Feb. 28, 2002 – The Senate Rules Committee wholeheartedly and unanimously approved Raphael R. Wesselhoft as the St. John member of the Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission on Thursday and gave him an ample ideas to consider in his new post.
Wesselhoft, who has a landscaping background, told the senators, "I have a passion, an obsession with keeping these islands clean."
Born and raised on St. John, Wesselhoft said he has always been sensitive to the islands' appearance. He described a signage program he is working on through one of the three civic groups he belongs to. He said another of the groups, the Volunteer Park Improvement Committee, is in the first phase of revitalizing Cruz Bay Park.
Sen. Carlton Dowe, the Rules chair, was enthusiastic in his approval of Wesselhoft. He commended him on his mother's care of their home frontage on St. John and said he wished everybody else felt the same way. "Property owners and businesses should be responsible for 10 feet outside their property," Dowe said.
Dowe and Sen. Donald "Ducks" Cole decried the deplorable condition of the territory's streets and countryside. "Downtown at the Vendors Plaza there's trash all over, right in the heart of the historic district. That hurts me," Cole said. He added, "It cost $5,000 for a mile to cut grass. There's lots of money out there. We should use it — hire a cache of cleaners."
Cole cited two people who independently clean areas on their own. "There's one on the Long Bay road and one by the Moravian Church by Nisky," he said. He said that when a senator wanted to pay the man working in the Nisky area $10,000 a couple of years ago, the man refused it, telling the lawmaker that "it isn't about money; it's about cleanliness."
Wesselhoft said, "Those guys you're talking about — I have the same kind of energy." He said he intended to work with the commission to get the Public Works Department put out more trash bins in appropriate locations, deal with boarded-up buildings in the downtown areas and institute a strict garbage pickup schedule.
Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd said littering violations need to be enforced. There are rules on the books for the Police Department to issue tickets, he said, lamenting their lack of enforcement.
The commission's "Clean and Preen" program, which won a national Environmental Protection Agency award last year, was praised by all the lawmakers except Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, a vocal foe of the program. Ironically, it was Hansen who initiated the creation of the commission some years ago.
At hearings on the nominations of four ALBC members last year, Hansen threatened to withhold her vote from any nominee who didn't agree with her view that the commission's youth summer cleanup program should be eliminated. However, she did vote for all four.
Hansen contends it is "insulting" for the young people to pick up the trash. None of her colleagues agreed with her, and they praised the experience the youngsters get.
Commission member Eastlyn E Igwamadu, who was present to support Wesselhoft, whom she nominated, cannot understand Hansen's point of view. Speaking after the meeting, Igwamadu said the Clean and Preen program involves much more than picking up trash. "We have classes in computers, in conflict resolution, ecology — we make trips to Maho Bay on St. John to learn about recycling." she said.
Two non-committee members, Sens. Lorraine Berry and Roosevelt David, joined the committee members in their approval of Wesselhoft. His nomination will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
If Wesselhoft is approved, the 10-member ALBC will have nine active members. By law the commission has four members from St. Thomas, five from St. Croix and one from St. John. Serving on St. Thomas are Igwamadu, Edwin Davis, Faye A. James and Colette Monroe. The St. Croix members are Errol A. Chichester, Juan Pardo De Zela, Maria D. Friday and Gloria I. Joseph, with one vacant seat.
The Rules Committee also approved two bills sponsored by Berry.
One deals with the rights of grandparents to visit their grandchildren in cases where the parents have divorced, separated or dissolve their relationship. The bill establishes procedures and conditions under which a grandparent may petition the court for visitation rights.
The other bill sets fines and penalties for failure to lock or safely store a firearm where that failure directly results in a person not licensed to own or possess the weapon gaining access to it. Should the unlicensed person injure or kill himself or anyone else with the gun, its owner upon conviction could be fined up to $2,500 and/or receive up to two years in prison, as well as lose his or her his license and firearm.
The committee meeting was prefaced by a tribute to Gertrude Dudley Melchior, longtime Carnival personality, wife of Daily News co-founder Ariel Melchoir Sr., and a friend of many of the senators present. Melchior died Wednesday.
Attending the meeting were committee members Cole, Dowe, Hansen, Liburd, Norma Pickard-Samuel and Celestino A. White Sr. Sen. Adelbert Bryan was absent.


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