June 11, 2001 — Leaders of the territory’s business organizations are urging the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce to withdraw its lawsuit against the Legislature for not reducing the number of its members. The lawsuit, they say, will impede other efforts already underway to work with the body on issues to revive the territory's economy.
The presidents of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, the St. Croix Hotel Association and the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel and Tourism Association late last week sent letters to Carmelo Rivera, president of the St. Croix Chamber, expressing dismay that the were not consulted about the lawsuit. All of the presidents noted that the lawsuit came as a surprise to them and that it threatened recent efforts to bring the organizations together to lobby the government on specific issues, including a tourism authority, tax reform and addressing insurance capacity issues.
"We were blown away on learning through the media this week of your organization’s lawsuit to force the reduction of the number of senators in the Virgin Islands Legislature," wrote the president of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association, Richard Doumeng, on Thursday.
"We believe that an issue of this magnitude deserved discussion amongst the four organizations, which have been forging an alliance," Doumeng wrote to Rivera. "Additionally, we are even more taken aback since the opportunity for discussion was readily available."
In his letter to Rivera on Friday, John deJongh Jr., president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber, noted that the organizations met with members of the Senate majority on May 30 to discuss the tourism authority and implementing aspects of the government’s five-year economic plan. Two days later the St. Croix Chamber filed its lawsuit.
"We strongly believe that if the lawsuit remains in the picture that very little, if anything else, will be accomplished to benefit the economy, the people and our many member businesses," deJongh wrote.
In his Thursday letter to Rivera, Wendall Snider, president of the St. Croix Hotel Association, said that while filing the lawsuit was the right of the St. Croix Chamber, the other organizations were "owed notification."
"Reaching consensus with our four groups, the Legislation and the executive branch is a challenging task," Snider wrote. "This lawsuit unfortunately makes this goal almost impossible. Please reconsider your position so that we can proceed with the work we originally planned to grow the economy of the entire territory.
"It will be more difficult to achieve the trust of the Legislature, but we must try," he said.
Rivera returned from off-island Saturday night. When reached Sunday night, he said he hadn’t yet seen the letters and couldn’t comment.
Meanwhile, the Senate Government Operations, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee held public hearings on the reduction bill on all three islands last week. While the bill will be heard next in the Rules Committee, it will likely fail due to a lack of support.


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