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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, December 1, 2023


With only a few notable and predictable exceptions, the incoming members of the 23rd Legislature promoted a spirit of unity, inclusion and decorum at their opening session Monday.
The 15 senators were sworn into office, elected officers, established committees and spoke briefly about their priorities and goals.
Beginning with Sen. Roosevelt David, who challenged his colleagues to create an atmosphere of inclusion and decorum, through new Senate President Vargrave Richards, who promoted a spirit of cooperation, almost to a person the message of the day was unity.
The other theme of the day: the economic state of the territory.
Richards spoke of the need to find a balance between development and providing jobs for the people. He proposed a joint private-public hotel venture in St. Croix to stimulate that island's moribund economy.
Sen Almando "Rocky" Liburd recommended a plan to offer a separation package to displaced V.I. workers that would give them a year's salary and continued health plans to allow them to find work outside of the territory.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen sounded the first strident note of the day by challenging her colleagues to take on businesses that she said exploit local people. She specifically named Hess, now known as Hovensa, and St. Croix Alumina.
Hansen, who is not in the 11-member majority, nevertheless offered her support to Richards, saying she was not going to
interfere with him because "our people need help. Our people need progress."
Sen. Adelbert "Bert" Bryan, who has been criticized repeatedly in earlier Legislatures for disrupting sessions and committee meetings, suggested that the majority's focus on decorum is just an attempt to avoid addressing corruption and deception in government.
Warning his colleagues that he will not change his way of conducting the public's business, Bryan also said, "This is a predominant African population. I will not allow my people to end up like the Indians and the Vietnamese."
He said some Vietnamese have it better in this country than some of the sons and daughters who lost their lives in Vietnam.
Bryan said he would not allow a "bunch of pilgrims and carpetbaggers" to destroy his homeland under the guise of progress.
Bryan also took exception to non-native senators heading committees. He said
he couldn't go to some other island and be part of the government there.
Freshman Sen. Norman Jn. Baptiste said he was born in St. Lucia but chose the Virgin Islands as his home. He also said the prime minister of St. Lucia, John Compton, was not born there.
Sen. David Jones, chairman of the Committee on Economic Development, said he was from Dominica but would live the rest of his life in St. Croix.
Jones also said we need to create an atmosphere that is conducive to attracting new investment. Jones said $4 billion a year circulates through the Virgin Islands, but much of it leaves the territory.
Jones called on the new administration to find ways to keep that money here, adding one way was by "retrofitting" the workforce.
Outgoing Senate President Lorraine Berry said that at this juncture, two paths could be followed: one of derisiveness, racial
intolerance and disrespect, or the road of progress and cooperation.
She said it is up to the 23rd Legislature to redeem the territory from political malaise and gridlock.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg noted that was the No. 1 vote getter — and that he had stood alone in the 22nd Legislature in
his fight to get the Public Services Commission to review the V.I. Telephone Corp.'s rate structure.
Donastorg called for a review of IDC beneficiaries as well, referring to an "individual" who had created a "government within a government" — a reference, apparently, to Vitelco owner Jeffrey Prosser, whose $34 million tax break from the IDC in 1997 continues to be an issue in terms of telephone rates.
Newcomer Donald "Ducks" Cole voted with
the majority to approve the new committee assignments, officers and rules, despite having been left out of the majority bloc. Cole suggested that the majority punished him because he is friends with Bryan.

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