Last Monday (Jan. 11) the islands completed their acceptance of governance by Democrats, who now must find a way out of the financial sinkhole into which the territory has been allowed to fall.
In the morning, the 15 senators were sworn in. They subsequently convened to introduce themselves to a television and radio audience.
Lorraine Berry seemed relieved to be free of the heckling she endured the past two years as Senate president. She will relax by chairing the powerful Finance Committee.
One of her hecklers, Alicia Hansen, demonstrated again that although the other 14 senators more or less represent the Virgin Islands, she represents some other entity she identifies, usually in a shout, as "My People" —
Where is that?
Another devoted Berry heckler, Adelbert Bryan, resplendent in his African tribal chieftan's robes, marched again to his own drummer, declining to appear on the Emancipation Garden bandstand for the swearing in ceremonies. (He has reason to be shy of bandstands after last July 3 in Frederiksted.)
Later, in the Senate chamber, Bryan decried Eastern Caribbean influence in the Senate (five members), declaring he never would be allowed to hold public office in any of those island nations.
Most startling thought: Freshman Norman Jn. Baptiste, a native of St. Lucia, assured Bryan that if he moved to St. Lucia and applied himself, there was no reason why he, Bryan, couldn't become prime minister there.
Best speech: newcomer Anne Golden, whose graceful remarks charmed this television viewer.
That evening, the senators reconvened to hear the first State of the Territory address by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, inaugurated one week earlier.
It was a short speech, under 30 minutes, but it made up in somber tone and candor what it might have lacked in length.
Tumbull confirmed the worst fears of those senators who worry about money. Not only is the cupboard bare but the termites are gnawing away at the shelves. The long-term debt is more than a billion dollars. Unless something good happens, the budget shortfall for this year will be almost $250,000, thanks to the Schneider administration.
You want more somber, how about this? Tumbull raised the specter of payless paydays, and said he is drawing up an attrition plan to reduce government personnel by 25 percent over five years.
As Sen. David Jones pointed out after the governor's address, it takes $26 million each and every month just to meet the government's swollen payroll.
Within minutes after Turnbull finished speaking, some senators were grousing he didn't offer enough solutions. That amounts to piling onto the quarterback as he runs onto the field for the first time.
Watching all this was congressional Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen, starting her second term. She knows her political future is tied to her fellow Democrats—Turnbull and seven senators.
One senses they will rise or fall together during this decisive year. Most of the public at last is alarmed about the crushing debt.
Turnbull, Christensen and the seven senators were elected to build a ladder, however shaky, out of the financial sinkhole and into the new century. They'll need more than unity, respect and service. They'll need some luck.
Editor's note: Frank J. Jordan is a radio commentator, former UVI journalism professor, and former NBC news executive.