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Few Attend Delegate's Listening Session on St. Thomas

Feb. 22, 2007– Only a handful of community members and government officials turned out Thursday evening at Charlotte Amalie High School for a town meeting called by Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
In addition to the delegate, those in attendance included: a representative from the office of Gov. John deJongh Jr., St. Thomas-Water Island Administrator Barbara Petersen, Glen J. Smith from the Department of Labor, a representative from the State Historic Preservation Office and community activist Hernando T. "Ike" Williams. Three representatives from the delegate's office were also present.
Because of the sparse attendance, Christensen kept the meeting informal and asked each individual to discuss issues that could be taken up on a national level.
Petersen, for example, mentioned that the government's Abandoned Vehicle Task Force has no money to fund its operations and is currently $2,000 in debt.
"There was $250,000 allocated for task-force efforts on St. Thomas-St. John, and $250,000 for St. Croix," she said. "The last of that money was spent on Dec. 9, and most of it wasn't even used for abandoned vehicles."
Petersen asked Christensen whether federal funds could be used to subsidize various beautification projects, including an initiative designed to clean up downtown Charlotte Amalie.
Christensen also took the time to outline some of her own initiatives, which include pushing through a bill that gives the territory the right to set its own property taxes.
"The bill was re-introduced this year and passed right through the House," she said. "Right now it's just sitting, waiting with a stack of other bills waiting to go to the White House."
As head of the sub-committee of Insular Affairs — a component of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources — Christensen said she will also conduct numerous hearings in Washington to discuss local issues, such as education.
"I want to look at the testing of our students," she said. "Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands are always at the bottom of the list in terms of test scores, so I want to bring some of our educational officials up to Washington to meet with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education."
Other hearings may also focus on the territory's financial situation and the need for a local border-patrol unit, she said.
The meeting, which began at 6 p.m., finished around 7:45 p.m. A similar meeting was held Wednesday evening on St. John (See "Town Meeting Highlights Poor Mail Service, Border Security Issues.")
A third and final meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Friday on St. Croix at the Curriculum Center on Kingshill.
"These (town meetings) really were designed to be listening sessions," Christensen explained before leaving the CAHS auditorium. "Because no matter whether you are chair of a committee, or anything else, it all boils down to what you are going to be bringing home. And I wanted to give the community the opportunity to discuss what issues they think need to be addressed."

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