June 30, 2002 Lieutenant governors defended themselves against criticism that they should not have held their annual conference at a tourist resort on St. Croix this week, saying the Virgin Islands has as much right to host the conference as any other state or territory.
The National Conference of Lieutenant Governors had been planning to hold its annual meeting at the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino for more than a year, Kansas Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, organization chair, said.
There was no reason to change that schedule, particularly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hurt the territory's tourism-based economy, he said.
"Why wouldn't we come here?" he asked Friday evening, one day before the week-long meeting came to a close. "Sure, we had the pleasure of some good entertainment and exposure to the culture here, but by and large we were working the whole time."
He noted the organization had received some criticism for holding its meeting in the Virgin Islands because of an apparent perception that the state and territorial officials came to St. Croix with their families on a junket.
Lieutenant governors from 16 states and territories attended the meeting. They participated in workshops on topics ranging from Medicaid funding to insurance regulation, according to organizers.
"It's a blend of getting new information about running government and sharing successes and strategies," Sherrer said. "We share best practices — what has worked in our states, and what hasn't."
They also passed resolutions in support of increased funding for technology in education, of programs to build awareness about hepatitis C, and of making the national director of homeland security a cabinet-level position, he said.
By playing host to the meeting, St. Croix gained some national news exposure, V.I. Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II said. Lobbyists for several large corporations also attended the meeting, he said, and local government officials took advantage of the chance to present information about local business opportunities and tax incentives to them, he added.
Lieutenant governors from Alabama, Arkansas, Guam, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah and the U.S. Virgin Islands attended the meeting, James said.
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