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Senate Heartily Approves New OMB Director

June 20, 2007 — It was smooth sailing Wednesday for Debra Gottlieb, whose nomination to head the local Office of Management and Budget made it through the full legislative body with overwhelming support from senators.
Praising her years of experience within the agency, senators described Gottlieb as a perfect fit for the position. Gottlieb has worked for the OMB for the past 16 years, making her way up through the ranks and filling several other positions on the path toward becoming the executive director, according to testimony given during a Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting held earlier this week. (See "Debra Gottlieb Confirmed as OMB Director.")
"Out of all the nominees that the governor has sent down to this Legislature, no nominee is as qualified as this one to head the Office of Management and Budget — and that's a fact," said Sen. Neville A. James.
Gottlieb's on-the-job training, coupled with her academic background, qualifies her for the position, added Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Carlton "Ital" Dowe.
"She holds a master's degree in public administration," he said. "In these critical times, if there is one person in the organization that knows the agency inside and out and understands the government of the Virgin Islands, it's Miss Gottlieb."
Dowe urged all senators to support Gottlieb's nomination, describing her as the "lady who controls, to a great degree, the purse strings of the government."
After they unanimously approved her nomination, Gottlieb addressed the senators amidst a loud round of applause from those gathered within the legislative chambers.
"I want to thank you all for the confidence you've expressed in me today," she said. "I will do my best to continue the good working relationship that OMB has with the Legislature … and I promise to live up to the trust and support that you all have placed in me."
During the session, senators also approved:
— the nomination of Brenda B. Benjamin to the V.I. Water and Power Authority Governing Board;
— the nomination of John F. Lewis to the Economic Development Authority Governing Board; and
— a bill prohibiting loud and excessive noise levels.
The noise-pollution bill is not designed to put a damper on outdoor activities, according to Sen. Liston Davis. "It's not intended to stop noise," he said. "It just places restrictions on noise levels in residential and other areas so we can give our residents some peace and tranquility."
While the nominations and noise-pollution bill moved forward with little debate, senators did engage in some heated discussion later in the day. Though a few of the arguments centered on bills recently submitted to the Legislature by Gov. John deJongh Jr., other issues — such as the continuation of annual French Heritage Week activities — were sporadically introduced into the conversation.
French Heritage Week activities on St. Thomas are usually funded in part by the Legislature, according to Sen. Louis P. Hill, who said he has called on Senate President Usie R. Richards to continue this tradition, spearheaded in previous legislatures by former Sen. Lorraine L. Berry.
While Richards said he did not intend to discriminate against any of the territory's many "identity groups," he also explained that funds contained within the Legislature's budget are not, according to local law, to be used for "activities outside the duties, functions and responsibilities of the Legislature" — such as contributions made to various local groups, programs or organizations.
Hill has not yet sponsored a bill or amendment that appropriates money for the Heritage Week celebrations, Richards added. "I have also not received any correspondence from the governor asking me to work with the Senate or Government House in appropriating monies for these events," he said.
Hill said he has received numerous phone calls from the territory's French community, wondering why the Legislature has not yet kicked in funding for the celebrations.
"Why is this institution discriminating against the French people?" Hill asked. "There is a lot of silence on this issue from many sitting in here tonight."
In a press release sent Wednesday evening, Hill explained that French Heritage Week celebrations, conducted from July 8-14, are recognized by local law. While no specific appropriations have been set aside for the event previously, Hill added that the executive and legislative branches usually chip in to cover a portion of the expenses.
Present during Wednesday's session were Davis and Dowe, along with Sens. Juan Figueroa-Serville, Hill, James, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Basil Ottley Jr., Richards, James Weber III, Carmen M. Wesselhoft and Alvin L. Williams.
Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. was absent.
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