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St. Croix Secession Effort Drawing Attention

Feb 18, 2005 – Advocates wanting to detach St. Croix from the other Virgin Islands and let the big island form its own government received publicity and a boost this week as they traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their proposal to officials.
Lines are being drawn in the debate that began last election season when secession petitions were circulated. Once again, Gov. Charles Turnbull and Delegate Donna Christensen are on opposite sides of that line. Christensen is giving assistance to the effort. Turnbull is unequivocally against it.
He said in a press release yesterday, "There is no issue in our history over the last one hundred and more years that would be more divisive and do irreparable harm to the Virgin Islands in general, and St Croix in particular than this specter of secession. "
In a release from her office Christensen said, "I received the petitions from Avis publisher Rena Brodhurst and Mrs. Evelyn James, President and Vice President respectively of the self-government committee and assisted them in meeting with both Democrat and Republican members and their staff, as well as some Interior Department officials. It gave them the opportunity to explain how the petition came about and why they believe it is important."
Christensen did sign the petition calling for secession, but has not openly stated support for the movement. She has indicated that the movement may be a way of sparking needed dialogue.
In her release Thursday, she said the effort's success or failure "rests on future meetings with V.I. leadership and the level of support from the people of St. Croix."
Turnbull, however, appears to see the effort as a diversion from critical issues. He said, "It is ironic that while much of the rest of the world is uniting with nations forging political and economic unions that some of us in the Virgin Islands wish to move in the opposite direction."
Christensen said the Chairman of the House Resources Committee, the committee which oversees affairs relating to the territories, has promised to visit the islands and hold hearings on other issues. She added that the secession issue could also be discussed at those hearings.
Brodhurst was not expected back from D.C. until next week.
The Avis Friday gave a detailed report of the Committee for St. Croix Self Government's recent meetings with officials.
The report said that Brodhurst and James had meet with David Cohen, deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior's Office of Interior Affairs, and Edgar Johnson, who has been working in the Department of Interior for the last 20 years. Also meetings with Congressman Jeff Flake, R-Ariz; Sen. Jeff Bingamen, D-N.M., and Josh Johnson, majority staff member for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., were mentioned.
The article quoted Brodhurst as saying in a phone interview with the reporter, "The meetings with both Democrats and Republicans have been encouraging. They had a variety of suggestions and also seemed to sympathize with the problems that face St. Croix."
Turnbull said, "Every leader in the Virgin Islands including those in the political, economic, labor and civic sectors and every political party or entity should clearly state their respective position on this matter. This is especially important to do at this time when we are moving toward holding a fifth constitutional convention to draft a constitution for the Territory."
Christensen's office Friday responded with another press release. It said Christensen was surprised at the tone of Turnbull's statement.
Turnbull is also fiercely opposed to Christensen's effort to get a chief financial officer appointed to oversee government finances. He dedicated a part of his State of the Territory speech last month to attacking that proposal.
Christensen said, "This is the second attack on me by name in as many months and many people are wondering about the real reasons behind this."
She added, "The petition does call for separation, but persons who seek to govern should have the perspicacity to see it as the cry of frustration and the cry for help and change that this really is. I see it as a move for better and more responsive government and an important step in our political development that leadership would ignore at their peril."
Brodhurst, when reached Friday, also responded to the governor's comments. She said, "The governor is evidently comfortable with the way things are. However, the 7,000 people who signed this petition are not."
She said the people who signed the petition are concerned about crumbling infrastructure, poor schools, and sewage running into street.
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