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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, August 8, 2022
HomeNewsArchives"Efficiency" to Be Key Theme in DeJongh's Second Term

"Efficiency" to Be Key Theme in DeJongh's Second Term

Building on the groundwork laid over the past three and a half years, Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Lt. Gov. Gregory R. Francis said they’re going to make "efficiency" the theme of their next term, with a streamlining of their priorities, programs and even some of the leaders heading their team.
The first time around, the pair stressed three key issues: the economy, education and law enforcement. Now, with some of the economic initiatives finally starting to take root, deJongh told the Source in a recent interview that crime is at the top of his — and everyone else’s — agenda.
According to Police officials, the number of part one crimes — such as rape and robbery, among others — have gone down, while homicide rates have continued to climb. Moving into the next term, deJongh said he’s planning to take a holistic look at law enforcement, running from the V.I. Fire Service to the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and try to bring in the kind of technology each agency needs to properly do their jobs.
But in terms of VIPD alone, deJongh said maintaining a strong working relationship with the various federal agencies will help to supplement local efforts — even if, at this point, there’s limited interaction in some areas. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives pulled all its agents out of the U.S. Virgin Islands a couple years ago, and have yet to return — a position that informed sources within the agency have said will not change until their agents are granted more protection, or some form of peace officer status, under local law.
DeJongh said in the recent interview that the agency’s position makes sense, and obviously, last month’s trial of ATF special agent William Clark — accused of gunning down his neighbor during a 2008 incident at Mahogany Run — has "had an impact" on local and federal relations. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been any contact, he said, adding that along with working to revive ATF’s presence in the territory, his administration will also move more aggressively in its relationships with the boots still on the ground, including agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), in efforts to combat gun and other violent crimes.
"Getting the guns, identifying where they’re coming from, and stopping them is the biggest priority," the governor said. "We have continued to work with the federal agencies on setting up a system for this, and they have always been responsive."
Meanwhile, rolling out more substations and putting an emphasis on community policing has ensured that more local officers maintain a visible presence on the streets — particularly in housing communities, where a new memorandum of understanding with the V.I. Housing Authority has been able to keep the department tuned in with what’s going on in some of the more high-profile areas, deJongh said. Training for the officers in these situations has become a necessity, so more investment is going into that, and VIPD Commissioner Novelle Francis is working to ensure that his patrols actually "get out of the car" and walk around instead — as many have complained — of sitting in their vehicle with the air conditioning running.
This policy is mandatory for new VIPD graduates — in fact, they’re not even given a patrol car for the first four months, deJongh added.
Ordering new equipment, such as shot spotters or cameras that catch speeding motorists on tape, is also on the table, and deJongh said his team is working to figure out what’s feasible and what’s not.
But that doesn’t mean the economy is on the back burner. While jobs are increasing on the mainland, the overall economic picture has pretty much stayed the same, so deJongh said he doesn’t expect much change in the next year or so. The local government has supplemented its budget with borrowed funds, and deJongh said he expects to dig into a $100 million-plus line of credit that the governor’s financial team members have considered one of the final tricks in the arsenal.
But local initiatives — such as the new Diageo distillery and expanded Cruzan Rum plant on St. Croix — are going to begin "a life of their own," freeing up some attention for a variety of other projects, such as moving forward with a new hotel on the big island. DeJongh said all St. Croix’s prospective hotel developments are permitted at this point, so the next step is figuring out what other kind of assistance and support they need.
On St. Thomas and St. John, fixing the roads — which, in some areas, have become even more impassible after the recent rainfalls — are a top priority, and the government will be looking more at what federal funds are out there to cover the costs, the governor said.
But overall, the real emphasis will be placed on growing local small businesses, and seeing how larger companies coming into the territory can help them, he added.
"One of the ways we’re going to approach this is by reshaping the Economic Development Authority and seeing what kind of partnerships can be formed between these small and large businesses," deJongh explained. "We’re going to look at products, branding, what types of attractions we have here, and really addressing the complaints of some of the small business owners — like some of the tax issues that put them at a competitive disadvantage."
Major developments in telephone, cable and broadband technology through Innovative will also make prospective V.I. businesses more comfortable, and while the V.I. Water and Power Authority has currently taken its biggest generator out of rotation on St. Thomas-St. John, deJongh said also sees more stability in the future of the beleaguered utility.
"Once we clear up the equipment issues, we have some of the energy-saving strategies — the waste heat boilers, a proposal for waste to energy without pet coke, and maybe looking into the possibility of using natural gas — ready to be developed," he said. "There’s no one solution at this point — we have to look at all of these options in our portfolio and look at what works."
DeJongh noted that in terms of energy rates, the territory is in the "middle of the pack" when compared to others in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, stateside companies have the advantage of being able to plug into a power grid, allowing them to diversify their energy resources, while the territory basically has one option, oil, he said, adding that WAPA has put out or is working on requests for proposals for wind and solar technology.
"We’re really going to do what’s best for the territory and provide as much support as we can, wherever possible," the governor said, saying that right now, bringing in a third party to manage WAPA is not a consideration.

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Building on the groundwork laid over the past three and a half years, Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Lt. Gov. Gregory R. Francis said they're going to make "efficiency" the theme of their next term, with a streamlining of their priorities, programs and even some of the leaders heading their team.
The first time around, the pair stressed three key issues: the economy, education and law enforcement. Now, with some of the economic initiatives finally starting to take root, deJongh told the Source in a recent interview that crime is at the top of his -- and everyone else's -- agenda.
According to Police officials, the number of part one crimes -- such as rape and robbery, among others -- have gone down, while homicide rates have continued to climb. Moving into the next term, deJongh said he's planning to take a holistic look at law enforcement, running from the V.I. Fire Service to the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and try to bring in the kind of technology each agency needs to properly do their jobs.
But in terms of VIPD alone, deJongh said maintaining a strong working relationship with the various federal agencies will help to supplement local efforts -- even if, at this point, there's limited interaction in some areas. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives pulled all its agents out of the U.S. Virgin Islands a couple years ago, and have yet to return -- a position that informed sources within the agency have said will not change until their agents are granted more protection, or some form of peace officer status, under local law.
DeJongh said in the recent interview that the agency's position makes sense, and obviously, last month's trial of ATF special agent William Clark -- accused of gunning down his neighbor during a 2008 incident at Mahogany Run -- has "had an impact" on local and federal relations. But that doesn't mean there hasn't been any contact, he said, adding that along with working to revive ATF's presence in the territory, his administration will also move more aggressively in its relationships with the boots still on the ground, including agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), in efforts to combat gun and other violent crimes.
"Getting the guns, identifying where they're coming from, and stopping them is the biggest priority," the governor said. "We have continued to work with the federal agencies on setting up a system for this, and they have always been responsive."
Meanwhile, rolling out more substations and putting an emphasis on community policing has ensured that more local officers maintain a visible presence on the streets -- particularly in housing communities, where a new memorandum of understanding with the V.I. Housing Authority has been able to keep the department tuned in with what's going on in some of the more high-profile areas, deJongh said. Training for the officers in these situations has become a necessity, so more investment is going into that, and VIPD Commissioner Novelle Francis is working to ensure that his patrols actually "get out of the car" and walk around instead -- as many have complained -- of sitting in their vehicle with the air conditioning running.
This policy is mandatory for new VIPD graduates -- in fact, they're not even given a patrol car for the first four months, deJongh added.
Ordering new equipment, such as shot spotters or cameras that catch speeding motorists on tape, is also on the table, and deJongh said his team is working to figure out what's feasible and what's not.
But that doesn't mean the economy is on the back burner. While jobs are increasing on the mainland, the overall economic picture has pretty much stayed the same, so deJongh said he doesn't expect much change in the next year or so. The local government has supplemented its budget with borrowed funds, and deJongh said he expects to dig into a $100 million-plus line of credit that the governor's financial team members have considered one of the final tricks in the arsenal.
But local initiatives -- such as the new Diageo distillery and expanded Cruzan Rum plant on St. Croix -- are going to begin "a life of their own," freeing up some attention for a variety of other projects, such as moving forward with a new hotel on the big island. DeJongh said all St. Croix's prospective hotel developments are permitted at this point, so the next step is figuring out what other kind of assistance and support they need.
On St. Thomas and St. John, fixing the roads -- which, in some areas, have become even more impassible after the recent rainfalls -- are a top priority, and the government will be looking more at what federal funds are out there to cover the costs, the governor said.
But overall, the real emphasis will be placed on growing local small businesses, and seeing how larger companies coming into the territory can help them, he added.
"One of the ways we're going to approach this is by reshaping the Economic Development Authority and seeing what kind of partnerships can be formed between these small and large businesses," deJongh explained. "We're going to look at products, branding, what types of attractions we have here, and really addressing the complaints of some of the small business owners -- like some of the tax issues that put them at a competitive disadvantage."
Major developments in telephone, cable and broadband technology through Innovative will also make prospective V.I. businesses more comfortable, and while the V.I. Water and Power Authority has currently taken its biggest generator out of rotation on St. Thomas-St. John, deJongh said also sees more stability in the future of the beleaguered utility.
"Once we clear up the equipment issues, we have some of the energy-saving strategies -- the waste heat boilers, a proposal for waste to energy without pet coke, and maybe looking into the possibility of using natural gas -- ready to be developed," he said. "There's no one solution at this point -- we have to look at all of these options in our portfolio and look at what works."
DeJongh noted that in terms of energy rates, the territory is in the "middle of the pack" when compared to others in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, stateside companies have the advantage of being able to plug into a power grid, allowing them to diversify their energy resources, while the territory basically has one option, oil, he said, adding that WAPA has put out or is working on requests for proposals for wind and solar technology.
"We're really going to do what's best for the territory and provide as much support as we can, wherever possible," the governor said, saying that right now, bringing in a third party to manage WAPA is not a consideration.