Home Commentary Op-ed 'CYCLE OF CHANGE' IN THE VI ISN’T CHANGING

'CYCLE OF CHANGE' IN THE VI ISN’T CHANGING

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Sen. Adelbert Bryan’s recent Draft Sustainable Plan points to an inherent problem with our local politics. The attempt is part of an all too familiar cycle in the territory.
The Virgin Islands’ "Cycle of Change"
1. Our problems are easy to identify.
2. Our senators report that problems should not be dealt with piecemeal and refuse to take substantial changes. Accepted comprehensive plans on the table are ignored. (If our problems can’t be dealt with individually and our Senate is not in process of implementing a comprehensive plan, what is the Senate doing?)
3. At great expense and effort a comprehensive plan endorsed by all concerned parties is developed. From a senator’s point of view, this tedious process may have the additional benefit of keeping concerned community members occupied and thus not reviewing the value of current Senate efforts. Senators also get some political mileage by publicly agreeing to the plan.
4. For years the plan is ignored for a variety of reasons. These reasons can get creative, but the fact is that the plan is not implemented.
5. The last comprehensive plan is declared dated and therefore no longer useful. At some point the primary reason to ignore the plan becomes that the plan is dated.
6. Repeat steps 1-5 ad nauseam.
I suggest that the only way to fix our government is to make it publicly accountable as it already is by law.
We do know some gross figures. We are a population of about 110,000 with a local budget of over a half-billion dollars. In the islands, we get to keep all the taxes we collect but still get substantial federal funding. Even so, we have managed to get close to a billion dollars in debt.
Where has the money gone? Not our roads, not to teacher salaries, not to fire or police protection either. Not the hospitals. Where?
We are not being told where our money is going because our government officials know that they don't want us to know. Note to government officials: We want to know.
So in these very tough times we discover a bit of "extra" money and what do our officials do? Pay off debts? No. Increase long term spending using a revenue stream that can't be confirmed? Yes.
My only surprise is that this decision to make promises we can not keep was not made during an election year. The Virgin Islands government usually waits till election years to make their false promises.
My plea to our Senate is to stop the cycle. Make substantial changes now. Make government accountable. Please start with yourselves and explain why 15 persons (with a staff of over 220) need to spend more than 5 percent of our budget.
Let us know in detail what this money is buying. How, in these times of reported financial hardship, can you vote to substantially increase your overall budget while reducing the budget of many of your members?
Senate members, while you are it, please acknowledge the very clear choice made by voters and reduce the number of senators from 15 to nine.
The Virgin Islands people are strong and wise. We will make the necessary changes. I just hope that it is sooner instead of later.

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