I am a St. Croix local. For over 25 years I have observed and witnessed, time and again, the same scenario concerning the gross lack of efficiency and effectiveness of Virgin Islands' senators. The complaints against them are like a broken record. There are justifiable complaints concerning dissatisfaction with the performances, behavior and accomplishments of the senators. We hear the same refrains over and over again: "Throw them all out!" or "What have they done for the Island?" or "They are self-serving."
or "All they do is gain weight and spend our money on new office equipment, and expensive travel accounts." or "Get new members for the senate." And what happens? We put in new ones and in essence get the same result.
Where is the discernible improvement in our educational system? And what about the crime rates, have they declined? Has the youth rehabilitation record shown any improvement? The WAPA rates continue to grow. Why does the Juan Luis Hospital have continuous rotating crises? Has there been any truly measurable improvement in the overall economy of the island? Our senators, old ones and new ones, have been addressing these problems for years and any improvement they claim is negligible.
One obvious answer as to why this happens is, voters continue to elect new senators that basically replicate the old ones, in terms of the qualifications, reasons and ambitions for wanting to be senators. The names change and the results remain the same. To remedy any problem one must look at the source, and in this case, the selection of senators is key to solving this problem. Instead of having a free for all for senatorial candidates, some criteria must be set.
Let us start by asking a few simple questions to all aspiring candidates. Jamila, Kenneth, Pedro, Naomi, Carmen, Judi, Sherry Ann, Raul, Samuel, Arthur, Michael, Troy and all the other aspirants, What makes you think you should be a Senator for the Virgin Islands? Do you really understand what the magnitude of the responsibility is for being a Senator? As a Senator of the Virgin Islands, your role is to serve as the representative of the
people and in doing so you must establish policies that carryout their wishes and demands. Therefore, you must have the educational intellect in knowing the required legal procedures. For example, if the people of the Virgin Islands determine that the CEO of the hospital is incompetent, what measures may be taken to dismiss that CEO?
Here are what I consider to be the very basic qualifications and questions
for all aspiring candidates to answer publically BEFORE entering the race:
1. What is your philosophy of government? Share your general understanding of the values of government in the Virgin Islands and your theory underlying your thoughts, and your basic concepts and attitudes toward government.
2. What economic theory do you adhere to, and how does it reconcile with the status and government of the Virgin Islands? A major part of government IS economics. Would a sound understanding of economics have prevented the Diageo fiasco?
3. What is your preference concerning districting for senators and what do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of districting?
4. What is your philosophy of education? One must have an ideological concept about education before one can put forth solutions.
5. What is your analytical concept concerning the reasons for crime? This is necessary before one can offer solutions.
6. Who is your favorite Virgin Island historical figure? What has this person done that can serve as a stepping-stone for your ambitions and actions as a Senator?
7. How do you justify the exceedingly high income/pay for Senators and why do you think we need such a high number for such a relatively small population? Are you willing to accept a pay cut?
8. What are some of the alternative energy sources that are available and appropriate for the Virgin Islands? Keep in mind that your solution must include the cost to the individual residents.
Answering such questions would compel candidates to make commitments to the voting public. Voters would then be able to vote candidates who, for example, understand that there is no need for 15 senators, and who are willing to take a justifiable reduction in salary. I believe that these questions will serve as "qualifications" for candidacy for the V.I. Senate.
Having candidates discuss issues in the manner that has been done in the past, is basically an act of futility (aka uselessness). For example, you ask the candidates the root cause of crime and they readily say, "Education is the answer." That is a partial response that sheds no light on the candidates' philosophy of education or on the role of race, class and capitalism in the educational systems. Answers to these questions would assure the voters that the candidates have reasonable qualifications for such an ambitious and important job. The voters would know that their candidates understand the role of government and its mandate to serve the people for the benefit of the people and not for personal aggrandizement.
At this point in time I do not know what agencies would or could reasonably and legally implement some basic criteria for candidates. Fish fries, food fairs and musical festivities should not be the trademarks of successful campaigning. Candidacy should not be a popularity contest. A very good police officer, musician, radio host or farmer, does not automatically mean that said person would be a good senator. It is beyond time for the Virgin Islands to perform and be recognized as a first world country, and not to be viewed and therefore treated as a third world country. This can be accomplished largely by our selection of senators who play a major role in shaping the political, economic and social welfare of our islands for the greater good of the people they are elected to serve.
Respectfully yours, Dr. Gloria I. Joseph