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Delegate Christensen Says She Won't Run For Governor

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Aug. 11, 2005 — During a press conference Thursday on St. Croix, Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen touched on a wide variety of topics, from education and pending federal legislation to the Frederiksted pier project. She also revealed that she won't be running for governor.
Christensen had been away from the islands for over a month. Besides working in Washington, D.C., she has been traveling in Europe.
She said the time away from her district has been very productive. She cited progress on her Chief Financial Officer bill, Economic Development Commission problems and the signing by President George W. Bush of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, which gives $115 million dollars to the Virgin Islands over the next five years. She said, "This is just not about roads. It's about jobs and an infusion of funds into the Virgin Islands." She said this was a significant increase over the previous year's allotments. (See "Congress Increases Territory's Transportation Funding".)
She said the bill also allowed, for the first time, the V.I. transit system to be classified as an urban transit system, so the yearly federal grant of $150,000 could go up to $1 million.
Congress also passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. She said this bill has funds the Virgin Islands can use to assess its present fuel consumption and determine a plan to get the islands using only alternative energy by 2020.
Christensen said, besides meeting with Treasury Department "to get them to do the right thing," when final regulations for the EDC program are adopted, she has been meeting with officials from the Department of Interior to have them change the department's stance on her CFO bill. In the first hearing on the bill, Interior officials testified against it. She said she expected the CFO bill to be brought back up for discussion this September.
She is also looking forward to renewed discussion in Congress to repeal a 1936 federal law mandating that V.I. property taxes be calculated on the assessed property value. (See "Christensen's Bill Would Repeal Property Tax Law".)
She said if Congress repeals that law, the V.I. Legislature will be able to move forward on easing the property tax burden on some residents. Property values in the Virgin Islands have skyrocketed in recent years, causing property taxes to also increase dramatically.
In another area of expansion, Christensen said the federal government is now allowing the classification of the entire Virgin Islands as a Historically Underused Business area (HUB). She said this will offer more opportunity for funds for the territory.
Although she mentioned no initiatives coming from the federal level to help schools in the Virgin Islands, she did talk about education. She said, "I can't ever find the words strong enough to convey how I feel about the schools."
She said schools in general are in worse shape than they were in 1983 when she was president of the Central High School PTA and that the "community should not accept that."
She did not point her figure to blame Noreen Michael, Education commissioner. Instead she said, "This is a deep problem, a long-standing problem," adding, "All of us bear some responsibility for the shape of the schools."
Although she said she had been asked to run for governor, she said she would not because she could better serve the people of the Virgin Islands using her experience in Congress. She said among the names being bandied about as possible candidates there were a couple of people who would probably make good governors.
In other matters on the local level, Christensen said her office has worked as liaison between the V.I. government and the U.S. Corp. of Engineers on the boardwalk extension project in Christiansted, as well as on the Frederiksted pier project. On the national level, she said she would continue to fight against the efforts to dismantle Social Security.
At the conference in her office at Sunny Isles, she outlined upcoming events that she will be involved in. The Caribbean Multi-National Business conference will be held on St. Thomas, Nov. 10-13. Expected to attend are Congressman Charles Rangel, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Harry Belafonte.
Christensen has invited National Crime Prevention Council President Al Lenhardt to speak to residents on strategies to fight crime. Lenhardt will visit the Virgin Islands from Aug. 17 through Aug. 20. He has scheduled talks on each island. His visit is co-sponsored by the Law Enforcement Planning Commission and the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce.
She said she will also be active at the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference, Sept. 21-24.
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