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Constitutional Forum Plagued By Poor Attendance Tuesday

March 6, 2007 — Less than 30 people, including organizers and panelists, showed up Tuesday night for a forum on Constitution 2008 at the St. Croix Educational Complex auditorium, prompting one participant to question the effectiveness of the marketing campaign being conducted by the University of the Virgin Islands.
The forum was sponsored by the Parent Teacher Student Association in conjunction with the university, which since October has been holding educational forums as part of a campaign to inform the public about the Fifth Constitutional Convention, scheduled to begin in July.
A constitution of the Virgin Islands would establish the framework for a legislative body, including the number and terms of legislatures and the qualifications for these and other persons desiring to hold public office, according to a Constitution 2008 brochure handed out during the forum.
It could also establish the basis of a fiscal and economic policy for the territory, addressing such areas as taxes, bonds and other obligations and revenue streams and provisions for industry and agriculture.
In October, a list of panelists said the constitution could clear up questions about who and what constitutes a bona fide Virgin Islander, paying accurately assessed real-property taxes and getting excise tax returns on additional products besides rum.
The Virgin Islands does not have its own constitution and is governed by the Revised Organic Act of 1954, which was preceded by the Organic Act of 1936.
Citing the poor turnout, forum participant Claire Roker asked attorney Tregenza Roach, who is coordinating the education campaign, a pointed question: "Do you feel that your marketing-advertising effort is sufficient?"
Roach responded that the marketing campaign — which has included radio and TV spots and various forums, including a live, call-in talk show and website — has been effective, although he conceded that "the people who are really interested will come," adding that many who do not attend the forums use the other means of information gathering.
"We've had 6,400 visits to our website, and people will come up to me and say, 'I look at you on television or I heard you on the radio,'" he said.
The forum, and others like it, is part of an initiative funded by a $500,000 appropriation from the V.I. Legislature for a public-awareness campaign about the convention.
Cecil Benjamin, a delegate to the Fourth Constitution Convention, also decried the turnout Tuesday night but praised Roach for the Herculean task that he had undertaken in coordinating the education campaign. "I'm disappointed in the turnout," Benjamin said. "This is the one thing we did not experience in the Fourth Constitution Convention."
The Constitution 2008 brochure notes that Federal Public Law 94-584 authorizes the people of the Virgin Islands "to organize their own government pursuant to a Constitution of their own."
Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr., another panelist at Tuesday night's forum, said that nomination papers for delegates will be ready for pick-up on April 2. However, by law, those who pick up the petitions cannot begin circulating them until 14 days later (April 16).
On June 12, elections will decide 30 delegates to represent St. Croix and the St. Thomas-St. John district. They will basically do the legwork leading up to a Constitutional convention. Each district will get 13 delegates, with two residing on St. John. There will be four at-large positions, with two each from St. Croix and the St. Thomas-St. John districts. Roach said that the delegates will then produce and adopt a draft constitution by July 27, 2008, which will be forwarded to Gov. John deJongh Jr. He will in turn send it to President George Bush, who will submit it to Congress for approval.
Benjamin on Tuesday urged more participation, saying that the time has come for the Virgin Islands to craft its own destiny.
The adopted document, Benjamin said, "can be amended," adding that "it's not cast in stone."
"We as a people need to sit and craft our own constitution," he said. "We need to do our own thing – we have intelligent people that can come up with a document."
Benjamin said that constitution can be crafted so that the Virgin Islands recognizes both its United States and Caribbean roots. For example, he said, it would help in detailing how the territory would interact with its Caribbean neighbors, who meet regularly as members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).
Another forum on St. Croix is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. at Gertrude's Restaurant.
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March 6, 2007 -- Less than 30 people, including organizers and panelists, showed up Tuesday night for a forum on Constitution 2008 at the St. Croix Educational Complex auditorium, prompting one participant to question the effectiveness of the marketing campaign being conducted by the University of the Virgin Islands.
The forum was sponsored by the Parent Teacher Student Association in conjunction with the university, which since October has been holding educational forums as part of a campaign to inform the public about the Fifth Constitutional Convention, scheduled to begin in July.
A constitution of the Virgin Islands would establish the framework for a legislative body, including the number and terms of legislatures and the qualifications for these and other persons desiring to hold public office, according to a Constitution 2008 brochure handed out during the forum.
It could also establish the basis of a fiscal and economic policy for the territory, addressing such areas as taxes, bonds and other obligations and revenue streams and provisions for industry and agriculture.
In October, a list of panelists said the constitution could clear up questions about who and what constitutes a bona fide Virgin Islander, paying accurately assessed real-property taxes and getting excise tax returns on additional products besides rum.
The Virgin Islands does not have its own constitution and is governed by the Revised Organic Act of 1954, which was preceded by the Organic Act of 1936.
Citing the poor turnout, forum participant Claire Roker asked attorney Tregenza Roach, who is coordinating the education campaign, a pointed question: "Do you feel that your marketing-advertising effort is sufficient?"
Roach responded that the marketing campaign -- which has included radio and TV spots and various forums, including a live, call-in talk show and website -- has been effective, although he conceded that "the people who are really interested will come," adding that many who do not attend the forums use the other means of information gathering.
"We've had 6,400 visits to our website, and people will come up to me and say, 'I look at you on television or I heard you on the radio,'" he said.
The forum, and others like it, is part of an initiative funded by a $500,000 appropriation from the V.I. Legislature for a public-awareness campaign about the convention.
Cecil Benjamin, a delegate to the Fourth Constitution Convention, also decried the turnout Tuesday night but praised Roach for the Herculean task that he had undertaken in coordinating the education campaign. "I'm disappointed in the turnout," Benjamin said. "This is the one thing we did not experience in the Fourth Constitution Convention."
The Constitution 2008 brochure notes that Federal Public Law 94-584 authorizes the people of the Virgin Islands "to organize their own government pursuant to a Constitution of their own."
Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr., another panelist at Tuesday night's forum, said that nomination papers for delegates will be ready for pick-up on April 2. However, by law, those who pick up the petitions cannot begin circulating them until 14 days later (April 16).
On June 12, elections will decide 30 delegates to represent St. Croix and the St. Thomas-St. John district. They will basically do the legwork leading up to a Constitutional convention. Each district will get 13 delegates, with two residing on St. John. There will be four at-large positions, with two each from St. Croix and the St. Thomas-St. John districts. Roach said that the delegates will then produce and adopt a draft constitution by July 27, 2008, which will be forwarded to Gov. John deJongh Jr. He will in turn send it to President George Bush, who will submit it to Congress for approval.
Benjamin on Tuesday urged more participation, saying that the time has come for the Virgin Islands to craft its own destiny.
The adopted document, Benjamin said, "can be amended," adding that "it's not cast in stone."
"We as a people need to sit and craft our own constitution," he said. "We need to do our own thing - we have intelligent people that can come up with a document."
Benjamin said that constitution can be crafted so that the Virgin Islands recognizes both its United States and Caribbean roots. For example, he said, it would help in detailing how the territory would interact with its Caribbean neighbors, who meet regularly as members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).
Another forum on St. Croix is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m. at Gertrude's Restaurant.
Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.