Though the Public Safety Coalition has only about 20 days left to collect some 13,000 signatures to oust Gov. Charles Turnbull in a recall effort, the groups leaders are confident they will succeed.
Naomi Joseph, president of the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association, said at a press conference Wednesday that the coalition had gathered about 5,000 signatures since mid-August. Thats far less than the 18,000 needed in order to force a special election to replace Turnbull.
The Public Safety Coalition consists of the St. Croix PBA, the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union, officers from the Bureau of Corrections, Planning and Natural Resources, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. It was formed in mid-July to protest contract and pay issues, working conditions and lack of equipment.
Arthur Hector, president of the LESU, said coalition members plan to step up their petition drive by going house to house in the Welcome and Watergut areas and then Christiansted and Frederiksted.
"Were asking the people to come out and sign the petition," Hector said. Hector and Joseph blasted the U.S. Interior Departments recent announcement that it was providing a $50 million aid package to the Turnbull administration. They said the package of reprogrammed funds and hurricane-debt forgiveness was a ploy by the feds to prop up Turnbulls failing administration.
"The $50 million cant do nothing for the Virgin Islands in a $1 billion debt," Joseph said. "Its to back up the governor."
Hector said some of the money has been recycled from funds the administration didnt tap into over the last fiscal year, a sign that Turnbull isnt up to the job of pulling the territory out of its economic quagmire.
"Its time for the governor to step down. Obviously he cant do the job," Hector said, adding that when Washington, D.C., had serious economic problems, the federal government intervened with a control board to run the local government. "It might be thats what we need . . . to take over the whole operation and get us back on our feet."
In the meantime, the coalition will continue on its quest to gather the signatures of at least 16,750 registered voters. Thats half the votes cast in the 1998 gubernatorial and the amount required by law in order to recall the governor — so said Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. last month.
The entire recall process could take several months, including the 50 days the coalition has to collect signatures, about two weeks for Abramsons office to determine whether each signee is a registered voter, and another 30 to 60 days to determine whether a special election will need to be held and, if so, when.
Of the 33,499 total votes cast in the gubernatorial election in 1998, Turnbull walked away with 19,795. He garnered 11,114 votes on St. Croix compared to Schneiders 5,236. On St. Thomas the race was close, with Turnbull collecting 8,681 to Schneiders 8,440.