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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, December 2, 2022
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Choose Wisely, Your Future Depends on It

Dear Source:
While we are trying to make sure that senators and other public officials do the peoples' will, we must concentrate our collective efforts in changing the basics of our government that caused the problems to begin with. That basis is the document that all current Virgin Island law stems from-The Organic Act. The United States Congress has the responsibility of writing an Organic Act for those possessions that did not have a Constitution of their own. The Virgin Islands has no Constitution and so it depends on what Congress wrote back in 1936 with the most major revisions made in 1954, as the basis of our laws. Since 1954, when the Virgin Islands, through the Organic Act, created its present form of government-an elected governor and a unicameral senate, Congress has continually asked the government and the people of the Virgin Islands to create a Constitution of their own doing. Four past attempts have been made, the most recent attempt in 1980, but all have been rejected by the voters of the Virgin Islands even though accepted by the President and the United States Congress. There are many reasons why the previous efforts failed but uppermost were the apathetic attitudes of the populace. People simply did not want major change. This is true, arguably, because they did not understand what the future would hold if massive changes were made. It didn't seem to matter that the people, who are universally opposed to the present government, cannot find the will to change it. That may have been true in the not so distant past but it is clear, given the message of the St Croix recall, that people are more in tune with their government failings and need and want major changes in the way we do government business.
If we had a Constitution, and if that Constitution was written in a way that would disallow the practice of passing laws without public hearings and multiple readings, Act 6905 would never have passed. If a law were already in place that prohibited increases in the salary of anyone in government without public review, the Senators would never have gotten a raise. The sad fact is, we only have the Organic Act and there is no language that prohibits such obscene practices. We know that there is no trust in the present "leadership" to do the right thing.
Starting in early April, 2007 the Constitutional Convention process will begin when delegate candidates to the Convention take out nomination papers. Each prospective candidate needs 25 signatures from qualified voters to apply. According to Election Commission rules, a delegate must have been a registered Virgin Islands voter for the three previous years before being elected. On May 16, 2007, candidates must submit nomination papers and a special election will occur on June 23, 2007. Who will be delegates is up to the voters and just like you choose a governor and senators; you must be sure you're selecting the right person. The delegates to the Constitutional Convention are working to create something special-a Constitution that we never had before. What is contains is even more important than the election of any governor or senator because what it says will affect you forever. Governors and Senators come and go but the Constitution, like the Constitution of the United States, lives on.
Each one of us has a stake in this process. Each one of us has some concern about how government is run. Perhaps it's the teachers who are not paid on time or the elderly who are not properly taken care of. Maybe it's the police who want to do a good job but are restrained because of under-staffing or the environmentally-conscientious who want our islands to not be polluted with construction run-off. Many people want municipal government while others have no idea what that means. Some people want their real-estate taxes to be used on the island that produced them where others think the central government should dispense them as they see fit. Whatever your views, you now have an opportunity to express them through the delegates you choose. I should think that it is in the best interests of every voting Virgin Islander to choose their delegates wisely.
In past Conventions, the delegates have been mostly politicians or past-politicians or people close to government. It appears that delegates were elected based upon the fact that they knew how government was run and so made the best candidates. If you feel this way-fine but after fifty two years have people close to government worked in your best interest? Have those people you elected and selected in the past made your lives richer? More fulfilling? Has your standard of living gotten better by the officials you chose in the past? If you think so, then, by all means, choose them again. If not, you have a lot of things to consider before you vote for a delegate who has the task of changing your lives. This is not a minor election by any means. This special election of delegates will be the most important vote you may ever make as a Virgin Islander. Choose wisely.

Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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