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Only a Handful Turn Out for St. John Constitutional Convention Forum

July 16, 2007 — Use e-mail to let the Constitutional Convention delegates know how you feel about issues, urged St. John resident Paul Devine Monday at an informal forum on the upcoming convention.
"We can contact people in a heartbeat," Devine said, noting how things have changed since the previous four Constitutional Conventions.
Devine passed out a list containing phone numbers and e-mail addresses for nearly all the delegates from the St. Thomas-St. John district. Only Wilma Marsh Monsanto and former Gov. Charles Turnbull did not provide e-mail addresses.
Devine, who ran unsuccessfully for a delegate's seat, and fellow St. John resident Ronnie Jones organized a series of public forums so the delegates can get input from the residents. Attending the first forum in early July were former Sen. Craig Barshinger, who was elected to a delegate's seat, and fellow delegates Alecia M. Wells and Thomas K. Moore, Devine said. About 15 residents came out for that forum.
Barshinger was the only delegate to attend Monday's forum, held at the Fish Trap Restaurant in Cruz Bay. Six residents attended, with four of them arriving well after the 7 p.m. scheduled start time. And one of those who showed up on time was Jones' wife, Janice. She said she attended the meeting to hear different concerns.
"To me, this is history in the making," she said.
Lee Stanciauskas was the other on-time arrival. She said she was looking for more information.
"I don't think people should complain about government if they don't get involved," she said.
Hector Squiabro, an unsuccessful candidate for a delegate's seat, said he made the trip from St. Thomas because he believes in the process. It seemed to him that St. John was the most active in getting the word out about the upcoming constitutional convention, Squiabro said.
Larry Best said he'd like the constitution to provide for a local zoning board.
"It would still be subject to pressure and corruption, but not like the Senate," he said.
This prompted some discussion on Grande Bay and Sirenusa, two projects that have raised the ire of many St. John residents. Grande Bay only needed a building permit because the land on which it sits was exempt from the Coastal Zone Management program's first tier for political reasons, Barshinger said.
The Grande Bay developers were unsuccessful in getting a rezoning to allow them to expand their project. That was not the case with Sirenusa, which got a rezoning to increase height. Gov. John deJongh Jr. vetoed the senator's approval of the rezoning, but the Legislature subsequently overrode his veto despite protests from St. John residents.
"I don't think the senators are sensitive to the neighbors," Best said.
The 1954 Organic Act will be repealed when the territory's voters pass a constitution, Barshinger said. This will require a comprehensive review of the territory's laws to determine which ones need to be changed because they will not conform to the constitution. He estimated that about 50 laws will need revision.
The 1981 attempt to forge a constitution failed in part because of the issue of native rights, Devine said.
"I don't believe that issue will be a factor this time," he said.
Jones and Devine plan another forum at 7 p.m. July 30 at the Fish Trap Restaurant.
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