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HomeNewsArchivesBERRY RESPONDS TO SOURCE SENATE FORUM

BERRY RESPONDS TO SOURCE SENATE FORUM

1. How important is a comprehensive land and water use plan, and why has the territory been unable in more than 20 years of effort to enact one? What will it take to change this, and what, if anything, will you do bring about such change?
A comprehensive land and water use plan is essential, especially to halt spot zoning wherein politicians have power to "grant favors". However, absent is the political will; several versions led to controversy among "power groups" wishing to maintain the status quo. Senators pay lip service to the proposed plan, but allow it to languish in committee, (its present fate); resting now in the Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection. The Source would do well to check "resting places" in previous Legislatures. Publicity thereon might spur Senators to take heed. One small step in the right direction: my bill creating a one-tier permitting process.
2. How important is private and public sector partnering, and how can such partnering best be accomplished in order to be most effective in addressing economic and social problems in the territory?
Private/public sector partnering is vitally essential. But the government must understand the private sector cannot be expected to solve all social problems, (a belief held by the private sector) and must be freed from onerous strictures that lead to inability to expand and do what they’re good at: that is to generate capital investments and jobs, and to do so under business/hospitable conditions. It, of course, has to pay fair and reasonable taxes. A private/public sector partnership assisted with my Economic Summit in 1999 and helped to develop consensus to implement the initiative recommended for the expansion of the tourism sector and the development of other industries compatible with an Island economy i.e. the reform of the EDA law and the Tax Reform Commission which were already enacted into laws; pending in the Legislature are the Technology Enterprise Act of 2002, The Tourism Authority, The Independent Bureau of Financial Services and its companion proposal The Financial Services Act of 2002.
3. What are the biggest problems in the public education system, and what will it take to solve them? What will you do toward getting them solve?
I sought advice from experts; therein mandating that UVI Study the problem and recommend solutions. It has done so and these must be implemented. A major observation was that the Department of Education is a political entity whose focus is more closely related to the goal of political governance than education. The biggest problem, of course, is that many of our children are not achieving. UVI’s recommendations should help in solving this; realigning, as it does, the balance between administration and teaching personnel, due to a reduction in the public school student population over the last ten years. Among changes that should be made: First off, "social promotions" should be forbidden.

4. How do you feel about floating future bonds to finance government initiatives, given the territory’s present bond indebtedness of more than $1 billion? What will you do to persuade others of your views?
No more bond issues at the present time, except for capital improvement that generate income. To persuade others? How about dramatic analysis and presentations by experts (especially the Department of Interior with vivid illustrations of what happens when a community goes bankrupt! The District of Columbia would be a good example.
5. What is the most viable solution to the Territory’s solid-waste disposal problems? What will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
Some years ago, after conducting enormous research endeavors, I came up with a plan that would cost the government very little and recommended it to the then Administration. Nothing happened. I was given to understand many other plans had been formulated. Why not take all the plans, mandate that UVI study, analyze and come up with honest, objective solutions; submit a proposed plan – to the Department of Interior. Faced with an "honest-to-God-plan-and determination-to-clean-up-the-dump; it may well parcel out the $40 million required; or agree to assist should it be privatized and the VI finds itself facing penalties because it cannot provide the daily tonnage required by the private entrepreneur. In the meantime, the PWD and the Antilitter Commission should reduce solid waste disposal at the landfill by increasing recycling and composting where possible.
6. What is the most viable solution to the territory’s sewage disposal problems? What will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
Some excellent presentations have been made to the lawmakers through the years. At least several seemed most viable. Political will prevented their implementation. In personal conversations with Interior officials years ago, they are open to assisting the Territory on massive projects impossible to implement by a territorial economy. Therefore, they may be persuaded if they are convinced this isn’t a boondoggle, pork-barrel project but finally a true, state-of-the-art professional project by professionals. In the meantime, we have to prioritize the rum revenue increase to up-grade and maintain our plants.
7. How do you assess the economy of the Virgin Islands at this time, and what do you see as its best hope for growth? What will you do to foster that growth?
On the surface, St. Thomas appears to be thriving (while St. Croix is despairing) but I feel this is deceptive; that the economy is soft, too dependent upon tourism. The passage of an unbalanced budget is also challenge … Sixty Million Dollars have been paid in salary increases with an estimated Thirty Million Dollars needed for pending bargaining units. We have to generate new revenues to sustain these obligations. We must revisit EDA Benefits to meet new demands of potential capital investment. Are we doing all we can to lure to our shores capital investment? Especially when legislation makes this feasible? i.e. EDA should seek the talent, the experts, in luring to our shores the exempt insurers industry. Other jurisdictions have hundreds of exempt insurers while we have only a handful despite passage of our exempt international insurer legislation. The Virgin Islands needs to target business sectors that it wants to develop and work cooperatively with the UVI and the territories high schools to ensure that today students are tomorrow employees/employers in the Virgin Islands. The implementation of the Research and Technology Park will be part of this initiative. The Virgin Islands also needs to review its corporate statute on an ongoing basis to ensure that we have a friendly business environment. The Virgin Islands also needs to review its tax incentives regularly to ensure that they are competitive. Push for adoption of my Autonomous Tourism Authority.
8. How pervasive is corruption within the local government, and how should this problem, if you consider it to be a problem, best be addressed?
Practically every day, someone contacts me to discuss corruption in government. I have discussed with our Office of Legal Counsel my proposal to establish an Autonomous Commission on Ethics and Corruption. I was the only Senate President to enpanel the Ethics Committee but found it lacking, indeed, leading me to feel an autonomous agency is the only way to go. I have supported legislation making the Office of the Attorney General elected by the people. I have sponsored legislation, which is pending, to grant the Inspector General’s Office prosecutorial powers to implement audit findings to safeguard the independence of the local Inspector General’s Office. Action should be taken against any Administration if it fails to comply when the Inspector General recommends legal action against wrongdoers.
9. What is the most viable solution to Government Employees Retirement System pay
outs exceeding revenues, and what will you do to advance the implementation of these solutions?

We must implement the suggestions of actuaries and other experts employed by GERS. No one else should have any say – they are the ones who know if we are on the road to bankrupting the GERS – and bankruptcy would take place if outlay exceeds revenues. Forbid all legislation that raids the system. In fact, such sponsors should face an Autonomous Commission on Ethics and Corruption for surely it is unethical to gain votes on the backs of retirees who may be subjected to loss of their hard-earned financial security.
10. What is the most viable solution to government spending exceeding revenues, and what will you do to advance the implementation of this solution?
The government must abide by the law. I created the Select Committee on Government Accountability out of which emerged the monumental Financial Accountability Act. This mandates policies that curb waste and insure greater efficiency, a fix debt, an attrition program, and a BALANCED BUDGET based on verifiable receipts. If implemented, this legislation gives the administration all the tools and prerogatives it requires to run the government as one would run a business.
11. How do alignments between majority and minority blocs in the Legislature and adversarial relationships between the legislative and executive branches of government serve the best interest of the people of the Virgin Islands?
Traditionally, in fact I believe from the formation of the first Senate in Ancient Rome on to modern times (British Parliament), "the loyal opposition" has always been deemed to be the practical political means of maintaining a good balance – i.e. curbing the emergence of uncontrolled, power-mad factions, for example: It works in the Senate provided the Majority doesn’t abuse its’ power as in the current 24th Legislature. It certainly worked when I was Senate President! In the 24th Legislature the Majority/Minority alignment was extreme, based solely on funding, personal politics not on philosophy and experience; and with the intent to marginalize the Minority. They used unbridled power to strip the Minority down to a bear-bone-budget, the lowest in the history of the Legislature, which mandated releasing half of our employees. Also, assignment of Chairmanships and Committee Memberships was not made, for the most part, on experience, interest and ability. Major legislation remains undrafted or pending in the Legislature to reduce Minority effectiveness.
"An adversarial relationship" between the Senate and government house is more "tricky" to quantify. In the sixties when they were on the same page (catapulting us from a sleepy tropical outpost to a modern day economy) many good things happened; economically speaking. But with lack of a "loyal opposition … "they failed to see they laid the groundwork for a bloated bureaucracy and other ills. In the 24th Legislature however, adversarial relationship was again extreme as exhibited by some members of the Majority towards the Administration. The Attorney General along with many Commissioners and other officials, even Legislative employees, nominees and testifiers coming before the Legislature were insulted maligned, belittled and disrespected on many occasions. Many Majority Members are now re-packaging themselves, hoping the voters will forget that they exercised unbridled, unconscionable tyranny in the performance in their duties and they did so to a degree never before witnessed in a democratic Legislature.

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