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Petition Drive Seeks to Recall Senators Who Voted for Raises

Dec. 30, 2006 — Voters around St. Croix are flocking to sign petitions to recall senators who voted for raises for themselves, the governor and lieutenant governor at Thursday's special session of the Legislature.
Jan Mitchell of the Mitchell-Larsen Studio in Christiansted said she received the recall petitions Saturday but has been fielding inquiries from people wanting to sign since Friday. "Yesterday I had phone calls off the wall," Mitchell said. "People are flocking into the store."
As of noon Saturday, Mitchell said, more than 60 people had signed the petition.
"I think people are really angry, myself included," she said. "I don't feel we can afford (the raises). As a small-business owner, Mitchell said, she gives raises to her employees when "they deserve it" and when the business can afford it. Until the senators "prove themselves," she said, they should not get a raise.
The spark that lit the recall flame was calls to "Free Speech," a local radio talk show, said one of the petition's organizers, who asked not to be identified. So many people called on the day of the session voicing their opinions against giving the raises, and then the next day voicing outrage on the approval, he said, that "they decided to start a recall."
The organizer said there is one petition to recall each St. Croix senator who voted for the measure — Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, Ronald E. Russell and Juan Figueroa-Serville — and one for Sen. Neville James, who was absent from the session.
Customers at Turtles Deli in Frederiksted are eager to sign the petition, owners Bob and Mary Scribbner said.
"They are extremely upset about the way it was done," Mary said. The money for the raises could have been better spent on pressing issues facing the territory, they said.
"If we have so much money, why can't we fix the roads, the sewer system, buy textbooks and not run out of medicine for HIV patients?" Bob asked.
V.I. senators have more responsibility than legislators in other places, the Scribbners agreed, but they said pay raises are not the answer. "Creating municipalities would solve so many of our problems," Mary said.
She continued, "We need a mayor to respond to our needs. Our problems are not the same as Christiansted and they are certainly not the same as St. Thomas."
There have been two previous formal recall petitions in the Territory. The V.I. Federation of Teachers sought to recall Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, citing "incompetence" (See "St. Croix Teachers Union Seeks Turnbull's Recall"), and the United V.I. Action Coalition started a recall petition against two senators who voted to keep video-lottery terminals legal (See "VLT Foes Ask U.S. Review, Seek Recall of 2 Senators.") Both petitions were filed in 2003, and both failed to get the required number of signatures.
Under V.I. law, at least half the number of people who voted in the last election, plus one, needs to sign the petitions to make them valid. The Elections Board then certifies the signatures, giving the Senate 60 days to decide whether to hold a recall election.
Among the places the petitions can be found:
— Cruzan Carib, Christiansted;
— Mitchell-Larsen Studio, Christiansted;
— The Royal Pionciana, Christiansted;
— Turtles Deli, Frederiksted.
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