Oct. 14, 2004 – Questions to the candidates for V.I. Delegate to Congress Thursday night dominated the third and final forum, "St. Croix Votes V.I. Election 2004," at the University of Virgin Islands.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen and her two challengers Krim Ballentine and Warren Mosler fielded questions about the Economic Development Commission, the proposal for a Chief Financial Officer and their personal histories.
However the senatorial aspirants were not ignored. Terrence Nelson, Troy Mason, Rhea Dowling and Robert McAuliffe all were questioned about their commitment to making St. Croix a safer and cleaner place to live.
Mosler said it was the job of the delegate to "bring home the bacon" and vowed to do that. He said that while the funding returning to the states was rising, the money coming back to the Virgin Islands was dropping year by year.
Christensen contested his calculations. The four-term veteran said, "Our eight years in Washington have been successful. We have increased funding to the Virgin Islands."
One questioner from the audience asked her how there could have been a grant giving NASCAR almost as much money as the Virgin Islands would lose because of rules changes in the EDC program and asked why Christensen was lobbying for the CFO bill, which was an act sending the Virgin Islands back toward colonialism.
"First, I want to say that I disagree," Christensen said about the assertion that the CFO bill was a return toward colonialism. She continued that the bill was "a bad bill, a very bad bill. It should never have been passed."
She gave a narrative of how the damage was done to the EDC program. She said her office had been lobbying for less restrictive residency requirements. She said the irksome amendment was introduced at the "11th hour" and she went in high gear immediately to stop it. In the end she said she was able to "ameliorate its effects."
Mosler did not directly disagree with Christensen's remarks. However, he said he didn't know whether the Virgin Islands could make up the money lost through the EDC changes "in three months, six months or even a year." He also did not seem to agree that Christensen's actions had "ameliorated" the amendment. He said the new regulations would cost the Virgin Islands "billions and billions of dollars."
Mosler said one way to make up the shortfall and bring permanent jobs to the Virgin Islands would be to entice corporate headquarters to the islands. He said the government could offer tax incentives to corporations. He said it all depended on how the presentations were made to them.
Christiansen defended her fight for a CFO and said, "We need to get control of our finances."
Mosler made no statement in opposition to Christensen's CFO proposal, but did not emphasize it. He said the Virgin Islands were now victims of "taxation without representation" and were presently sending $200 million in payroll taxes to the U.S. government. In his literature he states, "I will strive to bring the right to vote in Congress and in the election of the president of the United States to the USVI."
Ballentine, a Republican, also stressed constitutional issues. He said the first thing he would do when he arrived in Washington would be "to walk down and vote."
He said Christensen did not have the "assertiveness" to get things done in Congress. He said, if elected, he would give Christensen a job traveling and talking about HIV.
When asked about what he would do to get a veterans' hospital on the Virgin Islands, he said there were channels through which he could work. He said he was a veteran and when he signed up he did not have to learn Spanish, but now, if he got sick, he would have to go to Puerto Rico and learn Spanish to talk to a doctor.
Ballentine served as a chief deputy U.S. marshal with the FBI.
Christensen emphasized her experience as a physician and health administrator on the islands. She added she had been a member of the PTA and board of education also.
Mosler said he has lived in the Virgin Islands for two years and, "This is my home. I am not going anywhere else." He emphasized his experience as an investment broker and in financial fields. He said a financial expert is what the Virgin Islands needs now.
The senatorial candidates all emphasized personality traits. Nelson said he was a "real person, real candidate." Mason said he was an "outgoing person." Dowling said she was a "people person."
McAuliffe said he was a fisherman."We love the sea. We love to provide for people." He received the most positive response from the live audience when he said he would take the Senate budget and turn it over to the police department.
He said he saw no reason that the Senate should maintain a fleet of automobiles on each island. He said, "We have a Taxi Cab Association. They need the business. They [the senators] can take a cab."
While McAuliffe emphasized his ties to fishermen, Mason emphasized his roots in William's Delight and his graduation from St. Croix Central High School. He answered that one way the school facilities could be improved is by alumni taking a bigger interest in the schools.
Nelson, who along with Dowling has teaching experience, was asked what he would do to curb domestic violence. He said rape was a "hideous" crime and those who commit it should be given stiffer sentences. "They should not be back out in one or two years." He added that stress was also an underlying factor in domestic violence and an improvement in the island's economic and employment opportunities would alleviate the problem somewhat.
Dowling, a Republican and, like McAuliffe, a member of the Team 5 slate, was asked about the role of the attorney general. She said the attorney general needs to be elected and "responsible to all of us." She said the attorney general is now under the control of the governor.
For stories on the previous UVI forums (See "Candidates Don't Please Many in UVI Audience" and "Candidates Spar a Bit at First UVI Forum").
A three-member UVI panel posed questions for the first half of the two-and-one-half-hour forum. The final 45 minutes were reserved for questions from the audience.
The forums were taped by WTJX Channel 12 and will be aired Saturday, Oct. 16, 1-3 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 17, noon-6 p.m.
Thursday's panelists were Taino Essannason, student government; Wendy Wheeler, alumni association; and Reginald Perry, housing supervisor. The moderator was Jay Wiltshine, student.
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