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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Synopsis: Aug. 22-26

Senate Synopsis: Aug. 22-26

Aug. 28, 2005 – When Health Commissioner Darlene Carty announced the milk certification laboratory would go back to St. Croix it was a surprise to many.
One of those most surprised was Rodney Miller, CEO of Roy L. Schneider Hospital. Officials at Schneider had been working this year to set up the lab – going through the bureaucratic process, as well as setting up equipment and trying to train personnel to operate it.
Astonishingly, the hospital officials were never informed about the change to St. Croix until the Senate meeting.
As Miller testified, one could almost feel the frustration hospital officials had, due to lack of communication from the Health Department.
The frustration is easy to empathize with because it happens to everyone who deals often with the government. It's as if before Gov. Turnbull appoints anyone to a department head he admonishes them, "You are now so important, you do not have to return any official phone calls." Lack of communication in the government might be as big a problem as lack of solid audits of where all the money goes.
To be fair, however, it should be noted that the government has two very good communicators in leadership positions – Delegate Donna Christensen and Sen. President Lorraine Berry. They both listen to questions and respond in a noncondescending manner. Others also come to mind: Sen. Ronald Russell always seems available when a question about the Legislature needs to be answered. Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Louis Hill return calls with regularity.
Bad communication breeds more bad communication. When Miller was talking, the listener could see hospital officials becoming frustrated at the lack of communication from the Department of Health and just about giving up. Anyone in the communication business knows that if you make three phone calls and don't get a return call, even the most conscientious worker tends to give up.
Now maybe the Department of Health can start fresh on St. Croix and keep the lines of communication opened to all involved. Carty said she has appointed a point-person to make sure this project stays on track.
At earlier budget hearings this week, Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Juan Figueroa-Serville and Neville James were articulating a theme: some government workers' salaries are way too low. This situation appears shameful when compared to the high-paid entourage the governor has walking around him making sure he remains confused.
The subject of low-paid workers became a focus when Agriculture Commissioner Lawrence Lewis testified. (See "Hearing Raises Questions about Future of Agriculture".) At that hearing it was pointed out that at least one of the heavy-equipment operators who was with the government for decades was getting paid only $16,000.
JnBaptiste said that this problem was seen a few years ago when a lot of government workers were being paid $12,000. He said the Legislature remedied that by requiring that salaries be at least $15,000. It might be a good idea now to make salaries at least $18,000, or perhaps overpaid department heads — who don't respect the people they work for enough to return phone calls — should take some of their pay and give it to the workers who actually work.
Sen. Celestino White Sr. pulled an odd maneuver in the meeting Tuesday of the Committee on Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs. He ordered the custodian at the Legislative House into the well to testify.(See "Castle Burke Residents Air Complaints of Poor Housing".)
John Abramson, supervisor of elections, was pretty blunt at a budget hearing on Monday. He said if his office did not get the extra money requested, two elections next year would not be held.(See "PERB, Elections Board Make Pleas for More Money".)
White had said earlier in the week that there were people talking about the need to fire Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards. He said it was not going to happen. And, buoyed by the news that St. Croix would be getting some 11 cruise ships making daylight stops this fall, she seemed in control during her budget request and unveiled a new advertising campaign.(See "Senators Told Tourism's Efforts Paying Off".)
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