78.5 F
Charlotte Amalie
Friday, December 1, 2023


Jan. 27, 2003 — At its traditional biennial luncheon to welcome the new Legislature, League of Women Voters member Rosalie Simmonds-Ballentine offered the following guidelines for the new 25th Legislature, saying, "In the past, the League has shared with you some of its thoughts and ideas about plans that it wanted to see accomplished by the legislative body. And I know you're expecting me to do that now. This time, however, our Government Structure and Operations Committee will be a bit presumptuous, and offer its suggestions in a succinct list of "DO's" and "DON'Ts."
DO remember that you are public servants, not of individuals but of the whole electorate. The campaign and election are over. You represent all of us and have a responsibility to do what is right for all.
DO respect your constituents, that is, the citizens, not just when someone comes before a committee or the body as a whole, but in how the business of the Legislature is conducted.
DO ALWAYS practice fiscal responsibility.
DO have the courage of your convictions and DON'T go with the political flow and vote the popular or easier way.
DON'T authorize unfunded mandates by appropriating funds for popular projects unless a realistic source is available for allotment.
DO improve our elections system and bring it up to date, as our citizens deserve an election system that is as streamlined and efficient as its voting machines. The Board of Elections and the Supervisor, as well as the political parties and League, have made, or will be willing to make recommendations. Consider them, and act.
DO remember that oversight does not mean management. Respect the separation of powers and allow the executive departments and agencies to perform their functions.
DON'T borrow from one fund to meet a more popular, immediate project, or to balance a budget. DON'T use funds such as those of the retirement system, to directly or indirectly balance the budget.
DON'T ignore the voice of the citizens. Whether the electorate speaks in the form of a referendum, or citizens demonstrate on an issue or concern, listen to and respect their voices.
DO realize that we are a country of laws, and that the legislative immunity should not be used as a cloak to do what you want to do without following the requirements of law.
DO remember that you are in these positions because a sufficient number of voters believed that you would act responsibly for the common good, and make the difficult decisions and choices that this responsibility requires you to make. Consider well the well-being of all, or at lease the greatest number, when you make your decisions.
DO remember that leadership oftentimes requires that you think outside the box. Your constituents will follow if they agree with the direction in which you're heading.
DON'T continue to authorize long-term debt to pay current operating expenses and, similarly, DON'T incur or pay continuing expenses based on a one-time windfall, unless you have identified a source of funding over the long term.
"Politics, in its purest form,"Ballentine said, " is what the League hopes you'll exhibit over the next two years. The art of debate and compromise, always under girded with respect."
She finished by saying, " If you can accomplish this, without resorting to personal attacks, you will do much to raise the level of public debate in our community and the quality of governance," adding, " In so doing, you will raise the level of esteem in which the Legislative institution is held. If you do so, you will provide the caliber of leadership that will inspire this community to follow where you want to lead."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.