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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 7, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesDONASTORG: ENERGIZED BY A DIFFERENT DRUMMER

DONASTORG: ENERGIZED BY A DIFFERENT DRUMMER

Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg marches to the beat of a different drummer, but it's music to the ears of Virgin Islands voters who have made him the top vote-getter in the past two elections.
Whether standing alone in the Senate with virtually no support, repeatedly demanding a rate investigation of the V.I. Telephone Corp., or appealing to his colleagues to pass a bill increasing penalties for animal cruelty, Donastorg has an undeniable way about him.
He is not quite a modern-day Don Quixote, as his dreams are possible. But he has the same determination in fighting for his initiatives, political or environmental. And, as "The Mighty Foncie," he has a unique way of expressing his ideas. But more about that later.
He is the only senator in the 24th Legislature not aligned with the minority or majority blocs, and he doesn't plan to change that status.
"I am not taking or carrying around luggage, meaning some of the relationships from the past that have been carried over from one Legislature to another," the fourth-term senator says. "Ultimately we vote on every issue based on its merit — it doesn't matter whether I am in the majority or minority. It's the issues that count."
However, Donastorg is not at all sanguine about the manner in which the 24th Legislature is shaping up. "I've always believed in equal budgets, and the majority knows this," he says. "They are imposing procedures to handicap you to where you don't have the ability to do anything. This is the worst I've seen."
Donastorg chooses his words carefully, leaning back in his leather chair. "The unfortunate part is that some of the same people that voted for (Senate President Almando "Rocky")Liburd voted for me, too. How do you explain to the people that you are going to make my resources so limited that I can't represent them to some reasonable extent? This regime lacks sensitivity and sensibility."
Donastorg wrote to Liburd about the now-infamous press conference with Sen. Adelbert Bryan and St. Croix radio personality Mario Moorhead. Donastorg asked Liburd to apologize to the public, calling the conference "an ugly racial and political war of words at the taxpayers' expense."
The minority senators have expressed shock and disappointment at their $100,000 allotments, which they feel are meager compared with the majority's. Donastorg says he has decided to live with it and not waste any more time complaining.
Much more on the his mind is getting action on his legislation to reduce the V.I. Legislature from 15 to nine members, which was overwhelmingly mandated by the voters in a referendum in the November election.
"I have asked the Legislature's legal counsel in writing for a status report on the legislation and so far I've gotten no answer," he says. "I wrote to Liburd today, beseeching him not to ignore the people of the Virgin Islands.
"I have spent more than three years working on local and federal levels to ensure this important step is taken. It would save the V.I. government millions of dollars a year." Donastorg says he won't stand by while the matter is "buried, delayed or ignored."
The senator discusses other options for senate reform. Districting has been suggested, but, he says, it would have to be sub-districting between the two districts of St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix.
"It would require a lot of mapping the geographic layout, and we would have to ask FEMA for assistance to draw boundaries and avoid any overlap," he says. "I have no problem with the idea, but it would probably be prohibitively expensive."
Donastorg says the Board of Elections would have to have a diagram and map to determine who votes where so it doesn't become a legal issue. "Another alternative to enhance the process would be numbered seats, which would force the incumbents to run on their records and be accountable, but your chances of survival would be minimal," he says.
Donastorg says he has no objection to either system, but what he foresees ideally is a nine-member Legislature with each senator in charge of a committee, and with equal budgets for all. "Most of the battles in here," he says with a knowing nod, "come from senators feeling disenchanted or left out with no committees of their own."
And then there is the senator's favorite windmill, one he has been tilting at for more than four years with no visible success — a rate investigation by the Public Services Commission of the Virgin Islands Telephone Company, now Innovative Telephone, and reform of the PSC itself. Becoming instantly more animated, Donastorg states with passion: "The governor hasn't even filled vacancies in the PSC, let alone revitalize it, as he pledged when he was campaigning."
The senator thought he might be making headway last year when the governor suddenly removed Frandelle Gerard from her post as director of the Industrial Development Commission, which is in charge of Vitelco's benefits and employee records. But no dice. Donastorg had suggested getting rid of Gerard repeatedly before the governor took his own action.
Aside from the rate investigation, Donastorg has been demanding employment records from the IDC, which it has refused to disclose, in order to determine if Vitelco was putting employees from other Innovative businesses on its own payroll.
Asked whether Innovative would apply for IDC benefits for the entire company now that they are all under one umbrella, the senator says the new IDC beneficiary bill including banks and telecommunications would allow them to apply.
Since he first joined the 21st Legislature in 1994, Donastorg has chaired the Environmental Protection Committee, which is combined in this Legislature with the Government Operations committee, of which he is a member. He doesn't approve of the combination of committees.
"It's a move to put environmental concerns on the back burner," he says with feeling. "I have worked for years to bring environmental issues to the forefront. I developed the chronology in which the EPA based decisions on air pollution, water pollution, underground storage tanks. The antiquities bill was one of my initiatives. … I could go on and on."
"I don't want to malign my colleagues, it's been done enough," Donastorg says, "but I'm afraid I see a trend developing."
He stresses that "Your quality of life is based on clean air, clean water. Am I to assume that environmental issues aren't that important?"
One such issue of immediate concern is the proposed development of 365 acres at Botany Bay on the West End of St. Thomas by Atlantic Land Holdings. Committee Chairman Donald "Ducks" Cole has responded to Donastorg's request for a public hearing on the matter by suggesting Donastorg question Dean Plaskett, Department of Parks and Recreation commissioner, when he testifies at a March 7 hearing.
Donastorg is leery of the developers' plans for the area. He calls Botany Bay "one of the last pristine areas on St. Thomas." His earnestness is almost palpable as he describes the area: "It's a fragile and beautiful environment, a place for schoolchildren to come, a place where endangered sea turtles regularly lay eggs, where there are pre-Columbian artifacts, plantation ruins, rare birds, deer and plant life.
"We can't allow it to be cemented over — how many big hotels does this little island need?"
Though adamant in talking politics, the 38-year-old senator becomes almost shy when talking about his calypso persona, "The Mighty Foncie." However, a little coaxing draws him out. "We used to have a senators' calypso tent, and it kind of started there when some calypsonian friends decided I had a gift for it."
It hasn't hurt him politically, either. "Uh
-huh," he laughs, "when other senators or corporate citizens malign me, it's a creative way of answering back, neutralizing things."
One of his big, if not precisely neutral, hits on the CD he put out last year was "Political Prossertoot," a jab at colleagues he feels are under the sway of businessman Jeffrey Prosser. "It's even been played in Atlanta and Miami," he says with a grin.
So, will he be on stage at Carnival this year? He retreats again into the semi-shy smile, "If I'm asked, I might just go up on stage and fool around."
Donastorg says he has always been active in politics, of one sort or another, starting at Fullerton College in Southern California and continuing at the University of the Virgin Islands, where he got his feet wet in student organizations. After UVI, Donastorg served as a special assistant and researcher in the 16th, 17th and 18th Legislatures, and opened his own business, Carrier Medical Supplies, in 1993, which he left in other hands when he became a member of the 21st Legislature.
Donastorg has three school-age children and is married to the former Benedicta Acosta.
Though his staff has dwindled because of budgetary cuts, he still has loyal mainstays Nicole Bollentini, public relations officer, researcher Cordell Jacobs, Denisse Etienne, bilingual complaint officer, and occasional volunteers. Pictures of family and friends, boxing and baseball, dot the walls.
On leaving the senator's office, there's a feeling of good will in the small reception area manned by Etienne — but watch out for those windmills.

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Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg marches to the beat of a different drummer, but it's music to the ears of Virgin Islands voters who have made him the top vote-getter in the past two elections.
Whether standing alone in the Senate with virtually no support, repeatedly demanding a rate investigation of the V.I. Telephone Corp., or appealing to his colleagues to pass a bill increasing penalties for animal cruelty, Donastorg has an undeniable way about him.
He is not quite a modern-day Don Quixote, as his dreams are possible. But he has the same determination in fighting for his initiatives, political or environmental. And, as "The Mighty Foncie," he has a unique way of expressing his ideas. But more about that later.
He is the only senator in the 24th Legislature not aligned with the minority or majority blocs, and he doesn't plan to change that status.
"I am not taking or carrying around luggage, meaning some of the relationships from the past that have been carried over from one Legislature to another," the fourth-term senator says. "Ultimately we vote on every issue based on its merit -- it doesn't matter whether I am in the majority or minority. It's the issues that count."
However, Donastorg is not at all sanguine about the manner in which the 24th Legislature is shaping up. "I've always believed in equal budgets, and the majority knows this," he says. "They are imposing procedures to handicap you to where you don't have the ability to do anything. This is the worst I've seen."
Donastorg chooses his words carefully, leaning back in his leather chair. "The unfortunate part is that some of the same people that voted for (Senate President Almando "Rocky")Liburd voted for me, too. How do you explain to the people that you are going to make my resources so limited that I can't represent them to some reasonable extent? This regime lacks sensitivity and sensibility."
Donastorg wrote to Liburd about the now-infamous press conference with Sen. Adelbert Bryan and St. Croix radio personality Mario Moorhead. Donastorg asked Liburd to apologize to the public, calling the conference "an ugly racial and political war of words at the taxpayers' expense."
The minority senators have expressed shock and disappointment at their $100,000 allotments, which they feel are meager compared with the majority's. Donastorg says he has decided to live with it and not waste any more time complaining.
Much more on the his mind is getting action on his legislation to reduce the V.I. Legislature from 15 to nine members, which was overwhelmingly mandated by the voters in a referendum in the November election.
"I have asked the Legislature's legal counsel in writing for a status report on the legislation and so far I've gotten no answer," he says. "I wrote to Liburd today, beseeching him not to ignore the people of the Virgin Islands.
"I have spent more than three years working on local and federal levels to ensure this important step is taken. It would save the V.I. government millions of dollars a year." Donastorg says he won't stand by while the matter is "buried, delayed or ignored."
The senator discusses other options for senate reform. Districting has been suggested, but, he says, it would have to be sub-districting between the two districts of St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix.
"It would require a lot of mapping the geographic layout, and we would have to ask FEMA for assistance to draw boundaries and avoid any overlap," he says. "I have no problem with the idea, but it would probably be prohibitively expensive."
Donastorg says the Board of Elections would have to have a diagram and map to determine who votes where so it doesn't become a legal issue. "Another alternative to enhance the process would be numbered seats, which would force the incumbents to run on their records and be accountable, but your chances of survival would be minimal," he says.
Donastorg says he has no objection to either system, but what he foresees ideally is a nine-member Legislature with each senator in charge of a committee, and with equal budgets for all. "Most of the battles in here," he says with a knowing nod, "come from senators feeling disenchanted or left out with no committees of their own."
And then there is the senator's favorite windmill, one he has been tilting at for more than four years with no visible success -- a rate investigation by the Public Services Commission of the Virgin Islands Telephone Company, now Innovative Telephone, and reform of the PSC itself. Becoming instantly more animated, Donastorg states with passion: "The governor hasn't even filled vacancies in the PSC, let alone revitalize it, as he pledged when he was campaigning."
The senator thought he might be making headway last year when the governor suddenly removed Frandelle Gerard from her post as director of the Industrial Development Commission, which is in charge of Vitelco's benefits and employee records. But no dice. Donastorg had suggested getting rid of Gerard repeatedly before the governor took his own action.
Aside from the rate investigation, Donastorg has been demanding employment records from the IDC, which it has refused to disclose, in order to determine if Vitelco was putting employees from other Innovative businesses on its own payroll.
Asked whether Innovative would apply for IDC benefits for the entire company now that they are all under one umbrella, the senator says the new IDC beneficiary bill including banks and telecommunications would allow them to apply.
Since he first joined the 21st Legislature in 1994, Donastorg has chaired the Environmental Protection Committee, which is combined in this Legislature with the Government Operations committee, of which he is a member. He doesn't approve of the combination of committees.
"It's a move to put environmental concerns on the back burner," he says with feeling. "I have worked for years to bring environmental issues to the forefront. I developed the chronology in which the EPA based decisions on air pollution, water pollution, underground storage tanks. The antiquities bill was one of my initiatives. … I could go on and on."
"I don't want to malign my colleagues, it's been done enough," Donastorg says, "but I'm afraid I see a trend developing."
He stresses that "Your quality of life is based on clean air, clean water. Am I to assume that environmental issues aren't that important?"
One such issue of immediate concern is the proposed development of 365 acres at Botany Bay on the West End of St. Thomas by Atlantic Land Holdings. Committee Chairman Donald "Ducks" Cole has responded to Donastorg's request for a public hearing on the matter by suggesting Donastorg question Dean Plaskett, Department of Parks and Recreation commissioner, when he testifies at a March 7 hearing.
Donastorg is leery of the developers' plans for the area. He calls Botany Bay "one of the last pristine areas on St. Thomas." His earnestness is almost palpable as he describes the area: "It's a fragile and beautiful environment, a place for schoolchildren to come, a place where endangered sea turtles regularly lay eggs, where there are pre-Columbian artifacts, plantation ruins, rare birds, deer and plant life.
"We can't allow it to be cemented over -- how many big hotels does this little island need?"
Though adamant in talking politics, the 38-year-old senator becomes almost shy when talking about his calypso persona, "The Mighty Foncie." However, a little coaxing draws him out. "We used to have a senators' calypso tent, and it kind of started there when some calypsonian friends decided I had a gift for it."
It hasn't hurt him politically, either. "Uh -huh," he laughs, "when other senators or corporate citizens malign me, it's a creative way of answering back, neutralizing things."
One of his big, if not precisely neutral, hits on the CD he put out last year was "Political Prossertoot," a jab at colleagues he feels are under the sway of businessman Jeffrey Prosser. "It's even been played in Atlanta and Miami," he says with a grin.
So, will he be on stage at Carnival this year? He retreats again into the semi-shy smile, "If I'm asked, I might just go up on stage and fool around."
Donastorg says he has always been active in politics, of one sort or another, starting at Fullerton College in Southern California and continuing at the University of the Virgin Islands, where he got his feet wet in student organizations. After UVI, Donastorg served as a special assistant and researcher in the 16th, 17th and 18th Legislatures, and opened his own business, Carrier Medical Supplies, in 1993, which he left in other hands when he became a member of the 21st Legislature.
Donastorg has three school-age children and is married to the former Benedicta Acosta.
Though his staff has dwindled because of budgetary cuts, he still has loyal mainstays Nicole Bollentini, public relations officer, researcher Cordell Jacobs, Denisse Etienne, bilingual complaint officer, and occasional volunteers. Pictures of family and friends, boxing and baseball, dot the walls.
On leaving the senator's office, there's a feeling of good will in the small reception area manned by Etienne -- but watch out for those windmills.