Our Crucian Crusade
A Working Paper
It does not take another consultant to tell us that the quality of life and the standard of living on St. Croix has steadily deteriorated during the Turnbull Administration, producing frustration and dissatisfaction on a daily basis for all of us. We can no longer be in denial; this level of frustration and hopelessness fuels the escalation of crime. St. Croix no longer can afford to be a ship adrift without a captain and first mate.
Recognizing the special conditions of St. Croix, we have developed an Action Plan of workable solutions to alleviate the problems Crucians face on a daily basis. St. Croix deserves better! The Virgin Islands deserve better! A deJongh Arnold Administration WILL DO better!
This document outlines a strategy to stem the tide of crime and improve the standard of living on St. Croix through economic growth, enhanced delivery of key public sector services and expanded economic opportunity.
This is a working paper. It will change over time as the deJongh Arnold Administration works together with all Crucians to achieve our common objectives. But first we need your support. We need your vote.
Candidate for Governor
Candidate for Lt. Governor
The Present Reality
The residents of St. Croix have been shortchanged for far too long. Paul Arnold's decision to become John deJongh's running mate was based on their shared belief that primary attention had to be paid to the island of St. Croix, in order to grow the economy and raise the standard of living for all. For John and Paul, the days of false promises and platitudes are over.
The goal of the deJongh Arnold Administration first is to regain the economic strength of the 1960's and then to build from there.
Fact: Between 1960 -1970 St. Croix was the most powerful industrial economy in the Eastern Caribbean.
Fact: St. Croix offered an irresistible magnet for jobs in the region both in industry and tourism.
Fact: St. Croix provided wages many times greater than any other island in the region.
Compare that with the following grim statistics:
Fact: The current unemployment rate on St. Croix is 11.2%.
Fact: Our SAT scores have dropped since 1999 and are hundreds of points below National averages.
Fact: Our murder rate has skyrocketed: 14 Crucians had been murdered by early September 2002.
As a community we cannot allow this to continue. The deJongh Arnold Administration will not allow it to continue.
The U.S. Virgin Islands economy is about the size it was in the mid-1980s. For more than a decade, the U.S. Virgin Islands has been graduating an average of 1,100 students from high schools each year and only a small fraction of those not going on to college or the military have been able to find employment. The number of high school graduates from St. Croix has averaged 640 over the past 22 years. In contrast, the average number of new jobs created annually on St. Croix has equaled about 130 over this period. Thus no more than approximately 20 percent of any high school graduating class has been able to remain on St. Croix and find employment. For two decades St. Croix's most valuable export has been the export of its children.
Additionally, using U.S. Department of Labor data, the U.S. Virgin Islands has the third lowest average wages in any jurisdiction under the U.S. flag. Two-thirds of all occupations in the U.S. Virgin Islands average pay is in the bottom half of states and territories and about one-half are in the lowest wage group. In contrast, we have the highest cost of living under the U.S. flag. Most distressing of all is the fact that nearly 50 percent of all our children live in poverty.
Through September 2002, the employment numbers are not encouraging. Territory-wide civilian employment remains about equal to what it was in 1989 and for St. Croix employment is where it was more than 20 years ago. Nearly 10 years of steady employment declines have left the St. Croix economy flat on its back. Adding more injury is the fact that the HOVENSA coker construction has been completed resulting in a further decline in employment. That plus the loss of cruise ships to the island will have a devastating impact on small businesses, jobs and family security.
At the close of the 1990s, the St. Croix economy was basically the same as it was in the late 1980s: population measured in the 2000 Census was 53,234, up by 3,509 persons over the 1980 Census, a 7% increase over 20 years. Total permit values as of the end of 2001 ($58.0 million) were significantly below 1990's $190.0 million; the number of hotels (18) has not increased since 1990; the total number of rooms or units (1,213) was below 1980's 1,617 units; and air visitor arrivals (140,200) are significantly below 1990's 181,400. Cruise ship passenger arrivals had recently hit 237,400, slightly above the high-point experienced in 1995. However, effectively all St. Croix arrivals are now in jeopardy with the pull-out by Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Cruises from the island. Total civilian employment equaled 19,350 for the island of St. Croix, the same as in 1989, with the number of those unemployed at 2,450, the highest it has ever been, an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent.
The challenges of the St. Croix economy can no longer be ignored by those responsible for its management, but unable to act because they do not know what to do! What is needed is Leadership. Leadership for a change. John deJongh and Paul Arnold will provide this Leadership.
The rebirth of St. Croix must begin with an honest assessment of both our strengths and our weaknesses. The fact is that St. Croix has a strong base on which to build.
1. The stability of the U.S. financial system, the security of the U.S. flag, and a Federal Government prepared to lend a hand, but no more "hand-outs;"
2. Direct access to a global fiber optics network with St. Croix at its hub;
3. A diversely trained and experienced supply of skilled labor concentrated in the service and industrial sectors;
4. A vast inventory of under-utilized hotel, commercial and industrial sites that can accommodate multiple business operations;
5. A rich cultural history and inventory of historic architecture ripe for restoration and marketing;
6. An airport and container port each with great expansion capacity; and
7. The largest, most modern petroleum refinery in the western hemisphere capable of offering products at the lowest price in the region.
The following infrastructure issues must be addressed by Government or its semi-autonomous entities: public schools, sewage system, solid waste management, road maintenance, street lighting, reliable and affordable water and electric service, and business license processes.
This assessment must be ongoing. Government cannot act alone. John and Paul, once elected, as Governor and Lt. Governor, will meet immediately and regularly with St. Croix business and union leaders to develop a consensus on the current obstacles to business success and expansion and how best to alleviate these obstacles through Government action.
Presented below is a summary of key Action Items that will be undertaken by the deJongh Arnold Administration immediately upon taking office in January 2003. The implementation of these Action Items will establish the solid foundation required to rebuild the St. Croix economy in order to increase jobs, enhance business opportunities, improve salary levels, and raise government revenues needed for delivery of quality public services on the island. This summary sets both goals and deadlines for our actions.
1. Action Item: School Accreditation
Schedule a meeting with officials of the Middle States Association during January 2003 with the goal of shortening the timeline to the re-accreditation of our high schools, and to set the steps for implementation of our plan for acc
reditation for all grade levels.
2. Action Item: Territorial Tax Reform
Activate the Tax Reform Commission to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the various taxes, fees and assessments applicable to individuals and businesses. Appoint, as a subgroup, the Small Business Preservation Commission in accordance with existing law specifically charged with the task of law reform designed to promote growth of these companies.
3. Action Item: Insurance Industry Reform
Immediately submit legislation to create a Department of Financial Institutions comprised of a Division of Banking and a Division of Insurance to be headed by an individual with financial services experience. Meet with insurers and brokers in the U.S., European and Bermuda markets in February 2003 in order to gain their input as to what is required for their return to the U.S. Virgin Islands and to increase the property coverage available to residents.
4. Action Item: Recapture Cruise Lines
The cruise lines have indicated what we must do for them to reconsider St. Croix as a port of call: (i) enhance crime prevention and (ii) improve the tourism infrastructure. Based on the Cruise Lines recommendations, the deJongh Arnold Administration will implement the following:
a. Working Group. Within the first 14 days in office we will create a special public/private partnership to meet with cruise line officials and make recommendations to recapture the cruise lines and to lure new cruise ships to St. Croix. John deJongh was Co-Chairman of the Cruise Ship Task Force and drafted the Long-Term Operating Agreement that was approved by the Virgin Islands Legislature. He personally knows the decision-makers at the major cruise lines.
b. "Culturally Crucian" Program. The Botanical Gardens, Rain Forest, Cruzan Rum, Food Products, Whim Museum are all Crucian tourism "gems." Through the EDA and the Department of Tourism, immediate support will be given to small business owners to develop, market and operate specific tours that will provide tourists with much needed activities and permit them to enjoy all of St. Croix's assets. The deJongh Arnold Administration will provide training, access to funding for infrastructure investment, start-up subsidies for operators of approved tours, and marketing support to generate customer flow. The Crucian taxi industry will be provided assistance and be assured access to these new opportunities. These incentives will create new entrepreneurs and provide much needed exposure and income for the existing "gems" of St. Croix.
5. Action Item: Brand-Name Hotels
Within four months of taking office, develop a prospect list and have the Governor or Lt. Governor personally make marketing visits to the major hotel brand operators and time-share companies to explore what steps the Government can take to attract the development of high-quality brand resorts to the island.
6. Action Item: Event Planning and Tourism Promotion
Within the first 120 to 200 days develop a specific budget for implementation of the following:
a. "Culturally Crucian" programs: Agriculture and Food Fair, Mango Melee, Crucian Christmas Festival, Performing Arts Festival, VI/PR Friendship Celebration, Quelbe Music Festival
b. Carnival programs with incorporation in the advertising and marketing of the U.S. Virgin Islands brand
c. Heritage tourism programs: St. Croix Heritage Trail
d. Sports tourism programs: inter-island sporting events, Coral Reef Swim, Regattas, Half-Iron Man Triathalon, Charter Yacht League Marine show
e. A Winter Arts and Music Festival
7. Action Item: A New Focus on EDC Beneficiaries' Needs
Convene a conference of Economic Development Commission (EDC) beneficiaries within the first 90 days to be held on St. Croix under the direction of the Lt. Governor to determine their employment needs:
a. Institute training and educational programs, in conjunction with the University of the Virgin Islands and the Workforce Investment Board, to address the employment needs of the EDC companies, especially the workforce requirements of St. Croix
b. Undertake the establishment of a vocational program to supplement the offerings at the HOVENSA Craft Training Program 8. Action Item: EDC Marketing Initiatives
c. Emphasize within the Economic Development Authority the marketing of EDC benefits for St. Croix. Within 100 days, produce new and updated materials and website with appropriate links for information and a way to begin the application process on line. Increase the focus on Financial Services Companies to be located on St. Croix. Concentrate on the creation of a captive insurance industry. Further the focus on financial managers seeking to relocate back-office operations, call centers, and trading operations to St. Croix.
9. Action Item: Enhance Police Presence
The ever-diminishing number of police officers on St. Croix has been a major concern for locals and visitors alike. The deJongh Arnold Administration will take the following steps to increase police presence:
a. Recruit trained personnel from the Military
b. Release officers from clerical and other non-police duties
c. Provide incentives for inter-island reassignment
d. Re-establish the police cadet corps and the police auxiliary
The deJongh Arnold Administration will seek to further focus law enforcement initiatives by proposing legislation to remove the Attorney General as a member of the V.I. Port Authority Board or any other boards or commissions not specifically related to law enforcement. In addition, the police department will be reorganized under two district Chiefs of Police, each reporting directly to the Commissioner of Police.
10. Action Item: Make Operational Autonomy for St. Croix a Reality
St. Croix has suffered tremendously from a lack of autonomy in important public sector areas. Within the first 180 days, the deJongh Arnold Administration will take steps to provide autonomy for the following departments, utilizing technology to coordinate the department as a whole, and to provide operational independence.
a. Police Department: 911 operational authority and on-island processing emergency calls
b. Department of Finance: document input, vendor processing and check disbursement
c. Department of Property and Procurement: internet access for bid documentation; vendor processing
d. Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs: on-line and on-island application submission and processing
e. Department of Tourism: brand identification
f. Department of Education: full authority to the Insular Superintendent coupled with site-based management at the individual schools.
Central to the implementation of the above changes in organization and processes will be training and educational programs to enhance employee skills. This will be done in partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Graduate School, via coordination with the Division of Personnel. Additionally, a review of job descriptions and job classifications will be initiated under the auspices of the Lt. Governor to assure fairness in pay levels and work responsibilities.
11. Action Item: Expand Air Service
Over the last three and a half years, the island of St. Croix has experienced a steady reduction in seating capacity to the island provided by scheduled carriers. The de Jongh Arnold Administration does not support the increase in fees and charges on the airlines and its other tenants proposed by the V.I. Port Authority in August 2002. Given the current crisis in the airline industry, we believe it better policy to utilize the excess money in the Insurance Guaranty Fund to capitalize the V.I. Port Authority's Fiscal Year 2003 budget gap. There are currently no charter flights serving the Island. Reversing this trend requires an organizational change: the creation of an office in the Department of Tourism dedicated to the expansion of air service through building and maintaining frie
ndly and on-going business relations with all air carriers. The V.I. Port Authority must be part of a coordinated and positive effort to increase air traffic. Also, critical to this area is the completion of the air controller tower on St. Croix.
Within six months of taking office, the Governor or Lt. Governor will personally meet with airline chief executives to discuss how to increase jet service and aggregate seat capacity to the island of St. Croix. The de Jongh Arnold Administration further believes that in lieu of funding a high-risk start-up airline, available funding should be re-allocated to support the existing scheduled air carriers serving the Territory to support and build traffic to St. Croix.
Expansion in this area will result in the development of supporting industries, especially the technical support fields. This concentration further allows the V.I. Port Authority to stay within its core competence in aviation and utilize its landholdings to allow business creation (such as, aircraft maintenance, flight kitchen facilities, and air cargo facilities) while taking advantage of the availability of low-cost fuel produced on the island.
The development of incremental air traffic will be based on:
a. Establishment of a feeder-hub from St. Croix to the smaller Caribbean markets
b. Identification of charter flights to the island, especially from the international markets such as Denmark, Holland, Italy
c. Preparation of a marketing plan to attract carriers that currently do not service St. Croix, or the U.S. Virgin Islands
12. Action Item: End Sewage in the Streets
The deJongh Arnold Administration will fully implement the establishment of a Waste Management Authority as recommended by the Economic Recovery Task Force chaired by John deJongh. This Authority will systematically address the issues of solid waste, wastewater, and used oil disposal. Natural storm water runoff and its impact on coastal ecosystems will, of necessity, be part of this task. A primary focus of this Administration will be full compliance with Federal environmental rules and regulations and building a proactive relationship between the V.I. Government and Federal regulators. The time has come when the VI government will no longer fail to meet or exceed judicial or regulator imposed Orders of Violation.
Recognizing that on St. Croix many of today's sewage issues relate directly to the age and original installation of the sewage system, the deJongh Arnold Administration will give the highest priority to the repair and replacement of the 30+ year old sewage system that is at the end of its useful life. Special attention will be given to insuring that the piping infrastructure is appropriate for the highly corrosive soils of the Virgin Islands and that upgrades to the treatment plant and ocean discharge will meet all EPA guidelines. An aggressive coordinated campaign seeking Federal assistance for this effort will be initiated immediately upon taking office.
13. Action Item: Resolve Solid Waste Disposal/Sanitary Landfill Issues
After several warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration, the Turnbull Administration has been forced to address the urgent situation of the Anguilla Landfill, especially after ignoring its own January 1999 letter commitment to immediately correct this situation.
The deJongh Arnold Administration supports the concepts of composting and recycling of appropriate materials as well as high tech waste-to-energy facilities outlined in the Strategic and Financial Operating Plan developed by the Economic Recovery Task Force, chaired by John deJongh. However, we fully recognize that no solutions to the solid waste problem on St. Croix can be pursued until a new site for the collection and disposal of municipal solid waste is identified. This site is the one ingredient that makes all other solutions possible, removes the smoke and fire menace of the past 25 years associated with the Anguilla dump, and frees up potential for the airport and Port Authority.
After a public and open process requesting proposals, negotiations will commence immediately with private landowners and developers, with consideration given to design-build, full service contracts, for a facility either within the industrial mega-plex or elsewhere on the island. With the establishment of a new waste management site we can then effectively plan for a multi-faceted solution to the island's long term solid waste needs.
14. Action Item: Make Effective the Workforce Development,
Training and Education System
The unemployment level on St. Croix has topped 11%. The deJongh Arnold Administration will therefore place emphasis on job creation and, where necessary, on the training or retraining of the local workforce to be employed in these new jobs. We believe that many of our social problems solve themselves when people go to work. Raising the skill level of the St. Croix workforce not only increases opportunities for gainful employment, but it also provides a greater sense of community pride and a lower level of criminal activity.
Under the supervision of the Lt. Governor, the deJongh Arnold Administration will bring the Workforce Investment Board to full strength to access the Federal funding available under the Federal Workforce Investment Act. Additionally, we shall do the following:
a. Open a Department of Labor "One Stop Services Center" mid-island within the first 90 days
b. Open Satellite offices in Frederiksted and Christiansted within the next 90 days
c. Develop Vocational Training Centers in association with private employers and the University of the Virgin Islands within the first 120 days utilizing the curriculum and training modules of the National Center for Construction Education and Research
d. Target individuals to be trained in the following areas: Industrial Materials, Financial Services, Information Technology, Teachers, and Nurses
e. Develop a program to offer incentives in housing, education, stipends, or bonuses to attract good people in difficult-to-fill positions such as teachers, nurses and police officers
15. Action Item: Develop a Small Business Program
The Economic Development Administration must be focused on helping to create new business ventures and must take the initiative to do this in conjunction with commercial banks and other financial firms, not in isolation from these traditional sources of capital.
The deJongh Arnold Administration will create a $25.0 million venture guaranty fund, within the EDA, to provide credit-enhancement and technical support to small and mid-size firms domiciled within the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to foster entrepreneurship and job creation where the traditional sources of capital have left a gap. The issuance of guarantees will help create small business opportunities. An aggressive "Buy-Local" Program must be undertaken immediately.
The Office of Film Promotion will be transferred to the Economic Development Authority and local small businesses will be encouraged to service and promote the use of local sites as locations for films and advertisements.
16. Action Item: Promote Convention and Conference Tourism
A special division of the Department of Tourism will be established to attract Meeting and Convention Business to St. Croix. The target groups will be the annual meetings of mid-sized organizations and the mid-seasonal meetings and incentive trips of larger organizations. This special division will work with local hotels, including the new branded operators, to define how best to develop this business. The deJongh Arnold Administration will then move to assist in the development of needed facilities.
In conjunction with this action, the deJongh Arnold Administration, through the V.I. Public Finance Authority will initiate an aggressive program to put the King's Alley Hotel/Shopping Center back into private sector management and coordinate the development of the smaller hotels in Christiansted through creation of a small hotel expansion/reha
17. Action Item: Upgrade Recreation Facilities
The children of St. Croix do not, for the most part, utilize existing recreation centers because they are not open when the children are out of school and, most importantly, the facilities are not welcoming to our children. The deJongh Arnold Administration will within the first 120 days:
a. Upgrade these facilities
b. Stagger the operating hours open into the evening and on Saturdays and Sundays with certain activities regularly scheduled
c. In conjunction with private sector partners, including non-governmental organizations, establish technology learning centers at certain recreational
facilities and in certain neighborhoods
18. Action Item: Reinvigorate Downtown Redevelopment
The deJongh Arnold Administration will institute programs to refurbish and maintain the architectural treasures in Frederiksted and Christiansted. Expanding business opportunities in each town will further this goal.
These initiatives will include:
a. Property and income tax incentives specifically targeted at the restoration and reconstruction of historic buildings
b. An inventory of the various owners of buildings and landholdings to establish a database of potential targets for redevelopment and customer referrals
c. Refurbishing of residential and commercial properties within the central business districts in order to re-establish property values, equity levels and on-going in-town activities
d. Identification of Federal funds for economic development and historic preservation projects
e. Identification of national foundations that disburse funds for historic
preservation and urban revitalization
f. The creation of tax increment districts and use of tax increment financing to partially fund infrastructure needs in each town
g. Reconstituting the benefits package of the enterprise zone program to include capital investment and employer credits for certain workforce hires
h. Renovation of the following: the Old Danish School Building, the Old Convent, and several additional buildings for use as Bed & Breakfast Inns
i. Further development of the Seven Flags Program
j. Developing, in conjunction with key non-governmental organizations, a work plan to address marketing each district, policing the districts, and cleaning the districts on a regular basis
19. Action Item: Modernize Motor Vehicle Registration/License Renewal
The current system on St. Croix for motor vehicle registration and drivers licenses does not work. Within the first 90 days the deJongh Arnold Administration will institute a system to revamp these two systems maximizing the use of technology. On St. Croix this will require dedicated facility upgrades to improve staff conditions and customer satisfaction.
a. Removal of the Division of Motor Vehicles from under the Department of Police
b. Designate certain gasoline service stations with the appropriate repair operations as certified agents for inspection purposes
c. On-line motor vehicle registration for vehicles less than five years old
d. Online Drivers License Renewal
20. Action Item: Develop Business Parks
The deJongh Arnold Administration will work to further the plans supporting the V.I. Port Authority's Commerce and Business Park as well as the development of the St. Croix Renaissance Park and Port St. Croix on the former Alcoa property by St. Croix Renaissance Park LLP. The development of both these parks must be coordinated with the development of the University of the Virgin Islands' Research and Technology Park. It is quite possible the business strategies of the Commerce and Business Park and the Research and Technology Park would benefit from closer coordination, thus avoiding duplication of efforts and incentives in attracting participating firms.
21. Action Item: Develop E-Commerce Industry
Given the installation of the fiber optic network by Global Crossing and ATT in Frederiksted the opportunity exists to attract industries that depend on this infrastructure. The necessary links must be distributed across the island, yet the existence of the cable landings enhances this opportunity for business creation. Marketing to businesses in data entry and data processing, communications, software design, information service and financial services, including trading operations, must be focused and persistent.
Aggressively seek the development of an E-Commerce industry on St. Croix, and coordinate the development of a sustainable partnership between the University of the Virgin Islands' Research and Technology Park and the V.I. Port Authority's Commerce and Business Park.
The creation of new industries based on this business model will be further enhanced by the start-up of the University of the Virgin Islands' Research and Technology Park which will include: (i) a web-hosting center allowing e-commerce businesses to have a virtual presence; (ii) an incubator facility; and, (iii) a business park segment for knowledge-based companies.
A critical component of establishing this industry will be the enactment of a technology act to address the many issues of electronic law. As president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, John de Jongh, assisted in drafting proposed model legislation that was passed by the V.I. Legislature and vetoed by Governor Charles W. Turnbull. The de Jongh Arnold Administration will ensure the passage of this legislation.
22. Action Item: Foster Import Substitution Businesses
The guiding principle here is to assist local manufacturers of goods or providers of services that are currently purchased outside the U.S. Virgin Islands. These goods and services can serve both the resident population and tourists. The goal is to develop businesses, by providing the appropriate level of technical assistance and appropriate financing, which serve the goal of reducing imports. The establishment of businesses within this business model will reduce the cost of historically imported goods and services.
Targeted businesses include:
a. Vegetable, herb, fruit and other produce, aquaculture of fish
b. Locally-produced tourism products and souvenirs
c. Service and decorative products required by the hotels, small inns and businesses
Appoint a working group by July 2003 to develop a strategic plan to create a sustainable agricultural industry, specifically for St. Croix, that will focus on the economics of production, labor, access to capital, utilization of government landholdings, and distribution of products developed.
23. Action Item: Caribbean Market Expansion
Develop an Office of Caribbean Relations with the focus on fostering regional trade relations and economic growth to provide an additional marketing outlet for USVI-produced products.
A Call to Action
None of the goals of
Our Crucian Crusade
can be achieved without strong, competent leadership
In service to all in the Virgin Islands, the de Jongh Arnold Administration will focus on an affordable housing program, improving health care delivery and accessibility, the long-overdue retroactive obligations due government workers and the unfunded liability of the retirement system. All these areas must be addressed…all these areas will be addressed!
But, when all is said and done, the fate of St. Croix, the future of the Virgin Islands, rests with Virgin Islands VOTERS. This Election, much like the last, will be determined by Crucian voters. It is up to you to choose between the failed practices — the failed politicians — of the past, or a new generation of trained, competent and caring leaders who know how to create real economic opportunity for St. Croix, for Crucians and for all Virgin Islanders.