To register their outrage over the governor’s firing of Michael Bornn as commissioner of Tourism on Thursday, the St. Croix tourism industry is planning to take to the streets on Tuesday.
Peter Locke, president of the St. Croix Accommodations Council, said members of his organization, the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, the St. Croix Taxi Association, the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and Christiansted Restaurant and Merchants Association will march on the Lieutenant Governor’s office in Christiansted to lodge their displeasure with Bornn’s ouster.
"It’s a fiasco," Locke said of Bornn’s removal. "Michael Bornn was absolutely the right person for the job."
Gov. Charles Turnbull withdrew Bornn’s nomination for Tourism commissioner over differences in "operating and management styles," according to the governor. While Turnbull said he holds Bornn in high regards personally, Bornn, an investment counselor by profession, "likes to go his own way even after repeated admonishments and warnings to do otherwise."
The biggest rift was over the administration’s ultimately successful effort to have the Senate approve a bill seeking a $300 million bond measure.
"…Bornn actively opposed the bond issue initiative of the administration even to the extent of openly lobbying members of the Legislature to vote against the measure," Turnbull said. "This is only one of the flagrant actions of … Bornn, contrary to my wishes and intent."
Immediately upon taking his position in late August, Bornn called for $20 million to be pumped into the territory’s tourism marketing efforts. A large portion of that sum would have come from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, which totals approximately $11 million a year. However, those funds, which are supposed to be deposited in the Tourism Revolving Fund, have been diverted to meet government obligations.
But it was exactly Bornn’s frank and outspoken take on the state of the government and his vision for the territory’s tourism industry that endeared him to those in the private sector. Locke said there is a direct correlation to the dismal 12-month, 45 percent occupancy rate on St. Croix and the government’s "raiding of the Tourism Revolving Fund."
"The governor knew full well Bornn’s stand on the issues," Locke said. "All of a sudden it’s not palatable. They (the administration) don’t have the stomach for the truth."
Dulcy Kushmore, an Accommodations Council board member, said Tuesday’s march has two purposes: to have Bornn reinstated and the Occupancy Tax used for its mandated purpose.
"We want all that tourism money put in a separate account, as the law intends," she said.
Kushmore said that a similar march may be planned for St. Thomas on Tuesday as well.
On Friday, Noel Loftus, president of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, said he was "angered and frustrated" by the governor’s decision.
"It shows this administration can’t govern," Loftus said. "It has been communicated to us by this administration that they aren’t open to new ideas."
He said that the name of Mel Plaskett has surfaced to take Bornn’s place. But prior to Bornn’s appointment, the Chamber had already deemed Plaskett’s nomination as "not acceptable."
Locke urged anyone interested in participating in Tuesday’s march to meet at Fort Christiansvaern at 10 a.m. The march will begin at 10:30.


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