Nov. 18, 2004 – "Unity" and "change" were the two words repeated like mantras over and over again at the Team St. Croix's Senatorial Conference at the Cormorant Beach Club in Christiansted Wednesday.
Team St. Croix, an organization made up of representatives from a dozen community organizations, heard from the seven St. Croix senators what it wanted to hear, but there was no signing of a contract as originally proposed.
Samuel Baptiste, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, was master of ceremonies of the affair where representatives of various organizations told senators what they wanted from the government and also the ways in which they would be available to help the senators rejuvenate St. Croix.
Baptiste said the organization accomplished two of its goals – offering an agenda to the senators and demonstrating members' willingness to work with the senators.
Sen. Ronald Russell passed out a St. Croix Affirmative Action Plan. The draft document proposed how the St. Croix senators could work together as a caucus to make priorities of St. Croix happen.
Although Craig Barshinger, newly-elected senator at large, was not present, it was said a couple of times that Barshinger owed his election to the people of St. Croix and that he may be looked upon as a potential member of the St. Croix caucus.
Sen. Usie Richards said he has spent two years trying to get this unity between the community and the senators. He said, "We can work in unison. The people of St. Croix have elected eight of the 15 senators."
Newly elected Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion said, "There can be no ifs or buts about it. We have to work together."
Baptiste started the conference by summarizing the agenda of Team St. Croix, which was presented to the senators in written form.
The team supports the following:
– The goals of St. Croix Farmers in Action which call for the creation of an Agriculture Authority.
– The use of waste effluent for irrigation.
– The concept and implementation of local government.
– Several measures to encourage economic development through tourism, grant programs and reforming the Economic Development Authority.
– Legislation to designate the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands as the campus for expansion to establish UVI schools for medicine, agriculture, technology, engineering, architecture and law.
Fred Laue, president of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, said there was nothing new in the agenda. He added, "We can all agree that it is time for changes, maybe even a little late. I hope we can all cooperate and make some of these things happen."
Alice Henry, secretary of Our Town Frederiksted, said, "It will take not only the senators, but all of us as a group to move this process forward." She added that if the whole island becomes prosperous, "It will trickle down to Frederiksted."
Simone Palmer, of the Anti-Crime Task Force, said, "I am just thrilled that we are all here working as a team."
Oceana James, executive director of CHANT, echoed a concept that many participants carried with them to this meeting from an earlier chamber meeting concerning cruise lines. She said St. Croix needed its own identity. She said, "We need our own marketing plan. When the Virgin Islands are marketed as a whole, it ends up being St. Thomas alone."
Eugene Petersen, president of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, emphasized that "Team St. Croix was not against St. Thomas, but for St. Croix."
Others speakers representing Team St. Croix were Robert Merwin, Our Town Frederiksted; Hortense Rowe, Coalition for Sustainable Economic Development; Roger Dewey, Foundation for Community Development; and Kendall Petersen, Farmers in Action.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste said there was a certain "synergy" among this group of senators and that spelled hope for the future of St. Croix. Russell said that along with the senators Team St. Croix should be "extending an olive branch to the executive branch." He said projects could be stymied if they didn't have the support of the executive as well as the legislative branch.
Senators-elect Neville James and T "Positive" Nelson both said they were there to learn and listen.
Senator-elect Juan Figueroa Serville said he was impressed with the effort made by Team St. Croix and that he would support the group's efforts when he could.
Sam Baptiste told the senators, "We don't want to get in your face after two years. We want you to know we are here to work for you. We want to be happy with what you are doing."
The contract Team St. Croix wanted senators to sign said that members were "sick and disgusted" of senators' breaking campaign promises. The contract said senators would be held responsible for broken promises in the 2006 election. Senators begged off signing the measure, saying they needed more time to review it.
After the meeting, Baptiste said that refusal did not diminish the real success of the event. He said both parties would be looking at Russell's proposal and the contract and try to come up with an "acceptable document."
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