April's Fool's headlines of the Virgin Islands Daily News "Prosser bails out the Virgin Islands" sent chilling shockwaves through the community of the Virgin Islands and through the spines of many of us, including me, who have made the Virgin Islands our home.
At first I thought for sure this was an April Fool's prank. I waited two days, read the paper over and over again, and listened to the radio in order to gain some perspective on the story.
First, I found it very interesting that the V.I. Daily News broke the story and tried to make clear that the story was not an exclusive of the paper also owned by Mr. Prosser. I found it equally interesting that the Virgin Islands Daily News dedicated four pages to the "story." I say "story" because the information came over more as an infomercial than a story. Was the story in the Virgin Islands Daily News unbiased and objective?
While I commend Mr. Prosser's "commitment" to the community, I question what does Mr. Prosser have to gain by offering the government of the Virgin Islands such a deal. Equally, what does the leadership of the government employees' labor unions have to gain by endorsing such an accord? Something stinks! Almost as bad as the sewer problems that plague Raadets Gade! Is the government of the Virgin Islands up for sale? Or is it just the leadership in government up for sale? Maybe the real question should be, are the people of the Virgin Islands and their children up for sale?
Did the unions gain support from their membership before they signed on to support such a plan? Let's face it! Ask yourself, we are a population of 100,000 people with a projected deficit of over $1.5 billion and still we have not hit bottom? What is keeping this government running? Sure we have heard that the government employees account for maybe 25 percent of the $1.5 billion figure and maybe vendors another 20 percent. So who is holding the other 55 percent?
We, the people, need to know more. We are in the dark and not given the information we need to make an educated decision. We, the people, need to ask more questions and not leave it to those we elect to make the best decision in the interest of the majority and its future heirs, the children of the Virgin Islands!
Are we the people so disgusted and fed up with our distrust of government and big business we are ready to relinquish control? Why are our elected officials so willing to turn over the control of the government over to Mr. Prosser instead of the federal government?
Is it maybe because we as a community are not willing to make the sacrifice to turn this community around? Then I say we are the ones to blame and no one else.
Then we should stop asking ourselves why the children of the Virgin Islands who go away for an education don't come back. Is it because they don't see a future here or is it maybe because we adults have failed in our responsibility to create opportunities for them?
Mr. Prosser's offer or bail out, call it what you may, still does not address the biggest problem we face as a community: a government by the people accountable to the people! When do we draw the line and say enough is enough?
Government must live within its means. On one side we are led to believe that the government of the Virgin Islands is broke, yet can we honesty say that our government has made a good-faith effort to maximize its revenue collection?
Let's take the public parking lot for example. Ak yourself how much money does the government lose by not having the public parking lot open on public holidays and on Saturdays? If there is one thing we should have learned by now, it is that taking shortcuts only comes back to haunt us.
Editors' note: Vinnie Mohanani is a 26-year resident and businessman on St. Thomas. He has served on the boards and as an officer of many community organizations, including Rotary, United Way, the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce and the local chapter of the American Red Cross. In 1996 he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the V.I. Legislature.