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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, May 21, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSAMOAN DELEGATE SEES V.I. WITH INSIGHT

SAMOAN DELEGATE SEES V.I. WITH INSIGHT

Like many first-time visitors to the Virgin Islands, American Samoa's delegate to Congress took it all in with gusto. But he did so with a perspective few tourists share.
Eni Faleomavaega was a member of the congressional delegation that visited the territory last weekend at the behest of Delegate Donna Christian-Christiansen, taking part in meetings, receptions and tours. "I'm a happy island boy," he said, arriving with a smile at the reception hosted by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull Saturday night on St. John with bougainvillea behind his ear and a hug for Christensen.
Earlier, Faleomavaega had played golf at Mahogany Run. After the reception, he and his Tahitian wife, Hinanni, set out in search of some good St. John-style Creole cooking, which they found in the company of friends at Fred's Restaurant and Night Club. As he tucked into a freshly steamed fish, the Samoan delegate said he also wanted to sample public opinion about the territory's problems.
Both Christensen and Faleomavaega sit on the House Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Don Young of Alaska, who headed the visiting delegation. According to a statement from Christensen's office, the three-day visit was a fact-finding mission.
Faleomavaega said because he, like Christensen, does not have a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, he, too, works hard to form alliances with the voting state representatives. Similarly, he said, one of his biggest challenges is to persuade his colleagues in Congress to support federal spending bills for Samoa's needs.
He said his experience in the House helps him understand the fiscal pressures facing the Virgin Islands today. From Capitol Hill, he said, he saw the struggles of the District of Columbia during the last days of Mayor Marion Barry. It was only when a member of Congress was assaulted near the Capitol, Faleomavaega said, that some colleagues recognized that the district's ability to govern itself had broken down. Subsequently, despite the protest of D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, a federal board took temporary control of the district's finances.
Now, a few years into a new district administration, Faleomavaega said, Congress is gaining a more favorable view of the D.C. government, and its financial problems are beginning to ease.
Of course, he said, the District of Columbia has an advantage over the territories in attracting the attention of Congress: Capitol Hill is literally in the middle of it.
The Samoan delegate said "home" is a long day-trip by air from D.C. — a 2.5-hour flight beyond Hawaii, in a place that he sometimes has to remind his colleagues is not part of the Philippines.
He got a Virgin Islands perspective on the visibility problem with regard to the federal government from legislators who told of the territory's transfer from the Danish to the U.S. government ub 1917. He said he was told of government authority exercised at times at the cost of the governed.
Despite the inequities, Faleomavaega said, he is thankful for the allegiance between his territory and Washington.
Hinanni Faleomavaega said inviting members of Congree to visit the territories — as Christiansen did — is key to keeping allies sympathetic. It also gives the delegates a chance to show the nation's leaders a different face of America, she said.

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Like many first-time visitors to the Virgin Islands, American Samoa's delegate to Congress took it all in with gusto. But he did so with a perspective few tourists share.
Eni Faleomavaega was a member of the congressional delegation that visited the territory last weekend at the behest of Delegate Donna Christian-Christiansen, taking part in meetings, receptions and tours. "I'm a happy island boy," he said, arriving with a smile at the reception hosted by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull Saturday night on St. John with bougainvillea behind his ear and a hug for Christensen.
Earlier, Faleomavaega had played golf at Mahogany Run. After the reception, he and his Tahitian wife, Hinanni, set out in search of some good St. John-style Creole cooking, which they found in the company of friends at Fred's Restaurant and Night Club. As he tucked into a freshly steamed fish, the Samoan delegate said he also wanted to sample public opinion about the territory's problems.
Both Christensen and Faleomavaega sit on the House Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Don Young of Alaska, who headed the visiting delegation. According to a statement from Christensen's office, the three-day visit was a fact-finding mission.
Faleomavaega said because he, like Christensen, does not have a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, he, too, works hard to form alliances with the voting state representatives. Similarly, he said, one of his biggest challenges is to persuade his colleagues in Congress to support federal spending bills for Samoa's needs.
He said his experience in the House helps him understand the fiscal pressures facing the Virgin Islands today. From Capitol Hill, he said, he saw the struggles of the District of Columbia during the last days of Mayor Marion Barry. It was only when a member of Congress was assaulted near the Capitol, Faleomavaega said, that some colleagues recognized that the district's ability to govern itself had broken down. Subsequently, despite the protest of D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, a federal board took temporary control of the district's finances.
Now, a few years into a new district administration, Faleomavaega said, Congress is gaining a more favorable view of the D.C. government, and its financial problems are beginning to ease.
Of course, he said, the District of Columbia has an advantage over the territories in attracting the attention of Congress: Capitol Hill is literally in the middle of it.
The Samoan delegate said "home" is a long day-trip by air from D.C. -- a 2.5-hour flight beyond Hawaii, in a place that he sometimes has to remind his colleagues is not part of the Philippines.
He got a Virgin Islands perspective on the visibility problem with regard to the federal government from legislators who told of the territory's transfer from the Danish to the U.S. government ub 1917. He said he was told of government authority exercised at times at the cost of the governed.
Despite the inequities, Faleomavaega said, he is thankful for the allegiance between his territory and Washington.
Hinanni Faleomavaega said inviting members of Congree to visit the territories -- as Christiansen did -- is key to keeping allies sympathetic. It also gives the delegates a chance to show the nation's leaders a different face of America, she said.