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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, August 15, 2022
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Needed: A Well-Considered Plan

Dear Source:
We all dream of winning the lottery. Many us of plan in our heads what we would do with the money if we were to ever win. Receiving the $200 plus million of the recently signed stimulus package by President Obama is the Territory's equivalent of winning the lottery. Long hoped for, badly needed, and truly unexpected. I was pleased to hear that the deJongh/Francis Administration was successful in getting the Territory over $200 million from the Stimulus Bill recently signed by President Obama. My hope for the Virgin Islands is that we too have a plan; a well thought out workable plan for taking advantage of this unexpected boost to our revenue.
The Virgin Islands, like most states, has a slowing economy and has a number of long overdue infrastructure projects, educational needs, and other projects that may have gone unfunded for years. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that we make decisions that are investments in the long-term and will have a lasting affect within the Territory. We cannot afford to make ill-conceived decisions for quick actions that generate short-term benefits. President Obama has made clear that he will be calling out states that do not spend the money appropriately. I do not want the Virgin Islands to be the first to be called out; or called out at all; but we all know that we have a long history of not managing federal dollars very well. We are consistently identified as high-risk grantees; primarily due to the fact they we do not spend federal monies during the period allowed or for the purposes specified.
So my question is do we have a plan? How are we going to spend this unexpected windfall? If there was ever a time to change our behavior it is now. We certainly would be foolish to approach spending these resources in the exact same manner as we have in the past. Recent examples do come to mind: Departments of Health, Education, and Justice. Like President Obama, our governor has created a new office that will oversee how the money is spent. To my knowledge that is where the similarity stops. New office, same people, same practices, same processes? What does the Governor plan to do differently than what have been ineffectively done for the last 20 years?
If we are planning huge construction projects and we are up against any spending timeframes, we are in big trouble as we may be doomed by our inefficient, sluggish, and protracted procurement process. Couple that with our notorious reputation for not paying vendors on time we most certainly are at risk for failure as the goal is to spend and stimulate the economy.
Most of us have heard nearly every public official talk about transparency and accountability, but not seen a lot of it. I have not heard that we (the citizens in the Territory) will be able to go to a website to track our use of funds as President Obama has set up for all to see and hold him accountable. Where will be our transparency? Will anyone outside of the new office have access to view our progress? How are we (the Territory) holding ourselves accountable? Where does the buck stop?
So, what is the solution? I certainly know that I do not have them all, but I can suggest or encourage that the Governor; not to attempt to put new wine in old bottles. It just does not work. He needs a new plan for a new day. Clearly, if nothings change in how business is conducted in the Government of the Virgin Islands, nothing changes. At a minimum, if the Governor could develop a temporary streamlined process exclusively designed for spending the stimulus funds, he certainly would be moving in the right direction towards ensuring that the Virgin Islands will not be embarrassed by being publicly called out for failing to take advantage of a rare infusion of revenue.
Lawrence Boschulte
St. Thomas

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:
We all dream of winning the lottery. Many us of plan in our heads what we would do with the money if we were to ever win. Receiving the $200 plus million of the recently signed stimulus package by President Obama is the Territory's equivalent of winning the lottery. Long hoped for, badly needed, and truly unexpected. I was pleased to hear that the deJongh/Francis Administration was successful in getting the Territory over $200 million from the Stimulus Bill recently signed by President Obama. My hope for the Virgin Islands is that we too have a plan; a well thought out workable plan for taking advantage of this unexpected boost to our revenue.
The Virgin Islands, like most states, has a slowing economy and has a number of long overdue infrastructure projects, educational needs, and other projects that may have gone unfunded for years. Therefore, it is up to us to ensure that we make decisions that are investments in the long-term and will have a lasting affect within the Territory. We cannot afford to make ill-conceived decisions for quick actions that generate short-term benefits. President Obama has made clear that he will be calling out states that do not spend the money appropriately. I do not want the Virgin Islands to be the first to be called out; or called out at all; but we all know that we have a long history of not managing federal dollars very well. We are consistently identified as high-risk grantees; primarily due to the fact they we do not spend federal monies during the period allowed or for the purposes specified.
So my question is do we have a plan? How are we going to spend this unexpected windfall? If there was ever a time to change our behavior it is now. We certainly would be foolish to approach spending these resources in the exact same manner as we have in the past. Recent examples do come to mind: Departments of Health, Education, and Justice. Like President Obama, our governor has created a new office that will oversee how the money is spent. To my knowledge that is where the similarity stops. New office, same people, same practices, same processes? What does the Governor plan to do differently than what have been ineffectively done for the last 20 years?
If we are planning huge construction projects and we are up against any spending timeframes, we are in big trouble as we may be doomed by our inefficient, sluggish, and protracted procurement process. Couple that with our notorious reputation for not paying vendors on time we most certainly are at risk for failure as the goal is to spend and stimulate the economy.
Most of us have heard nearly every public official talk about transparency and accountability, but not seen a lot of it. I have not heard that we (the citizens in the Territory) will be able to go to a website to track our use of funds as President Obama has set up for all to see and hold him accountable. Where will be our transparency? Will anyone outside of the new office have access to view our progress? How are we (the Territory) holding ourselves accountable? Where does the buck stop?
So, what is the solution? I certainly know that I do not have them all, but I can suggest or encourage that the Governor; not to attempt to put new wine in old bottles. It just does not work. He needs a new plan for a new day. Clearly, if nothings change in how business is conducted in the Government of the Virgin Islands, nothing changes. At a minimum, if the Governor could develop a temporary streamlined process exclusively designed for spending the stimulus funds, he certainly would be moving in the right direction towards ensuring that the Virgin Islands will not be embarrassed by being publicly called out for failing to take advantage of a rare infusion of revenue.
Lawrence Boschulte
St. Thomas

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.