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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, December 2, 2023


My friend, a retired government worker, came through the door yesterday morning, waving a copy of The Daily News in her hand.
We held up our copy of the newspaper to show her we already knew about Jeffrey Prosser "bailing out" the islands.
"It's something, isn't it?" we asked.
"But I don't want to live on St. Croix," she burst out. With her customary directness, our friend had put her finger on the one factor that could pull apart the agreement so carefully crafted by Prosser and his lieutenants and Gov. Charles W. Tumbull and his financial advisors.
What if the current and retired government employees don't want to give up their retroactive for a parcel of land, even at such a potentially prestigious location as Prosser's Carambola? Our suspicion is that the skepticism will be especially prevalent among the thousands of St. Thomians eligible for the great land race. For many of them, St. Croix is that big island on the southern horizon inhabited by people who, when they're not learning to deal black jack, spend much of their time complaining they're always getting the short end of the stick when it comes to government appropriations.
Yes, it's apparently true that the St. Thomas disgruntled could sell their half acre or quarter acre plots, a vision that sets St. Croix Realtors to rubbing their hands in anticipation. No short end of the stick for them.
Well, we must wait for Gov. Tumbull to tell us all about it next Tuesday, mustn't we?
As these things go, the agreement between Prosser and the government was a remarkably well-kept secret, considering the number of people who must have been privy to some, if not all, of the details.
Start with the union leaders. Does anyone really think the governor would have gone this far without taking some of them into his confidence and winning their acquiescence?
What if the union rank and file revolt against the land for money deal?
Then there is the Virgin Islands Senate. Some of our senators, maybe even a majority, probably had been briefed ahead of time.
But what if their constituents turn their backs on the arrangement?
The Turnbull/Prosser pact certainly is a creative approach to solving the problem of the retroactive. If Virgin Islanders refute the agreement, Prosser can return to building his empire and trying to improve his image. Turnbull will be the big loser because he has invested so much political currency in this deal with a man who was an ally of Turnbull's opponent in last November's election.
We're withholding our verdict on the agreement until the governor gives us the details next Tuesday. It will be his most important appearance to date. Only the governor — certainly not the maligned Prosser — can sell the deal to Virgin Islanders. The format of Turnbull's appearance isn't known as of this writing. But we should expect WTJX Public Television to join radio stations in carrying the event live.
Meanwhile, almost everyone is assuming Prosser's people fed The Daily News, which he owns, the information that resulted in Thursday's scoop.
That assumption may not be correct.
Daily News Executive Editor Lowe Davis vehemently denies the story was leaked to the paper by Prosser's lieutenants. The "brick wall" that separates owner Prosser from the news pages (not necessarily the editorial page) of The Daily News precludes such assistance, Davis told us.
This policy resulted in the rival Independent beating The Daily News on three Prosser-related stories in recent months, Davis said, and she was irked. So when the first tip on the story reached her Monday of last week, Davis said, she and key reporters and editors started flogging their non-Prosser sources and by Thursday knew there was a deal that involved land for retroactive pay. Reporters started to write background stories, some of which were later discarded as irrelevant when more information came in.
The last elements of the story weren't nailed down until 9 p.m. Wednesday, Davis said.
The result, in Thursday's Daily News: a stunning presentation of its scoop, nine stories on three inside pages plus the shot-from-a-cannon front page with big black headlines against a background, in muted color, of an aerial photograph of the Carambola area on the north coast of St. Croix.
It was not an April Fool's Day joke. But the main headline, "Prosser bails out the V.l.", was too optimistic for our taste.
One piece of circumstantial evidence supports Davis's claim the Daily News story wasn't masterminded by Prosser or his people. By breaking the story Thursday, The Daily News seriously upstaged the governor and his already planned announcement of next Tuesday.
Would Prosser have wanted that to happen? No way.
As for our friend who doesn't want to live on St. Croix, we asked her how much she figured she was owed in retroactive. She told us.
She may be offered a one-acre lot — on a corner.
Editor's note: Frank J. Jordan is a local radio commentator, former UVI journalism professor and former NBC News Executive.

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