I sit here at the keyboard, with a growing red glow spreading across my cheeks, wondering if it is possible to write this column without the use of some of my favorite expletives. Columnists, by virtue of professional standards, should be able to manipulate the English language in a way that persuades the reader to think about specific issues. I am aware that I have a commitment to uphold those standards, and I also have a commitment to improve my own ability to persuade people to adopt my point of view on many issues.
That commitment to improve my own ability is the No. 1 reason I take the time to commit my point of view to the written word. Yet, I am also challenged to the extreme in that commitment when I am forced to write about anything concerning the Lilliputians that govern the Virgin Islands.
I should be expounding on the deleterious effect of a two-cents-per-pound tax that could well cripple the business community. I should be examining the potential mismanagement that could occur with that tax, since there is no enabling legislation that designates the placement of the revenues in a special fund to repair the infrastructure of the Virgin Islands — St. Croix in particular — and establishes a functional management plan.
Instead, all I want to ask is: Who, in the name of terrible government policy, nearly beat the governor to death with the waffle iron? First, the governor (to whom I wish the speediest recovery) proposed a tax that will cripple construction and development and will overburden an already sagging economy. Next, the Senate — minus the public hearings that usually occur in societies that claim to be democratic — passed the tax — renaming it, of course, to make it sound like a boon to our ailing environment.
Now the governor, who obviously did not read his homework assignment about the weight of building materials, wants to make some changes to his poorly thought tax. The Senate, some of its members having become the lap dogs of the administration and having to deal with a constituency that has a problem with making all of the sacrificing that the governor proposes, is threatening to repeal the tax.
While I am on the subject of lap dogs, it seems as if Sonya Nelthropp has been dragged into more hearings to defend this tax than hearings to testify as to how to fix the problems we face. Ms. Nelthropp definitely has a wealth of experience in fixing wastewater problems, but is it not wrong to place an appointed official who specializes in technical repairs in the middle of a political fight? I can only hope that Ms. Nelthropp has not volunteered to be the advocate for this tax. Her job is to implement solutions to waste management problems, not be a spokesperson for the administration.
The governor claims that we all need to make sacrifices to meet federal mandates to improve our infrastructure. For starters, the governor must believe that the word "all" applies to all of those people whom he has not hired to $80,000-a-year salaries. The kicker is, those "mandates" that the governor refers to are little things like not letting sewage run through the streets and into people's homes, not having a dump filled with toxic waste and in the midst of a perpetual subterranean fire, and not having sewage-contaminated coastal waters.
In short, the V.I. government has made a big mess and the governor wants the little people to pay for it. I will be shocked if the Senate repeals this tax, but I hope that by the time this is printed they will have done so. However, can anyone remember a revenue stream that the Senate has not considered to be a good revenue stream? In the interim, we will still have sewage in the streets and a dump that is poisonous. So much for sound environmental policy. We really need the federal government to turn up the heat now.
Editor's note: Bill Turner is a writer, a former history teacher and the executive director of the St. Croix Environmental Association. He writes a daily commentary on events in the Virgin Islands that can be accessed at V.I. Buzz.
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