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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, May 19, 2024
HomeNewsElections 2022Where the Candidates Stand | Senator Alma Francis Heyliger

Where the Candidates Stand | Senator Alma Francis Heyliger

In this series, the Source introduces the community to the platforms of senatorial and gubernatorial candidates and gauges their approaches to issues in the territory. The Source sent each candidate the same questions and is running the answers in the order in which the candidates responded. We aim to publish all the candidate’s answers prior to the Nov. 8 General Election, contingent upon the candidates providing their responses in time. Any candidate with questions or in need of a link to the questionnaire can email us at visource@gmail.com.

This story covers the views and planned initiatives of candidate Alma Francis Heyliger:

Q: Why do you want to be a Virgin Islands leader, and why should voters choose you over other candidates? What are your top priorities for the territory and why?

As a humble public servant and leader in public affairs, I have as much at stake in my day-to-day environment here in the United States Virgin Islands as the neighbors I represent before the first branch of this government. At the end of the day I am your neighbor but as your representative, I will continue to focus on public transparency, public safety and public interest. Through transparency and security, we can foster greater community engagement, education and trust to create a more holistic and collaborative government to secure us through the most uncertain of times.

Q: What fuels violent crime in the territory, and what should the government, nonprofit organizations and residents do to help alleviate it?

Violent crime is fueled by needs in the community not being met. Some of those needs can be traced to an economic source, where people commit such crimes for monetary gain. To address that, we need more jobs that pay a living wage. As your Senator, I have supported and am working on legislation that creates more skilled trades training. Nonprofits can help this problem by supporting mentoring and victims’ rights programs. I have also supported legislation that will provide more mental health services for the community. Our community must continue to support each other as neighbors and family by teaching our children nonviolence and holding each other accountable for harm to others.

Yet the Virgin Islands continues to keep keen observation on violent crimes that veer into domestic and sexual abuse. Cases like this reveal the inadequacies of our mental health system since the motive is typically more psychological. Strengthening our economic resources and mental health resources would provide a bifold approach to proactively combating violent crime in the territory.

Q: How would you improve the territory’s electrical grid and implementation of renewable energy?

Improving the electrical grid in the Virgin Islands requires enhancements to the infrastructure that supports it. As we have seen in the past several years, WAPA has mismanaged those projects and its own finances and still largely depends on fossil fuels for energy. In order to improve the electrical grid and drive down energy costs for consumers, we need to fix the well-documented WAPA problem through meticulous government oversight and accompanying legislation while playing to our own geographic strengths through the integration of wind, solar and hydropower. While serving in the Legislature, I have received countless calls about financial strain WAPA puts on residents. I have submitted an Amendment in the nature of a substitute 34-306 to bill 34-0048, which limits WAPA estimating bills and regulates when WAPA can disconnect service to residents.

Q: How can the territory improve upon its tourism product to better compete within the Caribbean region and beyond? How would you improve the USVI’s taxi product? Do you think a service such as Uber could work here?

The Virgin Islands has a unique culture that continues to attract visitors from around the world and the Caribbean. Diversifying our marketing efforts, highlighting more of our unique local artists, culinary masters, and traditions creates a competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated on any other island. Giving economic incentives for small businesses who enhance and diversify our entertainment and excursion sector will not only provide more offerings for cruise ship patrons, but also our local families.

I have strongly advocated for the telecommunications companies that serve the community to increase the reliability of cell phone service in the Territory. Our taxi industry is made up of hardworking drivers who are the backbone of our tourism industry. I have supported legislation that will empower the Director of the Taxicab Association to hire employees to better serve our taxi drivers.

Q: What are your plans to promote agriculture in the territory? The Vision 2040 exercise identified agriculture and better food security as the top concern of its survey respondents. How can the USVI achieve this goal?

I strongly support our farmers and fishermen in the Territory. I supported legislation that appropriated funding for the St. John Fish Market and Cruz Bay Dock. I will continue to support developing programs that assist local farmers to be more profitable and help our Territory achieve food security. I am developing legislation to increase farmers’ access to farming technology and training, including our farmers and fishermen in decisions that affect them and the agricultural industry. It is time for us to put our money where our mouth is.

Q: How should the territory balance development with environmental protection, especially given concerns around climate change? What do you envision as the future of the St. Croix refinery? Do you support an additional cruise ship dock in St. Thomas Harbor? Why or why not?

The Virgin Islands has laws in place to protect the environment, but we lack adequate enforcement of laws such as illegal dumping and air pollution. Furthermore, we find ourselves still rebuilding from the devastating hurricanes of 2017. In rebuilding, we must consider reinforcement of our structures in order to better protect against future catastrophic storms.

For some, reopening the refinery on St. Croix can put many Virgin Islanders back to work, but we must balance the protection of the environment for future generations. We need to not only rely on the refinery but develop other small businesses in St. Croix that have less impact on the environment.

We need to fully utilize the docks that we currently have and expanding the capacity of the Havensight dock must be a priority.

Q: What is your position on Caneel Bay on St. John? Should it be redeveloped? Left in its natural state? A mix of the two?

St. John is in desperate need of new schools, additional health facilities, and a community center to serve our residents. Repurposing the structures at Caneel Bay will allow St. John residents to have much needed resources on that island.

Q: What will you do to support the territory’s marginalized and struggling communities?

I will continue my support of marginalized and struggling communities. I have passed the CROWN Act which eliminated racial discrimination based on hair texture, I continue to support nonprofit organizations which benefit victims of violence and assist the homeless, I have passed legislation that increases the penalties for mandated reporters failing to protect our children from abuse, and I am developing legislation to further protect victims of domestic violence. Through my legislative oversight, I fought for transparency with WAPA, Department of Human Services, and the Lt. Governor’s Office Unclaimed Property program. I supported legislation that will assist first-time homebuyers with their down payment. I have a clear record of always fighting for the community.

Q: What would you propose to better support people dealing with mental illness, alcoholism, addiction, and homelessness?

The Virgin Islands has historically struggled with providing adequate counseling for our citizens who suffer from mental illness, alcoholism and homelessness. Once again, the solution lies in a combination of strategies that offer both long- and short-term solutions. As a senator, I have supported legislation which will overhaul mental health care in the Territory. I believe we should utilize technology to make better use of tele-medicine where Virgin Islanders can seek and receive treatment with mental health resources from outside the Territory until they become more readily available at home. Developing Public Private Partnerships with substance abuse providers will allow the government to expand our support of the members of the community that need it most.

Q: How will you support immigrant communities?

Aligning incoming immigrants with local non-profits and other community organizations provides a support system so that they can access the basic necessities whether that be food, shelter, access to healthcare and employment, translation services and a variety of other needs. Our job, as representatives, is to support these organizations so they may serve effectively as a vital intermediary in the immigration process.

Q: What can the government do to better assist and support seniors, as well as family members needing respite from caregiving?

We need to get more of our existing senior care centers accredited to allow them to accept Medicaid. We need to increase the trade school curriculum to include more health-based careers to prepare the workforce for the increased need for senior-focused healthcare workers. We should repurpose unused government buildings into senior centers. 

Q: What plans do you have to redevelop a framework for success for young people in the territory? This could include intervention services, education reform, and recreational facilities, among others.

Legislative oversight of the Education System should be more frequent. Many times, we are not aware of a crisis in our schools until it is too late to prevent it. Our students need greater access to educational support including IEPs. We need to bring back sporting programs to prepare our students to compete for collegiate athletic scholarships, and we need to place more counselors and support staff in the schools to support teachers and students. I will support legislation that increases the role of the Sports, Parks and Recreation in providing additional programing for our youth. 

Q: What plans do you have to help our LGBTGIA+ youth?

As a Senator I intend to ensure that our LGBTGIA+ youth are afforded the same opportunities and protections under the law. I am a champion of children regardless of who they choose to love or how they choose to identify. I have supported legislation that guarantees civil rights protections to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Q: Why should millennials vote for you?

I have supported legislation and have held government agencies accountable for moving the Territory forward. I have supported legislation that will make homebuying a reality for young people. I have supported legislation that has brought millions of dollars to the Territory through the reopening of hotels on Frenchman’s Reef. I continue to push to create more transparency in every area of government that will make opening a business easier, starting a family safer, and owning property attainable. I believe in the potential of millennials to change the Territory for the better.

Q: What plans do you have to reestablish the libraries in the territory?

While the Executive Branch controls the operation and reopening of the Territorial Libraries, I will support legislation to give libraries the funding that they need to serve the community. I believe continued legislative oversight of the reopening is necessary to keep the process moving forward.

Q: How can we provide access to affordable healthcare for individuals and small businesses?

Currently, the Legislature appropriates money to our hospitals to subsidize care for residents who do not have health insurance. I will support legislation that provides financial incentives for additional insurance companies to offer health insurance products to our residents.

Q: What possibilities are available for the professional or educational development of individuals within the territory so that we can continue to retain and attract a qualified workforce?

Our students have limitless potential. As Senator, I will continue to support increased scholarship opportunities, more technical training, and on the job training. I have advocated repeatedly for government internships that allow our university students to get on the job training while creating a pipeline to fill vacancies in the government. Public Private Partnerships will also allow us to expand on the job training to the private sector.

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