Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett spoke about her first six weeks in office during a news conference Friday in Frederiksted.
The U.S. Congress has been in session for six weeks without a break, unlike previous representatives who convened for two weeks at a time.
The first-term congresswoman said she has been meeting with her peers in the House of Representatives and White House and traveling back to the territory on the weekends to learn about local needs.
“We’re really ramping up to get a fresh start in the district,” she said, while naming some of her staff.
Plaskett has been assigned to the Agriculture Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which deals with all federal agencies including the U.S. Post Office.
“When I come to the floor, I look for people I need to talk to,” she said.
In Washington D.C., Plaskett has met with the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and the Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, who she said were “very receptive” to issues in the territory, such as road repair and farm assistance.
Education is another important concern, the delegate said. In the last two years, the territory has lost 21st Century grants for after school programs. She hopes to recover the funding and make sure the University of the Virgin Islands is included in President Barack Obama’s community college act to provide free college classes for residents.
“We want to be at the forefront of what the package looks like,” Plaskett said.
During recent trips to the territory, she has talked about issues with representatives of Veterans’ Affairs, the V.I. Departments of Agriculture, Public Works and the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the V.I. Port Authority and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Plaskett said the territory’s primary issue is fuel and fuel storage. She plans to meet with Vice President Joe Biden next week since he has praised the Virgin Islands as a renewable energy model and talk about WAPA and Port Authority projects.
Before leaving the Virgin Islands, Plaskett plans to meet with Gov. Kenneth Mapp. So far, she said she hasn’t “talked in depth” with the governor or senators but will meet in March again with both.
“I know it is the governor’s and Senate’s job to come up with sources of revenue,” she said, but said she plans to offer some suggestions. The territory could quality for programs that provide assistance to compete with Cuba as a tourist destination and for regions that have seen 20 percent poverty for the last 30 years.
Plaskett said she will also look into grants and tax credits for private investors.
The congresswoman said she is “staying in my lane” and not trying to second-guess local authorities on crime fighting but may be able to help with after school and vocational programs. She also plans to help increase U.S. Marshalls and Coast Guard staffing.
During this trip, Plaskett toured Tropical Shipping, St. Croix Renaissance, St. Croix Central High School and Eulalie Rivera Elementary School. She hopes to visit at least one school each trip home, she said.
Upon returning to Washington D.C., Plaskett plans to address delays with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that constituents say are a “great detriment” to public and private development.
In March, she will focus efforts with other territorial delegates on voting rights when the the U.S. celebrates 50 years of voting rights with a march in Selma, Alabama on March 6.