An answer to Eric Roeske [see "More federal money won't solve V.I. problems" ]:
1. While I don't condone corruption, Mr. Roeske is hardly on some high horse from which to pontificate. I attribute most forms of political corruption in the Virgin Islands to behaviors learned from mainland political organizations. He speaks of the corruption going back 30 years and he is right — the rise of it directly coincides with the affiliation of local political parties with the national Democratic and Republican Parties.
Read Earle B. Ottley's "Trials And Triumphs" for a good historical perspective from someone who should have known. Further, we do not have any special or idiosyncratic form of corruption in the Virgin Islands; it is the same thing one sees in Milwaukee or Palatka, Fla. I dare say that New York City is the bastion of political corruption in the U.S.
2. I am not suggesting any solutions to the corruption problem other than vigorous prosecution to deter and punish it. In response to Mr. Roeske's contention that it will stop when people stop voting their self interests: Well, hello! It is a cornerstone of American representative government to vote your self interests. Isn't that what Congress does? Does not Sen. Jesse Helms block every tobacco bill in the Senate? Even though it is a known killer, tobacco also is the largest agricultural product of his home state. Senators and representatives do this daily. Wasn't Sen. John McCain reprimanded for the savings and loan scandals several years ago? How soon we forget — or hide our heads in the sand.
3. I agree there should be no bailout of the local businesses. This will teach us a lesson in economic diversification — something many local politicians have been espousing for years, but the tourism lobby (which, incidentally, is not controlled by Virgin Islanders) has continually prevailed.
4. I agree with him that responsibility for economic turn-around has been, is now and always should be a local one.
5. The Virgin Islands should undertake local initiatives such as sales taxes, increased service fees, attrition in some departments and probably elimination of some, local government in each district, expansion of the private sector beyond tourism into labor-intensive, non-polluting industries, contraction of the public sector, and more.
6. I agree with much of what Mr. Roeske is saying. However, I strongly disagree with his reasons for such. As for racism, or discrimination, that is rampant here on the mainland. Of course, it has taken on more subtle forms. The great state of North Carolina is now about to pass a redistricting plan that will effectively eliminate more than half of the minority representation in the General Assembly. Also, the City of Durham implemented a plan that has reduced its city council, but at the expense of two of the poorest districts in the city.
The Virgin Islands is a small place, and people tend to deal with people they know. This is a fact of life of small communities. I live in a small, church-owned university town, and it is a well-known fact that the president of the university runs the show — even to the point where university groups shy away from using the local bank because of allegations of siphoning of funds by the administration, which uses the same bank.
I find that the facts tell a different tale. Since 1969, the Virgin Islands has elected or appointed the following persons to office: Lt. Gov. David E. Maas (white), Delegate Ron de Lugo (white), Sen. Lorraine Berry (white), Sen. Holland Redfield (white), Sen. Bent Lawaetz (white), Sen. Brit Bryant (white), Sen./Lt. Gov./Gov. Juan Luis (Puerto Rican), Sen. David Jones (Dominican), Sen. St. Clair Williams (non-native), not to mention the first female leader of a legislature, Senate President Ruby M. Rouss, and numerous other females and non-natives. This is not an exhaustive list.
I think, despite our shortcomings, we have been a very pluralistic society. Too often, when someone sees a problem or encounters a difficulty, it is directly attributed to local prejudice, without even investigating the real causes. The mainland does not have a monopoly on efficient government, and we should not assume such; rather, we should look at what we are doing wrong for our citizens and correct it so that we can effectively serve.
Harnett County, North Carolina
DISCRIMINATION ISN'T THE BE-ALL FOR BLAME
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