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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, August 20, 2022
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Constitutional Convention: Controversy, Derision and Chaos

Dear Source:
The Constitutional Convention will be coming to St. John. On March 24, a plenary session of the Convention will meet to outline what the delegates have come up with so far. Drafts of the effort are available at the local elections offices I am told. I would strongly suggest getting a copy and review it prior to attending the session. It will be an all-day affair starting at 10 AM. I would suggest that all St. Johnians consider attending this meeting.
There have been so many controversial elements to this fifth attempt at producing a Constitution for the Virgin Islands that it is important for people to actually hear the delegates relate them. As we recall, the legislature mandated the Convention to consider only the non-controversial elements of the Fourth Draft; a mandate which has not been adhered to. Instead, the Convention has introduced controversy, derision and chaos.
I have testified at several hearings on issues such as: Senate districting, taxation and municipal government. These are issues that are on the minds of every Virgin Islander. At each of these hearings, I felt that I was not really listened to. Across the Virgin Islands, delegates have allowed testimony from citizens and in many cases have failed to really grasp what people want. In many cases, citizens have been chastised for their views. In one instance as a testifier, I turned my back and walked out on the hearing because of the idiotic rhetoric and references to race. The constitutional process has been going on for almost two years and throughout the process we have heard and seen racially motivated attacks, little or no Parliamentary procedure and lack of respect for both testifiers and amongst delegates, refusal to allow public review of meeting minutes and proposed constitutional language that baffles the imagination. In short, it has been an effort in futility.
Where one would think that the delegates could draw from recent and past world events, the opposite seems to be the norm. Gay marriage is a non-issue politically and gays are accepted as a way of life throughout the world. Worldwide, municipal government is the norm and they have the right to tax and hold funds. District representation in legislatures throughout the United States is standard. Elected officials never have to withstand any test except age, domicile and criminal record. Rights are reserved for every citizen and rarely does any mention of a person's heritage emerge in Constitutions of the United States, municipalities or even in corporate Constitutions. The most basic of standard constitutional language seems to be lost on this convention. Instead, delegates argue over divisive issues that have long been solved in other places in the world. There seems to be great effort by this Convention to reverse the gains made over the past 200 years.
In my opinion, the St. John session will be no different from any other but I will attend simply because of morbid curiosity. Perhaps for the same reasons people attend side shows. There is really no record where delegates have taken testimony of citizens seriously. I would suggest that people attend to simply see how a Constitutional Convention should not be run. Perhaps, when the sixth attempt occurs we will know how to get it right.

Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to visource@gmail.com.

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Dear Source:
The Constitutional Convention will be coming to St. John. On March 24, a plenary session of the Convention will meet to outline what the delegates have come up with so far. Drafts of the effort are available at the local elections offices I am told. I would strongly suggest getting a copy and review it prior to attending the session. It will be an all-day affair starting at 10 AM. I would suggest that all St. Johnians consider attending this meeting.
There have been so many controversial elements to this fifth attempt at producing a Constitution for the Virgin Islands that it is important for people to actually hear the delegates relate them. As we recall, the legislature mandated the Convention to consider only the non-controversial elements of the Fourth Draft; a mandate which has not been adhered to. Instead, the Convention has introduced controversy, derision and chaos.
I have testified at several hearings on issues such as: Senate districting, taxation and municipal government. These are issues that are on the minds of every Virgin Islander. At each of these hearings, I felt that I was not really listened to. Across the Virgin Islands, delegates have allowed testimony from citizens and in many cases have failed to really grasp what people want. In many cases, citizens have been chastised for their views. In one instance as a testifier, I turned my back and walked out on the hearing because of the idiotic rhetoric and references to race. The constitutional process has been going on for almost two years and throughout the process we have heard and seen racially motivated attacks, little or no Parliamentary procedure and lack of respect for both testifiers and amongst delegates, refusal to allow public review of meeting minutes and proposed constitutional language that baffles the imagination. In short, it has been an effort in futility.
Where one would think that the delegates could draw from recent and past world events, the opposite seems to be the norm. Gay marriage is a non-issue politically and gays are accepted as a way of life throughout the world. Worldwide, municipal government is the norm and they have the right to tax and hold funds. District representation in legislatures throughout the United States is standard. Elected officials never have to withstand any test except age, domicile and criminal record. Rights are reserved for every citizen and rarely does any mention of a person's heritage emerge in Constitutions of the United States, municipalities or even in corporate Constitutions. The most basic of standard constitutional language seems to be lost on this convention. Instead, delegates argue over divisive issues that have long been solved in other places in the world. There seems to be great effort by this Convention to reverse the gains made over the past 200 years.
In my opinion, the St. John session will be no different from any other but I will attend simply because of morbid curiosity. Perhaps for the same reasons people attend side shows. There is really no record where delegates have taken testimony of citizens seriously. I would suggest that people attend to simply see how a Constitutional Convention should not be run. Perhaps, when the sixth attempt occurs we will know how to get it right.

Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to visource@gmail.com.