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HomeNewsArchivesCOLE: SENATE LIFER TACKLES TOUGH ISSUES

COLE: SENATE LIFER TACKLES TOUGH ISSUES

Three nameplates on his desk perhaps say it all: Donald "Ducks" Cole, "Appreciation from the class of 1977"; Donald "Ducks" Cole, "Chief Researcher/Archivist"; and the current one, "Senator Donald 'Ducks' Cole."
The class of 1977 is from his graduating class at Charlotte Amalie High School for his dedication to school affairs, foremost of which is his dedication to the CAHS "Chickenhawks," the school's tackle football team. "If you cut me, I bleed 'Chickenhawks'," he says.
There are three helmets on the wall from each of the island's three teams: CAHS, Ivanna Eudora Kean and a team composed of the private and parochial schools. The schools' jerseys are hanging on a clothes tree, awaiting placement under the blue, orange and white helmets.
Cole has frequently pleaded on the Senate floor for the "Chickenhawks" team needs, including field lighting, uniforms and equipment. He is currently trying to replace equipment destroyed by a fire in the CAHS field house last year.
Whether it's the Chickenhawks, the newly designated national monuments or solid waste issues, Cole is an impassioned speaker on the floor, perhaps more so now that he has his own committee. He chairs the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee.
He sees no conflict in combining the committees, both of which he served on last term when the committees were separate. "The environmental agencies are under government operations, so there's no conflict there," he says.
Cole honed his leadership skills early on, as the oldest of 11 children, each two years apart. "We moved to St. Thomas from Nevis when I was 2," Cole said, "and as I got older, I became the 'guy of the house.' I had to help mom take care of the kids, and I had to set an example for everybody else to follow."
The second-term senator has spent almost half his 43 years in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, starting as a summer legal intern when he was 19 years old. He quickly became the Legislature's adopted "guy of the house" in the 13th Legislature under the regime of Elmo Roebuck, whom he credits with giving him his first chance in the green building.
Cole learned well with excellent tutelage from a number of mentors, starting with Hal Hatfield, Mike Marden and Lydia Boynes ("I want you to put her name in there"), in the office of the Legislative Legal Counsel. Cole occasionally enjoys himself on the Senate floor today paying back his old mentor Hatfield, now a newspaper reporter, with a friendly jibe here and there.
"Hal showed me how the Legislature operated. The legal counsel's office is the hub of the Legislature; everything goes through there," Cole reflects. "I'd go to school and learn about Machiavelli and political theory, then in the summers I'd see how things actually worked. I was exposed to the reality of it."
Speaking of reality, Cole also came under the aegis of the late and frequently outspoken Sen. Ruby Rouss, president of the 14th and 17th Legislatures. "I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Ruby Margaret Rouss," Cole says. "Whenever I came home for the summer, I had a job. She nurtured me — I called her 'Nana'."
Another of Cole's Senate heroes was Lloyd Williams. "As a student of political science, I admired him on the floor because of the in-depth research he did." Today on the floor, Cole often states, "Let the facts be your friend."
In 1982 Cole graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor of science degree in political science, but he always had a yen for law. "I took pre-law," he says, "and that was what I wanted. My grandmother in Nevis and my mother always wanted me to be a lawyer." But funding was a problem and the Senate beckoned.
"That legal fever still burns," Cole says. "Maybe I could finish my degree someday. My mom would like that," he adds with a slight smile.
The good-natured Cole smiles a lot, on and off the Senate floor. But he doesn't smile when he is pursuing an issue. He is centered. His committee has held public hearings recently on waste management strategies that are being (or not being) implemented to address the solid waste and sewage crises.
Because of the threat that scavenging birds and frequent dump fires pose to aircraft using the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, the FAA has ordered the Anguilla Landfill closed by December 2002. But, in order to close the landfill a new waste facility must be constructed to dispose of the 150,000 or so tons of garbage produced each year in the territory.
The territory stands to lose millions of dollars in FAA funds if the deadline is not met. Failure to comply, says Cole, could result in the territory having to repay $10.7 million to the FAA for construction of the St. Croix airport, and preclude the availability of future funding.
Cole agrees with Gordon Finch, V.I. Port Authority executive director, who said Wednesday that work on a waste facility is months behind schedule and at this rate will never make the deadline. Cole says the Turnbull administration agreed in writing two years ago to stop taking waste at the landfill, but no action has been taken.
"Several questions were avoided at the hearings," says Cole. "Virgin Islanders still don't know what types of waste will be processed, industrial, toxic, as well as the usual municipal waste."
Wayne Callwood, Public Works commissioner, suggested barging St. Croix's waste to St. Thomas's Bovoni landfill, Cole says, but the Bovoni landfill is out of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency. "I've even written to Greenpeace for information," Cole says. "They know everything."
Cole has a video presentation from the company that has won the contract to do the project, Thermoselect, of Pennsylvania. "But no one knows what's going on," Cole says. Absent is a comprehensive waste plan from the executive branch and "without that, the Legislature is in the dark."
Cole is equally passionate about the designation by the federal government of submerged land near St. John and St. Croix as national monuments. The Senate passed a bill last week expressing the Legislature's and the people of the Virgin Islands' objection to the federal measure. The Senate contends these lands are V.I. property.
At the time, Cole declared, "We had property that was taken by an act of imperialism. It's the big fish trying to eat up the little fish. We will hand-deliver this to the powers-that-be in Congress."
Cole has correspondence from Rep. James V. Hansen (R-Utah), chairman of the House Resource Committee, on his desk. Hansen told Cole he is investigating the matter.
"We will probably file a claim against the federal government, or even protest and allow ourselves to be locked up," he says, "I may become a part of that action."
He says, "The federal government has to prove that property belongs to them. It doesn't."
Cole says his proudest accomplishments in the 23rd Legislature were the passage of the Public Employees Voluntary Separation Act, a long and controversial procedure, which he authored with Sens. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and David Jones, and the Financial Accountability Act, which puts restraints on government spending.
Cole takes a very candid view of the Legislature: "The biggest problem we have in the V.I. is we give away the authority that was given us under the 1954 Organic Act, as amended. We pass a budget out of balance and then give away our authority to the executive branch. We abdicate our responsibility because we don't want to make the tough, the unpopular, decisions, and then we blame the executive branch when things go wrong."
Competing for attention in Cole's
colorful office among framed awards, golf trophies and family pictures is a duck — a blue and yellow stuffed one, the real McCoy, or Donald, as the case may be. (It's a gift from the Rotary Club.)
"OK," he smiles his slow smile, "It started in grammar school." The kids would always make fun of him, Cole says, as only kids can do. They would point and follow him around, going, "Quack, quack."
The senator does a remarkably good duck imitation, flapping his arms and making an indescribable but definitely duck-like sound. It must come with experience.
"I'd say 'I am no duck', " Cole says. Finally he told his father about it. His father simply said, "Accept it." So I did, Cole says.
"I even added the 'S' for sensitivity or sweetness," he says. It's served him well, and "Ducks" it is.
Another abiding concern of Cole, and most of the senators spoken to, is the unfortunate status of the territory's youth. "When I was a kid, we'd play marbles," he says. "Now it's all TV and guns. There's no nuclear family anymore. We need constant vigilance, more discipline at home, we need the church to be more in the family."
Cole and calypsonian Mighty Potter wrote "Spend Time with your Children." "If you don't, someone else will," the song cautions.
What would be an ideal Virgin Islands? Cole is quick to answer.
"A return to the values and ideas that permeated the '50s and the '60s, when we all looked out for each other and each other's children," he says. "If only we could recapture those days."

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Three nameplates on his desk perhaps say it all: Donald "Ducks" Cole, "Appreciation from the class of 1977"; Donald "Ducks" Cole, "Chief Researcher/Archivist"; and the current one, "Senator Donald 'Ducks' Cole."
The class of 1977 is from his graduating class at Charlotte Amalie High School for his dedication to school affairs, foremost of which is his dedication to the CAHS "Chickenhawks," the school's tackle football team. "If you cut me, I bleed 'Chickenhawks'," he says.
There are three helmets on the wall from each of the island's three teams: CAHS, Ivanna Eudora Kean and a team composed of the private and parochial schools. The schools' jerseys are hanging on a clothes tree, awaiting placement under the blue, orange and white helmets.
Cole has frequently pleaded on the Senate floor for the "Chickenhawks" team needs, including field lighting, uniforms and equipment. He is currently trying to replace equipment destroyed by a fire in the CAHS field house last year.
Whether it's the Chickenhawks, the newly designated national monuments or solid waste issues, Cole is an impassioned speaker on the floor, perhaps more so now that he has his own committee. He chairs the Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee.
He sees no conflict in combining the committees, both of which he served on last term when the committees were separate. "The environmental agencies are under government operations, so there's no conflict there," he says.
Cole honed his leadership skills early on, as the oldest of 11 children, each two years apart. "We moved to St. Thomas from Nevis when I was 2," Cole said, "and as I got older, I became the 'guy of the house.' I had to help mom take care of the kids, and I had to set an example for everybody else to follow."
The second-term senator has spent almost half his 43 years in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, starting as a summer legal intern when he was 19 years old. He quickly became the Legislature's adopted "guy of the house" in the 13th Legislature under the regime of Elmo Roebuck, whom he credits with giving him his first chance in the green building.
Cole learned well with excellent tutelage from a number of mentors, starting with Hal Hatfield, Mike Marden and Lydia Boynes ("I want you to put her name in there"), in the office of the Legislative Legal Counsel. Cole occasionally enjoys himself on the Senate floor today paying back his old mentor Hatfield, now a newspaper reporter, with a friendly jibe here and there.
"Hal showed me how the Legislature operated. The legal counsel's office is the hub of the Legislature; everything goes through there," Cole reflects. "I'd go to school and learn about Machiavelli and political theory, then in the summers I'd see how things actually worked. I was exposed to the reality of it."
Speaking of reality, Cole also came under the aegis of the late and frequently outspoken Sen. Ruby Rouss, president of the 14th and 17th Legislatures. "I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Ruby Margaret Rouss," Cole says. "Whenever I came home for the summer, I had a job. She nurtured me -- I called her 'Nana'."
Another of Cole's Senate heroes was Lloyd Williams. "As a student of political science, I admired him on the floor because of the in-depth research he did." Today on the floor, Cole often states, "Let the facts be your friend."
In 1982 Cole graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor of science degree in political science, but he always had a yen for law. "I took pre-law," he says, "and that was what I wanted. My grandmother in Nevis and my mother always wanted me to be a lawyer." But funding was a problem and the Senate beckoned.
"That legal fever still burns," Cole says. "Maybe I could finish my degree someday. My mom would like that," he adds with a slight smile.
The good-natured Cole smiles a lot, on and off the Senate floor. But he doesn't smile when he is pursuing an issue. He is centered. His committee has held public hearings recently on waste management strategies that are being (or not being) implemented to address the solid waste and sewage crises.
Because of the threat that scavenging birds and frequent dump fires pose to aircraft using the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, the FAA has ordered the Anguilla Landfill closed by December 2002. But, in order to close the landfill a new waste facility must be constructed to dispose of the 150,000 or so tons of garbage produced each year in the territory.
The territory stands to lose millions of dollars in FAA funds if the deadline is not met. Failure to comply, says Cole, could result in the territory having to repay $10.7 million to the FAA for construction of the St. Croix airport, and preclude the availability of future funding.
Cole agrees with Gordon Finch, V.I. Port Authority executive director, who said Wednesday that work on a waste facility is months behind schedule and at this rate will never make the deadline. Cole says the Turnbull administration agreed in writing two years ago to stop taking waste at the landfill, but no action has been taken.
"Several questions were avoided at the hearings," says Cole. "Virgin Islanders still don't know what types of waste will be processed, industrial, toxic, as well as the usual municipal waste."
Wayne Callwood, Public Works commissioner, suggested barging St. Croix's waste to St. Thomas's Bovoni landfill, Cole says, but the Bovoni landfill is out of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency. "I've even written to Greenpeace for information," Cole says. "They know everything."
Cole has a video presentation from the company that has won the contract to do the project, Thermoselect, of Pennsylvania. "But no one knows what's going on," Cole says. Absent is a comprehensive waste plan from the executive branch and "without that, the Legislature is in the dark."
Cole is equally passionate about the designation by the federal government of submerged land near St. John and St. Croix as national monuments. The Senate passed a bill last week expressing the Legislature's and the people of the Virgin Islands' objection to the federal measure. The Senate contends these lands are V.I. property.
At the time, Cole declared, "We had property that was taken by an act of imperialism. It's the big fish trying to eat up the little fish. We will hand-deliver this to the powers-that-be in Congress."
Cole has correspondence from Rep. James V. Hansen (R-Utah), chairman of the House Resource Committee, on his desk. Hansen told Cole he is investigating the matter.
"We will probably file a claim against the federal government, or even protest and allow ourselves to be locked up," he says, "I may become a part of that action."
He says, "The federal government has to prove that property belongs to them. It doesn't."
Cole says his proudest accomplishments in the 23rd Legislature were the passage of the Public Employees Voluntary Separation Act, a long and controversial procedure, which he authored with Sens. Almando "Rocky" Liburd and David Jones, and the Financial Accountability Act, which puts restraints on government spending.
Cole takes a very candid view of the Legislature: "The biggest problem we have in the V.I. is we give away the authority that was given us under the 1954 Organic Act, as amended. We pass a budget out of balance and then give away our authority to the executive branch. We abdicate our responsibility because we don't want to make the tough, the unpopular, decisions, and then we blame the executive branch when things go wrong."
Competing for attention in Cole's colorful office among framed awards, golf trophies and family pictures is a duck -- a blue and yellow stuffed one, the real McCoy, or Donald, as the case may be. (It's a gift from the Rotary Club.)
"OK," he smiles his slow smile, "It started in grammar school." The kids would always make fun of him, Cole says, as only kids can do. They would point and follow him around, going, "Quack, quack."
The senator does a remarkably good duck imitation, flapping his arms and making an indescribable but definitely duck-like sound. It must come with experience.
"I'd say 'I am no duck', " Cole says. Finally he told his father about it. His father simply said, "Accept it." So I did, Cole says.
"I even added the 'S' for sensitivity or sweetness," he says. It's served him well, and "Ducks" it is.
Another abiding concern of Cole, and most of the senators spoken to, is the unfortunate status of the territory's youth. "When I was a kid, we'd play marbles," he says. "Now it's all TV and guns. There's no nuclear family anymore. We need constant vigilance, more discipline at home, we need the church to be more in the family."
Cole and calypsonian Mighty Potter wrote "Spend Time with your Children." "If you don't, someone else will," the song cautions.
What would be an ideal Virgin Islands? Cole is quick to answer.
"A return to the values and ideas that permeated the '50s and the '60s, when we all looked out for each other and each other's children," he says. "If only we could recapture those days."