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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSEKOU RESPONDS TO SOURCE SENATE FORUM

SEKOU RESPONDS TO SOURCE SENATE FORUM

1. How important is a comprehensive land and water use plan, and why has the territory been unable in more than 20 years of effort to enact one? What will it take to change this, and what, if anything, will you do bring about such change?
In the second term of the Farrelly-Hodge Administration, a comprehensive land and water use plan was being finalized. It was an exhaustive process, and perhaps one of the best plans derived in the Virgin Islands. As the new Schneider-Mapp Administration took office, the proposal was not acted upon by the new administration. Even more, the 21st and 22nd Legislatures did not attempt to adopt what quickly became a relic of the Farrelly-Hodge era. Unfortunately, our political leaders were not mature enough to adopt a proposal that a rival grouping had developed. As a Senator, I would retrieve this same plan and seek to adapt it to our new realities. Political leaders must have political will, and they must cultivate consensus even with those they disagree.
2. How important is private and public sector partnering, and how can such partnering best be accomplished in order to be most effective in addressing economic and social problems in the territory?
In every society, the best practices of governance are based on private and public sector partnering. The fundamental problems of our public sector are tied to the lack of confidence and respect for elected officials. Frankly, it is justified that many private sector leaders hold more than a handful of our elected officials in contempt. Instead of leading by example, our elected officials uphold the old adage –"do as I say not as I do." We are in a new millennium, we need new leadership. I propose an Ethics Commission that would investigate everyone and restore public and private confidence in our political leadership.
3. What are the biggest problems in the public education system, and what will it take to solve them? What will you do toward getting them solved?
As an educator myself, I see the need for a massive restructuring of our public education system. We will never quite de-politicize the public education system, but we can minimize the endemic spoils system and patronage that have been hogtying our schools. Similar to 70 percent of the school districts on the Mainland, the Board of Education needs to run the public education system. The Board should get governance in phases over a four-year period (perhaps as long as 10 years). The new Board would be mainly an elected body with a minority of appointed members, and it would be responsible for the hiring of the Superintendent and key administrative personnel. It would be tasked with oversight of the physical plant, curriculum, personnel, funding, and major public policies on public education. The new Board would be accountable and responsive to the Community not a governor.
4. How do you feel about floating future bonds to finance government initiatives, given the territory's present bond indebtedness of more than $1 billion? What will you do to persuade others of your views?
We need a provisional moratorium on new bonds! As noted, an Ethics Commission is needed immediately. The bond schemes of the past 10 years will have to be investigated for malfeasance and gross neglect. If they pass muster and our problems are not criminal but simply foolhardy, it is time for a mass public education. I am one of the Candidates who have great experience in mass education, and I will educate the public on the need to end more bonds to avoid fiscal bondage.
5. What is the most viable solution to the territory's solid waste disposal problems? What will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
The solid waste disposal problems are tied to our consumer mentality. We will have to adopt a multi-pronged approach. First, we need to seriously encourage recycling and develop a mass campaign to do this. (Well over 80 percent of the solid waste in our landfills can be recycled). Second, we will have to immediately find new landfills. Our surrounding cays should be reviewed as possible sites. As mentioned before, mass education is important, and in this area, I would be intimately involved in a campaign to recycle and renew our Islands.

6. What is the most viable solution to the territory's sewage disposal problems? What will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
Besides expanding sewage treatment plants, I would revisit the "green" proposals that allow biodegradable recycling. In some States, sewage is filtered into manmade lagoons which mimic the filtration process of mangrove lagoons and salt ponds. These manmade lagoons become wild life sanctuaries, and they are compatible with sensitive coral ecosystems. Mass education is important. Elected leaders must educate the people whom they serve.
7. How do you assess the economy of the Virgin Islands at this time, and what do you see as its best hope for growth? What will you do to foster that growth?
The Virgin Islands economy is uneven. In St. Thomas, St. John, and Water Island, the Cruise Ship industry has allowed us to remain afloat. However, in St. Croix, we have serious problems. There is no political will or consensus on how to develop St. Croix. The political elites who have led this community for the past 20 years have not been able to develop a common approach. They are riddled with pettiness, fragmentation, immediatism, and insularism. We need new leaders to confront old problems. The ideas for economic renewal are already well known, but the present leaders have too much personal animus toward each other. And as the Greeks say, they must bury the corpse of history. Only new leaders can do this.
8. How pervasive is corruption within the local government, and how should this problem, if you consider it to be a problem, best be addressed?
Corruption has become a part of our political culture. The only way to contain or even eliminate it is through the creation of an Ethics Commission. This body would be autonomous and improve public ethics and morality. It is most telling that we have never had one.
9. What is the most viable solution to Government Employees Retirement System payouts exceeding revenues, and what will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
We would have to develop several layers/tiers that separate the benefit packages of public sector employees. We would have to adjust the payment schedule in order to allow adequate funding for public sector employees. The appropriate amounts of funding would be based on the expert advice of the professional staff at the GERS. I would advance a "fast track" legislation that prioritizes funding for the GERS and prohibits any tinkering with the system.
10. What is the most viable solution to government spending exceeding revenues, and what will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
Legislators and other public sector leaders must increase revenue collection and eradicate waste simultaneously. The public sector will have to be reduced steadily over the next 10 years so that public sector employees would be less than 20 percent of the workforce. To compensate for public sector reduction, an aggressive expansion of high income jobs in the private sector is critical. Both must occur at the same time. As a Senator, I would actively work with an "over ride" majority which will seek new investors for the Territory.
11. How do alignments between majority and minority blocs in the Legislature and adversarial relationships between the legislative and executive branches of government serve the best interests of the people of the Virgin Islands?
As mentioned in my brochure, majority and minority blocs will have to be eliminated for the present period as we reform our political system. Theoretically, majority-minority divisions are tied to partisan alignments. However, our majority-minority blocs are based solely on personality and fundin
g. They are not tied to ideology or platform. Thus, I would propose to abolish them for the meantime.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.

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1. How important is a comprehensive land and water use plan, and why has the territory been unable in more than 20 years of effort to enact one? What will it take to change this, and what, if anything, will you do bring about such change?
In the second term of the Farrelly-Hodge Administration, a comprehensive land and water use plan was being finalized. It was an exhaustive process, and perhaps one of the best plans derived in the Virgin Islands. As the new Schneider-Mapp Administration took office, the proposal was not acted upon by the new administration. Even more, the 21st and 22nd Legislatures did not attempt to adopt what quickly became a relic of the Farrelly-Hodge era. Unfortunately, our political leaders were not mature enough to adopt a proposal that a rival grouping had developed. As a Senator, I would retrieve this same plan and seek to adapt it to our new realities. Political leaders must have political will, and they must cultivate consensus even with those they disagree.
2. How important is private and public sector partnering, and how can such partnering best be accomplished in order to be most effective in addressing economic and social problems in the territory?
In every society, the best practices of governance are based on private and public sector partnering. The fundamental problems of our public sector are tied to the lack of confidence and respect for elected officials. Frankly, it is justified that many private sector leaders hold more than a handful of our elected officials in contempt. Instead of leading by example, our elected officials uphold the old adage –"do as I say not as I do." We are in a new millennium, we need new leadership. I propose an Ethics Commission that would investigate everyone and restore public and private confidence in our political leadership.
3. What are the biggest problems in the public education system, and what will it take to solve them? What will you do toward getting them solved?
As an educator myself, I see the need for a massive restructuring of our public education system. We will never quite de-politicize the public education system, but we can minimize the endemic spoils system and patronage that have been hogtying our schools. Similar to 70 percent of the school districts on the Mainland, the Board of Education needs to run the public education system. The Board should get governance in phases over a four-year period (perhaps as long as 10 years). The new Board would be mainly an elected body with a minority of appointed members, and it would be responsible for the hiring of the Superintendent and key administrative personnel. It would be tasked with oversight of the physical plant, curriculum, personnel, funding, and major public policies on public education. The new Board would be accountable and responsive to the Community not a governor.
4. How do you feel about floating future bonds to finance government initiatives, given the territory's present bond indebtedness of more than $1 billion? What will you do to persuade others of your views?
We need a provisional moratorium on new bonds! As noted, an Ethics Commission is needed immediately. The bond schemes of the past 10 years will have to be investigated for malfeasance and gross neglect. If they pass muster and our problems are not criminal but simply foolhardy, it is time for a mass public education. I am one of the Candidates who have great experience in mass education, and I will educate the public on the need to end more bonds to avoid fiscal bondage.
5. What is the most viable solution to the territory's solid waste disposal problems? What will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
The solid waste disposal problems are tied to our consumer mentality. We will have to adopt a multi-pronged approach. First, we need to seriously encourage recycling and develop a mass campaign to do this. (Well over 80 percent of the solid waste in our landfills can be recycled). Second, we will have to immediately find new landfills. Our surrounding cays should be reviewed as possible sites. As mentioned before, mass education is important, and in this area, I would be intimately involved in a campaign to recycle and renew our Islands.

6. What is the most viable solution to the territory's sewage disposal problems? What will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
Besides expanding sewage treatment plants, I would revisit the "green" proposals that allow biodegradable recycling. In some States, sewage is filtered into manmade lagoons which mimic the filtration process of mangrove lagoons and salt ponds. These manmade lagoons become wild life sanctuaries, and they are compatible with sensitive coral ecosystems. Mass education is important. Elected leaders must educate the people whom they serve.
7. How do you assess the economy of the Virgin Islands at this time, and what do you see as its best hope for growth? What will you do to foster that growth?
The Virgin Islands economy is uneven. In St. Thomas, St. John, and Water Island, the Cruise Ship industry has allowed us to remain afloat. However, in St. Croix, we have serious problems. There is no political will or consensus on how to develop St. Croix. The political elites who have led this community for the past 20 years have not been able to develop a common approach. They are riddled with pettiness, fragmentation, immediatism, and insularism. We need new leaders to confront old problems. The ideas for economic renewal are already well known, but the present leaders have too much personal animus toward each other. And as the Greeks say, they must bury the corpse of history. Only new leaders can do this.
8. How pervasive is corruption within the local government, and how should this problem, if you consider it to be a problem, best be addressed?
Corruption has become a part of our political culture. The only way to contain or even eliminate it is through the creation of an Ethics Commission. This body would be autonomous and improve public ethics and morality. It is most telling that we have never had one.
9. What is the most viable solution to Government Employees Retirement System payouts exceeding revenues, and what will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
We would have to develop several layers/tiers that separate the benefit packages of public sector employees. We would have to adjust the payment schedule in order to allow adequate funding for public sector employees. The appropriate amounts of funding would be based on the expert advice of the professional staff at the GERS. I would advance a "fast track" legislation that prioritizes funding for the GERS and prohibits any tinkering with the system.
10. What is the most viable solution to government spending exceeding revenues, and what will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
Legislators and other public sector leaders must increase revenue collection and eradicate waste simultaneously. The public sector will have to be reduced steadily over the next 10 years so that public sector employees would be less than 20 percent of the workforce. To compensate for public sector reduction, an aggressive expansion of high income jobs in the private sector is critical. Both must occur at the same time. As a Senator, I would actively work with an "over ride" majority which will seek new investors for the Territory.
11. How do alignments between majority and minority blocs in the Legislature and adversarial relationships between the legislative and executive branches of government serve the best interests of the people of the Virgin Islands?
As mentioned in my brochure, majority and minority blocs will have to be eliminated for the present period as we reform our political system. Theoretically, majority-minority divisions are tied to partisan alignments. However, our majority-minority blocs are based solely on personality and fundin g. They are not tied to ideology or platform. Thus, I would propose to abolish them for the meantime.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.