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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Change Our Form of Government…Perhaps

Dear Source:
As the 2006 gubernatorial and senate races heat up, and the lead candidates are chosen after the September primaries, the people of the Virgin Islands will have to vote in our leaders. We have to ask ourselves: What do those elected officials have in store for us over the next four years or more? Will candidates who are elected to our highest offices bring our government back into sound fiscal reality? Will those leaders consider careful economic expansion with regard to the environmental fragilities of our islands? Will senators finally find ways to actually improve our government fiscally or will we have more of the same?
It has become apparent in recent years that elected officials are not always the answer to our never-ending problems because each administration cannot seem to find the will or the integrity to make the necessary changes that even the least informed of us seem to know intuitively. The complaints and cries from people of every walk of life have gone unanswered for years. It seems only those who are on "the inside" get to make the decisions when so many of our people have answers if only the elected ones would listen.
Perhaps it's our form of government that does not allow input from the common man or woman. Maybe the present system keeps us so far removed from Government House that public input is but a dream. There seems to be an isolation surrounding highly elected officials that the public cannot intrude upon. If the very laws that govern us are exclusionary to the general public, or the elected officials makes it so, then it follows that government has no obligation to allow continuous public input.
If this is true, then we are in trouble indeed!
Every democratic form of government allows input from the public. It's not only the law; it's the basis under which our form of government functions—The Constitution of the United States and the Organic Act.
Still, the common person in the Virgin Islands feel so far removed from government that we have almost given up any hope of having real input. So, what do we do to change that? Do we want to change that? Are we satisfied with not having a say in our lives and the lives of future generations? Is complacency so rampant that we simply bow to the present form of system?
If so, then any effort to bring these problems to light is wasted energy. If you want to believe otherwise, read on.
Yes, there are provisions in our laws that require public input. This input, by law, is mandatory in most of our statutes. Yet, so often the little input that does occur, goes unheeded by public officials. It seems that decisions are made "behind closed doors" and then the public gets to have its say. Official decisions seem to be "etched in stone" before public comment is allowed. Public input then is only "dressing" to meet the requirement of law. This "foregone conclusion" approach to decision making is dangerous and smacks of cronyism even in the least of decision making. We have to look no further than our local newspapers to see that corruption is everywhere. This is due, to a large degree, because we have exempted the average Joe from the process of government and depend entirely on elected officials to make decisions for us. It is clear then that the electorate must have a say in decision-making before decisions are actually brought about. It is not enough that ordinary citizens sit on boards or commissions. Because we lack fiscal responsibility, we must have more input from the citizenry at large.
Does the government actually believe that we are children and that we need to be "looked after" for our own good? Has government evolved over the years to where it really believes that only elected or appointed officials have the autonomous right to make decisions? I believe that the present form of government is so far removed from the people, that that answer from them is unfortunately: yes!
The only possible remedy for this neo-monarchy way of thinking is to have a change in government or bring the decision making back to the people—or both.
Paul Devine
St. John

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