If the VI Government does not take stock and do right by its citizens, St. John will be the next “Paradise Lost.” St. John will soon be experiencing its own exodus. These governments (Virgin Islands and Florida) are forcing their citizens out of their homes by bad decision making and “politricking.” From giving themselves hefty raises to jacking up the already exorbitant property taxes to approving increases of the public utility services, these public officials are making it “… difficult for the working middle class to justify living here," as Mike Jones, president of the Palm Beach County Economic Council puts it. This is a mockery!
It is an outrage and an insult when public officials can conjure up themselves hefty raises and then look to make cuts from the lay workers. They further insult us when they ignore our requests for meetings and service and our cries for help. When the VI Unity Day Group, their constituents, requested a public meeting of the Senate’s Committee of the Whole (which includes all senators), many had the nerve not to show up. There should be some type of sanctioning; they should show more respect. Kudos to Senators Craig Barshinger, Louis Patrick Hill, Simeon Sprauve, Michael Thurland, Samuel Sanes, and Shawn Michael Malone for showing up; however, we are still waiting for some answers to our questions.
We are paying so much money to our officials to help resolve our issues and make our lives a little better. But in fact, it’s the bread and butter issues that are not being addressed. Jobs are being cut, our safety is an everyday concern, our kids are missing the education boat, and we will soon have to eat the rocks on the islands because we cannot afford the price of food.
St. Johnians, in particular, have been hit left and right with increased fees and taxes; from the Port Authority to the Public Services Commission to the VI Government – each perhaps believing that some gold mine exists in St. John. The fact is there are many people on the island that are at or below the poverty level. But, by the way costs have been escalating even the working middle class will have to pack their bags because it is not cost effective to live on the island. We have to pay the Port Authority a tax to go home or get our food or any other consumer goods (which by the way is already being taxed for excise tax). We pay the enormous cost of public marine transportation which is the lifeline to the residents of St. John and the VI government wants us to pay ridiculously high property taxes. No other island in this territory is so heavily taxed.
The government, because of its unpaid bills to St. John vendors plus the raising of fees and taxes is driving the costs of goods and services on the island up. Salaries and wages are on the decline because our biggest employers have closed their doors. However, all of our cries have fallen on deaf ears. Our officials go through the motions of hearings, but they are not listening. When the government cries that it is broke, we must accept it; even when we do not see any reductions, drastic or otherwise. But when the citizens say, “we can’t afford it”, even in the face of losing our jobs, they just raise fees anyway. What a disingenuous process! We are expected to pay and the government is not.
These are economically bad times for everyone and the thought of our government raising fees and taxes on us is overbearing and outrageous, especially when the root cause of our problems stem from the mismanagement of funds as well as the lack of planning and foresight. In the eyes of the government, its citizens should pay for this ineptitude.
People of these islands; we need to stand up and shout out: No More! We will not pay for your incompetency. If we don’t, we will be taking up residence somewhere else.
The Virgin Islands Unity Day Group
Advocate for the People