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Friday, October 7, 2022


Despite the enormity of the territory's financial debt, now surpassing $1 billion, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull reiterated his faith Monday in the ability of Virgin Islanders to work together in the "spirit of unity" to solve the problems.
"This is not the best of times," he said, "but neither is it the worst of times."
"We must help ourselves as we have never done before," he said.
In response to questions, Turnbull assured the League that accounts receivable but not received will be collected, that he will insist on adherence to the law in the issue of "gypsy" taxis, and that the concerns of
Water Island residents will be heard.
He declined to comment on the AT&T effort to have their mud-spill fine reduced, and although he professed to be horrified by the large salary increases awarded to top officials of the Government Employees Retirement System, he asserted that retirees
need not worry — their pension funds will be safe during his tenure.
Asked for his reaction to a recent motion by the Democratic Party Territorial Committee that retirees no longer be hired, Turnbull steered a conciliatory course, saying that although he espoused the need to hire more young people to serve in government positions, he would still favor employing retirees where they could obviously do the best job.
When pushed to declare disapproval of double-dipping (continuing to receive pensions while earning salaries), however, he appeared to agree with existing law,
which allows for both payments for 75 days. After that the pension payments cease as long as employment continues.
Although he declined to be specific on most matters brought up during the questioning period, the governor greatly pleased League members when he stated firmly that the attorney general will thoroughly investigate the questionable contracts awarded during the
Schneider administration. He expressed shock at some of the inspector general's findings, and promised that those found responsible for illegal contract deals would be prosecuted.
Clear evidence that we are willing to help ourselves and act responsibly, Turnbull told the audience, will bolster the perception
of optimism among the people of the islands and those officials with whom he spoke recently in Washington.
He gave much of the credit to Delegate Donna Christian Christensen for the favorable reception accorded to him by congressional members of both political parties.
"She has done a great job," he said, by providing congressional leaders and heads of federal agencies with a realistic picture of the state of the territory and the spirit of optimism that now prevails with the change in administration.
Smiling, he described the delight of his Washington contacts when they witnessed the cooperation and cordial relationship
between himself and the delegate.
The governor praised the League for its past efforts, especially in fiscal and environmental matters. He said he welcomed continued communication with the League on those and other pressing challenges facing his administration.
Editors’ note: Helen W. Gjessing is on the board of the League of Women Voters. She is a retired University of the Virgin Islands biology professor.

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