I am responding to Hugo Roller's letter regarding the Constitutional Convention. He and others such as Paul Devine and Dena Langdon have questioned whether the Constitutional Convention should continue.
I am one of thirty delegates tasked with writing this constitution. We all bear in mind that at the end, it must be acceptable to the vast majority of Virgin Islands voters. Otherwise, it will not be ratified, and our effort will have been for naught.
Imagine the struggles that 30 delegates, chosen from all walks of life, have in crafting such a document. The media coverage of the deliberations gives an impression of strife and chaos. This is not altogether accurate. It is more like hours of routine deliberation, punctuated by showers of sparks as we hit a hotly contested point. Then we talk it through. The media focuses its attention on the contested points.
You should see for yourself. The meetings are open to the public, yet usually the only members of the public are reporters. You can also track our progress at www.viconstitution.com . Under "Working Documents" in the left-hand column, you will find the draft language we are working on.
Writing a constitution is much more difficult that writing legislation. Many delegates have little or no prior experience. The key measure of whether to continue is to ask the question: Are we making progress?
As exasperating as it is, I can assure you that we are indeed making progress. The extension to the convention was a good idea. Without it, all the work done to date would have been lost.
Money is always an issue. In this case, the Convention has spent less than what was appropriated. In fact, the officers filled in for the first eight months because we had no money for paid staff. It is true that the Convention originally requested a big budget from the senate. This was not granted, and the Convention has been run on a shoestring budget to date.
Soon, the public will see our first draft. We will explain it, and there will opportunity for public input. Then we will revise it, until it embodies the universal themes that we covenant to live by. Then and only then can we be assured that the Constitution will be ratified.
Just last week we decided on how we will allow for local government, and mesh it with the existing governmental structure. T'ain easy, meson.
We also discussed how the legislature will be structured. Several scenarios have been proposed, but we have not reached consensus. It is still being deliberated, and the input of the public is welcome.
The writing of our own Constitution is an important step for our people. We must push on until it is complete.
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