, very early on in his piece, churlish of his praise of Fabian Picardo, he writes "[including Joe Bosanno in the GSLP/Liberal candidature] ... would ultimately turn out to be too unpalatable, even costly in political terms, given that the inescapable paradox for the champion of change, who may have voluntarily planted his own combustible Trojan Horse right at the core of his message for renovation. Clearly Bossano's eagerness for acting as a 'hand-break' [sic, Paco it is "brake"!] since ousted from office in 1996 could in this context begin to acquire a new political meaning, whatever the outcome of the election." Well, well, well, Paco, already condemning Fabian to failure due to your speculation of a schism between him and Joe? Well some consistency, please, I thought that one major criticism was that Fabian was Joe's chosen successor? Maybe I have got that wrong! Your condemnation that Fabian will fail to deliver change is unsupported supposition and speculation on your part. There is no extrinsic evidence whatsoever to justify that criticism. The relevant policies have been publicly announced and, certainly, Joe has not voiced any opposition to them whatsoever. In addition you fail to factor in that the GSLP, both in and out of Parliament, consists of more people than just Joe. The paradox may only be in your mind, Paco.

It is possible to go on and on analysing the two pieces written by Paco but I believe that by commenting on the opening few sentences of each piece I make a strong point and argument. I would commend all readers of this blog to re-read Paco's pieces again. The conclusion, of subjective influences having come into play, that I came to is, I believe, inescapable. "The Independent Daily", I wonder? Fortunately, no newspaper that publishes more than just facts can be independent. I approve of editorial policies. I approve of full freedom of speech. I therefore agree that the "Chronic" should publish opinions but readers must be circumspect when reading opinions and come to their own conclusions and views. My reservation is that those who read a newspaper should be very aware of those realities, especially when a staff journalist writes an opinion.