Our government is in need of reform. That fact could be considered self-evident to those of us who rely on government services in one way or another, which includes all residents, minors and adults.
It is the legal right and responsibility of the adult population to select and elect competent individuals to represent them in government. It is the responsibility of the adult population to demand good and efficient service from all public servants, both elected and appointed. When the adult population fails to exercise that responsibility, it not only fails itself but also fails the minors in the community. Our democratic form of government requires active participation of the governed in the political process for it to be successful as a democracy.
Apathy on the part of adults in the community weakens democracy; as it turns into cynicism, it endangers the very core of democracy. Corruption and other social evils strive in a community where the adults abdicate their responsibility. Are we not experiencing those evils in our society? Do we not have a high crime rate that includes public corruption, murder, robbery, burglary and rape in our community?
What is the adult population doing to correct the anomalies referred to herein, other than complaining to each other on radio shows and in opinion columns.
What can citizens do, you may ask? When last did you attend a public hearing or protest to an elected representative or the head of a government agency for the poor services you have received? When was the last time a public official was taken to court for neglect of duty or for malfeasance? Do you join with your neighbors to develop strategies to address problems in your neighborhood? Do you consider yourself a responsible adult, a good citizen? Why do some people get what they fight for and you do not?
Responsible adults are good citizens. Good parents are good citizens. Good citizens participate in their government and set good examples for the youth of the community. Good parents educate their offspring to be law-abiding and work with others to improve their community for their children's benefit. Parental neglect is a crime, but it is not being giving much importance in the community. Adult delinquency fosters juvenile delinquency. If we are serious in containing and reducing juvenile delinquency, we need to reduce adult delinquency.
Responsible government requires accountability of public officials. Local government brings the government closer to the people. Municipal government is local government. Let us support municipal government. Sen. [Shawn-Michael] Malone told me he supports municipal government and that he is authoring a bill to institute it in the Virgin Islands.
Sen. [Louis] Hill recently sponsored a bill to restrict the boards that the attorney general may serve on, then amended to impose the same restrictions on commissioners. I commend Sen. Hill for this gesture in governmental reform, but it does not go far enough in reforming the government and promoting efficiency. It is typical of our legislators in their piecemeal approach to addressing problems; instead of a comprehensive reform to correct most, if not all, of the anomalies in government. I am not suggesting a convoluted bill like that of Sen. [Lorraine] Berry, No. 25-0198, addressing issues that were not directly connected.
Government reform to be successful should involve public hearings, expert testimonies and a comprehensive approach in the legislation. Now is a good time for reforming our government, considering the economic crisis that we are experiencing. The Turnbull/Richards administration is a good reason for immediate government reform.
The governor should not be required to approve civil servants' NOPAS [notices of personnel action]. A standard procedure should be in place that allows the Personnel Division to process all NOPAS completely. The governor should not be permitted to serve on boards or commissions and should be required to fill all board and commission seats within 90 days of vacancies occurring.
Ultimately it is the citizen's duty to be vigilant and make sure our public servants fulfill their statutory responsibility — and to sue them for negligence and malfeasance when they are guilty of those offenses. Public officials will not improve their performance if there is no consequence for their derelictions.
Power belongs to the people. People power, use it! The Citizens for Better Government, a civic advocacy and educational organization, encourages the people to exercise their rights and duties as responsible citizens for the good of all. Be objective in selecting persons to represent you in our government.
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