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Cruz Bay
Monday, July 22, 2024


I find it amazing that so many people have begun to criticize Gov. Charles W. Turnbull for the current fiscal crisis. In fact, if the governor has been anything, he has been consistent. He is behaving in a manner consistent with his mandate, a mandate given him by a majority of the voters in a campaign last year that saw him win out over seven other candidates, at least three of whom could legitimately have been called reformers.
The message that I would really like to drive home now is: Welcome to the bandwagon; please get off because you are damaging our credibility.
A few refresher questions might assist people in assessing why they should cease their criticism.
First, does anyone recall the governor promising to reduce spending to shore up the economy at a time when the future was anything but certain? Does anyone recall the governor promising to keep salaries at manageable levels to reduce the risk of financially implausible outcomes? Finally, does anyone recall the governor promising to stamp out corruption and mismanagement to improve the fiscal health of the Virgin Islands?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you are a far better reader of the fine print of campaign advertising than I. As I recall, the governor promised to maintain the course, although few knew the coordinates of the final destination. It is obvious that those coordinates are the shores of fiscal chaos and financial uncertainty upon which we have landed.
There is a danger now that the situation may become untenable. However, blaming the governor is patently unfair. He heard the will of the people loudly and clearly. He watched 50.46 percent of the population grant a ringing endorsement of his policies. The people of the Virgin Islands are not the victims of some degenerate administration that has backtracked on its positions. To the contrary, the people of the Virgin Islands are watching democracy in action.
Of course, that is not to say that all of the people are responsible for this mess. The other 49.54 percent of the population did not endorse the governor. This means that the people of the Virgin Islands have two immediate remedies available to solve their problems.
The first is the most simple: Throw oneself at the mercy of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Congress and beg for a control board. After all, very little individual effort is required if Uncle Sam charges in to save the day.
The second, and more unpleasant, option is to go back to the democratic process and exact a solution from it.
In California, Gov. Gray Davis more or less followed the same path as the government of the Virgin Islands. He did not disclose the entire financial picture of the state to the voters, and he pushed hard for near-record-level spending. The voters in California are within 100,000 of the 900,000 signatures needed for his recall.
I will bet that Gov. Davis would never have believed during the election that his actions would lead to such a fierce reaction among the voters. Our governor probably felt the same way during our last spending spree. The difference is that our governor probably felt so with good reason. When it comes to democracy in the Virgin Islands, too many people are all complaints and no action. It would be nice to change that trend.

Editor's note: Source columnist Bill Turner, executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association, was formerly a teacher and vice principal at the high school level in Puerto Rico.
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