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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, August 18, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesIF THE PEOPLE DO NOTHING, NOTHING WILL CHANGE

IF THE PEOPLE DO NOTHING, NOTHING WILL CHANGE

Bitter complaints – even rage – have erupted over the governor's Christmas gift to himself and the members of the soon-to-be 25th Legislature.
We are surprised that the electorate is surprised. This is typical lame-duck behavior, and we had ample warning that the governor and senators were just itching to raise their own pay.
In fact, Turnbull would have given himself and his lieutenant governor these same raises months ago – and the majority of senators would have happily gone along – if someone more politically astute had not warned them against doing this so close to the election.
So, with the votes barely certified but feeling secure in the knowledge that the electorate has a very short memory, our public servants moved boldly and rewarded themselves for jobs not done. This on the heels of a warning from Turnbull's own Finance commissioner that the government is in deep financial trouble.
But that's the way business is done in the Virgin Islands. Fiscal reality is never allowed to get in the way of taking care of No. 1. Never mind the other priorities: basic supplies for schools, hospitals and police, assistance for a crumbling infrastructure, the need to hire more police officers and social workers, that kind of thing. And never mind the other problems facing this territory: the loss of school accreditation, rampant corruption, widespread crime and total lack of accountability as recently noted by David Cohen, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior Department. Raises for our elected officials come first, in their view of our fiscal priorities.
This time, however, a large swath of the electorate is outraged by the sheer magnitude of the pay increases and the post-election timing of implementing them. The question is, will anyone do anything about it?
Several community groups are threatening a recall, which is within the rights of the people as stated in the Organic Act: "A recall election may be initiated by a two-thirds vote of the members of the Legislature or by a petition…."
It is unlikely the newly elected Legislature, whose members will now make $85,000 plus innumerable perks, will lead the charge for a recall.
And recall is not easy. It is complicated and time-consuming. But it is the right of the people to recall their public officials if they believe they lack the fitness for the position, are incompetent, have neglected their duties or are corrupt.
Another option would be to initiate a rollback of the just-approved salaries. This too would not be easy, as several groups discovered earlier this year when they tried to get enough signatures for an initiative to put numbered Senate seats on the ballot.
But instead of complaining, grumbling and eventually going back to business as usual, we hope the people of the Virgin Islands will act upon their outrage in a way that brings results, instead of more apathy, disenfranchisement and cynicism.
It is the right of the people to demand honesty, responsibility and accountability from their public servants – repeat, public servants. These officials work for the people, not the other way around, but it's hard to prove that, given the reality of life and politics in the Virgin Islands.
Will this time be different? We hope so.

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Bitter complaints - even rage - have erupted over the governor's Christmas gift to himself and the members of the soon-to-be 25th Legislature.
We are surprised that the electorate is surprised. This is typical lame-duck behavior, and we had ample warning that the governor and senators were just itching to raise their own pay.
In fact, Turnbull would have given himself and his lieutenant governor these same raises months ago - and the majority of senators would have happily gone along - if someone more politically astute had not warned them against doing this so close to the election.
So, with the votes barely certified but feeling secure in the knowledge that the electorate has a very short memory, our public servants moved boldly and rewarded themselves for jobs not done. This on the heels of a warning from Turnbull's own Finance commissioner that the government is in deep financial trouble.
But that's the way business is done in the Virgin Islands. Fiscal reality is never allowed to get in the way of taking care of No. 1. Never mind the other priorities: basic supplies for schools, hospitals and police, assistance for a crumbling infrastructure, the need to hire more police officers and social workers, that kind of thing. And never mind the other problems facing this territory: the loss of school accreditation, rampant corruption, widespread crime and total lack of accountability as recently noted by David Cohen, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior Department. Raises for our elected officials come first, in their view of our fiscal priorities.
This time, however, a large swath of the electorate is outraged by the sheer magnitude of the pay increases and the post-election timing of implementing them. The question is, will anyone do anything about it?
Several community groups are threatening a recall, which is within the rights of the people as stated in the Organic Act: "A recall election may be initiated by a two-thirds vote of the members of the Legislature or by a petition...."
It is unlikely the newly elected Legislature, whose members will now make $85,000 plus innumerable perks, will lead the charge for a recall.
And recall is not easy. It is complicated and time-consuming. But it is the right of the people to recall their public officials if they believe they lack the fitness for the position, are incompetent, have neglected their duties or are corrupt.
Another option would be to initiate a rollback of the just-approved salaries. This too would not be easy, as several groups discovered earlier this year when they tried to get enough signatures for an initiative to put numbered Senate seats on the ballot.
But instead of complaining, grumbling and eventually going back to business as usual, we hope the people of the Virgin Islands will act upon their outrage in a way that brings results, instead of more apathy, disenfranchisement and cynicism.
It is the right of the people to demand honesty, responsibility and accountability from their public servants - repeat, public servants. These officials work for the people, not the other way around, but it's hard to prove that, given the reality of life and politics in the Virgin Islands.
Will this time be different? We hope so.