In response to Frank Schneiger's Op-ed piece "Make year of few tourists a year of change", the following questions come to mind:
1. Why is Mr. Schneiger's timeline for the decline of the Virgin Islands only going back 10 years? Any one who has lived in the Virgin Islands in the last 30 years can tell you that there have always been economic, social and political problems. As far as I can tell, all of these problems have been self-inflicted. From crooked government officials to racism toward anyone who wasn't born there, these problems existed long before 10 years ago, and probably longer than 30 years ago.
2. Why are not some of the solutions to these maladies within the control of the Virgin Island people? Are you, Mr. Schneiger, saying that Virgin Islands people are not capable of controlling their own destiny? The private sector has always had better, more effective ideas than the government, although most times when the private sector wants to effect change, many of the attempts are thwarted by government officials who seem to be jealous that they did not conceive of a good plan for attacking problems of the community. This is the way things have operated forever. The only way to stop this behavior is to end the electing of people who have only their own future and self-interests in mind. Will this ever happen?
3. Since when has the federal government been in the business of financing companies that are nonessential to the everyday life of its citizens? I can see helping airlines, utilities and some very large companies that the entire community relies upon for its very existence. But jewelry, liquor, and perfume shops? Give me a break. Stand on your own two feet for a change! Many small and large companies on the U.S. mainland are suffering as well! They are either closing or suffering through this period in the best way they can.
4. Why should the federal government get into the business of improving properties in the Virgin Islands? Especially if these properties have not been maintained in years? Why haven't these properties been kept in an upgraded condition all along? The responsibility for these projects should lie on the shoulders of the people of the Virgin Islands, not the federal government. Why have these projects suddenly become so important?
5. Mr. Schneiger writes, "It's time for both the federal government and local business and civic leaders to step up to the challenge, the feds with money and the private sector with planning, commitment and organization." I agree somewhat with this statement. Local business and civic leaders stepping up to the challenge is a good start. Why, though, is it time for the federal government to step up to the challenge? Has the United States government not bailed the Virgin Islands out many, many times? Has the Virgin Islands always paid loans back in a timely manner? Never, as far as I can see from the track record! One excuse or another is always available, and I for one want to stop throwing good money after bad.
The Virgin Islands has never had to prove it could stand fiscally on its own. Now would be an excellent time to start. The mainland United States is going through the same economic problems, and I have no doubt that we will overcome the adversity, even though there will be many casualties of the current recession. Just think of the pride that would be generated by doing the same thing in the Virgin Islands.
Eric K. Roeske
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