Let me take this opportunity to address several concerns of the public regarding the role of the senators. According to what I have read and heard recently, some VI citizens appear to have a misunderstanding about how senators should conduct their duties. The Spampinato issue has left them pondering the answers to these questions: Whom do senators represent? Is it right for senators to vote their conscience? What is the role of a senator?
The senators who make up the 27th Legislature were duly elected to serve all the people of the USVI. These 15 senators received a plurality of the votes cast in the 2006 general election. The politically astute and objective electorate chose them because they believed they were the best candidates. Others might have been swayed by factors such as physical appearance, race, place of origin, and popularity. Regardless of the basis for anyone 's choice(s), the 15 senators won the race. Does that mean that the senators are obligated to serve only their constituents? Of course not, the senators have a duty to represent all the citizens of the USVI. This does not translate to obeying the wishes of special interest groups. The laws they make apply to every citizen.
Although every citizen does not participate in a general election, the senator must address the welfare of all the people. They should not behave as puppets and rubber-stamp all of a governor's nominations. Which is more important, doing what is best for the people or making a decision based on a particular opinion poll? During the confirmation hearing for Dr. Spampinato, Sen. Celestino White, the most senior senator and majority leader, explicitly stated that opinion polls do not influence his decisions. He rejected her nomination. Does this mean that he should be demeaned? Should not the fact that he has a PhD in Common Sense be a consideration? Would he not have compromised his integrity by voting contrary to his conscience and making a decision simply to be re-elected?
Furthermore, which opinion poll showed that the majority of citizens was in favor of Dr. Spampinato? This may be a shock to some, but in reality the silent majority was against the confirmation of Dr. Spampinato. An informal poll conducting by me clearly demonstrated that this was the case. The reason for the disapproval by the majority was her refusal to disclose pertinent information. Most of the people polled felt uncomfortable with this nominee since transparency in government is a critical issue. The 11 senators who voted against her evidently agreed with the silent majority. Personally, I believe she would have done an outstanding job. However, I still think that she received a fair hearing and that the senators made a judgment based on reasoning rather than emotion. The senators are responsible for investigating the background of a nominee and must consider character or ethics. If Dr.Spampinato really wanted the job, she would not have hesitated to give full disclosure. Keeping the reason she was terminated a secret was obviously more important.
Senators may not always support the will of the people. The majority is not always right. Prior to the emancipation of the African slaves in America, the majority of the citizens in the USA thought that slavery was morally right (scrutinize the Constitution of the United States).
The debate continues as to whether the 11 senators did the right thing. In my opinion, all 15 senator fulfill their responsibility. It is not their job to ensure that reforms in the public school educational system are effectuated. That's the job of the administration. Senators make laws and the governor administers the laws. Isn't great that democracy is alive in the USVI?
Verdel L. Petersen
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