Isn't anyone in the V.I. government embarrassed that we are cited repeatedly for being unable to run our own affairs? We have unconstitutional conditions in our prisons, we lose millions in federal grants for our children's education, we barefacedly defy federal environmental orders and our financial management system is still out of compliance with a memorandum of understanding with the Interior Department that was signed nearly eight years ago.
Meanwhile it's business as usual for our elected officials. They drive their gas-guzzling SUVs and continue the pomp and circumstance they see as their due. They pay lip service to accountability but do little of import to earn their handsome salaries. Where were they, for instance, when the governor gave big raises to members of his financial team without any public notice?
Who will hold these officials accountable? It is an election year and we're starting to hear the same chilling refrain from the electorate: They're all the same, so what difference will this election make?" The level of cynicism continues unabated – not surprisingly.
It is easy to understand why few people get exercised about the prisons. They don't live there.
But what about education? We just seem to shrug off the fact that millions of dollars are sent back to the feds every year that could have been used to better the lot of our youth, including our youngest and most vulnerable children.
We pride ourselves on being a politically mature, self-governing people, and yet we are unable to comply with the most basic rules of conduct and self-governance. We look the other way when it comes to the most helpless among us: children, inmates, the homeless and the mentally ill.
Money is not the issue. We have enough money. We simply don't know how to spend it effectively. We seem mired in systemic incompetence that overrules all attempts to turn the territory around – never mind the fraud and corruption sucking up revenues that could otherwise be used to clean up our institutional messes.
The federal government has taken over our housing authority and demanded that a financial officer be appointed to handle our education funds (something we still haven't done). Now a local judge has ordered that a federal monitor be appointed to fix the problems in our prison on St. Croix. Our elected officials may not be embarrassed, but we are.
We hope the voters this year will demand that all candidates for governor and Senate provide clear, do-able plans for how they will change the way we conduct our affairs: what they can and will do to improve our public schools, reduce crime, clean up our prisons and make meaningful headway on our infrastructure problems instead of just applying non-stick bandages.
We believe the people of the Virgin Islands deserve better. We only hope they demand it.
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