Home Commentary Editorial CHALLENGER'S TIME IS UP

CHALLENGER'S TIME IS UP

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Walter Challenger's term as chairman of the Public Services Commission is up. It expired long ago, in June 1999. Yet he continues to reign over what – from a public-interest standpoint – is one of the most important boards in the territory: the one that determines how much residents pay for water, electricity, telephone service and public transportation. The PSC is also charged with deciding whether we will have healthy competition within our public utilities — no small concern either.
Not only does Challenger continue to reign at the PSC but most recently seemed to feel he could do it without a quorum. This is not out of character for the man who blatantly refused to accept the findings of a rate investigation conducted by his own consultants – namely Georgetown Consulting Group. This is also the man who has managed to hire new consultants, through the back door, without any public scrutiny. And public scrutiny is certainly called for in the case of AUS Consultants who reportedly have previously worked for the very company they will have to investigate, the V.I. Telephone Corp., now known as Innovative Telephone.
A quick review of the PSC membership indicates that the terms of all but one of the seven voting members have expired. The one remaining commissioner is Luther Felix Renee of St. Croix, whose term expires in July.
There are also two non-voting senators appointed by the Senate president. The other seven members require Senate confirmation.
To a person, all of the governor's new nominees – sent to the Legislature well over a year ago – have withdrawn their names, the last one in September 2000.
It is incumbent upon the governor to place new nominees before the Legislature immediately – nominees who are qualified and willing to serve.
It is then equally critical for the Legislature’s Rules Committee to schedule hearings promptly to move these nominations through the legislative process so the Virgin Islands public can be assured of having a fresh, functioning and qualified board of commissioners that is dedicated to protecting the public interest, not the interests of the entities it regulates.
Until this happens, the PSC remains just one more example of the misuse of power by cynical public officials.

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