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Secession: A Response From a Crucian


Dear Source,
As a Crucian living in the United States, I was shocked and dismayed to read in the Source that the Virgin Islands (and I stress, Virgin Islands) Delegate to Congress signed a petition calling for St. Croix to secede from the territory and plans to send such a petition to the United States Congress . Although the V.I. Delegate alluded to her action as a symbolic one, symbols could be very powerful in what they communicate. In this case, the V.I. Delegate claimed to communicate what is in her "heart" rather than her "head."
While I wholeheartedly agree there has been benign territorial neglect with respect to St. Croix, I would argue that St. Croix has taken part in that neglect, mainly as a result of electing officials who are more interested in micro-managing a bloated territorial government than creating bold new initiatives to empower residents of the district and the territory. Rather than calling for St. Croix to secede from the territory, all elected officials should work towards much needed major political and economic reforms.
These reforms could include replacing the existing antiquated and disenfranchising system of electing local senators with elections at the sub-district level, which would result in more accountability from the Legislature and representation from a diverse but somewhat geographically segregated population.
These reforms could include replacing the gubernatorial appointment of district administrators with the democratic election of district administrators (known as county executives in some U.S. jurisdictions), each having their own portfolios that include smaller district-based units such as sanitation, police, fire services, health and public transportation rather than large bureaucratic departments controlled by politically appointed commissioners at the territorial level.
These reforms could also include down-sizing the highly bureaucratic and inefficient V.I. Department of Education and empowering district-based boards of education to formulate K-12 education policy and directly hold accountable school principals for the performance of students in each district.
The economic reforms that could transform the territorial government into a leaner and more efficient entity include prioritizing selected services within each district, which may further help to stimulate local economic growth. The fiscal reforms could include the redesign of territorial tax codes, which may result in both more equity between districts and greater efficiency with regard to the collection of tax revenue territory-wide.
Together, these reforms could help to reduce the size of the public sector, allow for more district-based control and enable the territorial government to more clearly focus on important territory-wide issues such as promoting economic growth and diversification, enhancing human capital development (e.g., increased funding for the University of the Virgin Islands), and maintaining the islands' roads and other vital infrastructure.
These reforms are only a few examples of a broad set which are needed to help not only residents of St. Croix but all Virgin Islanders gain more control over their own destiny. In an effort to help all Virgin Islanders determine their destiny, the Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress, along with elected officials from St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John, should be engaged in developing bold new initiatives rather than such highly symbolic and ineffective actions as petitioning the U.S. Congress to allow St. Croix to secede from the territory.
Marvin A. Titus, Ph.D.
Raleigh, N.C. & St. Croix

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