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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, June 21, 2024


July 2, 2003 – Speaking during a visit home while Congress is on its Fourth of July break, Delegate Donna M. Christensen joined the chorus of those saying the answer to the territory's fiscal crisis may lie in the creation of a financial control board. But she said those who favor such an approach should not look to Washington to provide it.
At a press conference held on Wednesday in her St. Thomas office, Christensen said she is "pretty sure" that the U.S. Interior Department "will not be establishing a local control authority in the Virgin Islands. That would be something that would come from here."
And if it did, she added, Interior "would be willing to support" it, but not "exercise control over" it.
Christensen said she was disappointed to hear local leaders still raising the possibility of setting up a financial control board, saying that she hoped discussions between Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and members of the 25th Legislature would have dispelled such talk. At the same time, she acknowledged the severity of the fiscal crisis, saying if there is a lack of political will, there may be no choice but to go the way of a control board.
"It should not have to take place, but if consensus cannot be reached or the political will isn't there, we have to make sure we do what's in the best interest of the territory," she said.
Christensen said she had spoken with colleagues in Washington, D.C., which went the control board route in 1995, and in Guam, which is currently in similar financial straits. Where local governments have opted for an independent board, she said, those that proved most effective were created by the communities they served.
Christensen also summarized her current year to date on Capitol Hill, including her additional duties as a member of the new House Committee on Homeland Security. From that vantage point, she said, she has learned how well the Virgin Islands is doing in preparing for any potential attack from forces hostile to the United States.
"Having met with local officials by phone, federal officials by phone and the governor to talk about where we are, and looking at the grants that we've gotten," she said, she has concluded that "we're far ahead of many jurisdictions."
As an example, she pointed to a recent federal grant of $4.1 million received through the Law Enforcement Planning Commission. She said the money can be used to supplement overtime payments for essential service government workers who must put in extra hours when the federal government declares an Orange Alert security status.
"I feel good about where we are," Christensen said. Going on two years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon, she said the federal government is far behind states and cities in setting up safeguards against future attacks.

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