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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeCommentaryOp-edWelcome Home Governor Mapp; You Are Not Homeless

Welcome Home Governor Mapp; You Are Not Homeless

We must not and cannot leave our Governor, the Chief Executive and highest elected official in our Territory, inadvertently homeless without providing him this legal privilege that this office demands. It would be a shame for this to happen otherwise.
In our effort to provide this official residency privilege for the Governor, we must first be reminded of and follow the law pertaining to this perpetual issue with the view of bringing about final closure. The revised Organic Act of 1954, Section II states in the second paragraph, second sentence, that “The Governor shall maintain his official residence in the Government House on St. Thomas during his incumbency, which house, together with land appurtenant thereto, is hereby transferred to the government of the Virgin Islands. While in St. Croix, the Governor may reside in Government House on St. Croix, which house, together with land appurtenant thereto is also transferred to the government of the Virgin Islands.”
These two edifices are the official residence of the Governor by law. All of this is rent free. Wouldn’t it make sense to fix them up? This would be easier especially for a Governor who doesn’t have a family there.
Apart from this, the Governor of the Virgin Islands has access to at least six other properties owned by the government that he may utilize at his pleasure, namely:
1. A two level bungalow on Water Island
2. The Battery in Cruz Bay, St. John
3. The Old School House in East End, St. John, that needs reconstruction after its destruction during Hurricane Marilyn
4. Sion Farm Great House, St. Croix
5. Bonne Esperance Great House on St. Croix, which needs reconstruction after its destruction during Hurricane Hugo.
6. A private residence owned by the government in Estate Good Hope on St. Croix that was also destroyed by Hurricane Hugo.
7. In addition, the leased property by the government from the West Indies Company (WICO) for $1 a year, located at Estate Catherineberg or Denmark Hill on St. Thomas, is still available to the Governor should he choose to eliminate the “mold condition” that may be inhibiting his occupancy.
All of these properties listed above or afore-mentioned are at the disposal of the Governor, and should be repaired, renovated, reconstructed and maintained adequately for whatever purpose the Chief Executive deems appropriate or necessary.
In light of the dire need for employment by the many hardworking local contractors and workers, it makes good sense that the renovation of these properties would give the Governor a golden opportunity to repair many of our historic sites and generate an economic stimulus in the construction industry by creating jobs for the unemployed while at the same time stablishing a decent and admirable Governor’s residence that all of us would be proud of.
We support and applaud the Governor for his past work at the Public Finance Authority when he renovated the Quarters B Property in St. Thomas, which now houses the PFA offices, and also for the renovation of the Danish School House in in Fredricksted, St. Croix, which now houses one of the Offices of the Governor. It is surely our hope that he would return to the reality of the presence circumstances of the community and give us the benefit of his knowledge on how to restore these important historic properties for current and future use.
In view of all the aforementioned facts and thoughts, the Governor should abandon his idea or plan for constructing a new residence for Governor and Lt. Governor before the end of his four year term as he stated. This is totally an unnecessary extravagance and waste of money.
Once again, we state that the official residence of the Governor is Government House, St. Thomas and Government House, St. Croix. The third floor of government house in St. Thomas was utilized as private quarters for many of our past Governors including Farrelly, Luis, King and Evans and has three bedrooms now being used as offices. A relocation of these offices from this third floor would allow the Governor his privacy while maintaining the use of the second floor of Government House for entertaining special guests and for public functions. The construction crew at the Department of Public Works could have relocated these offices for less than the cost of renting a private villa.
Similarly, while the Governor is on St. Croix, he may utilize Government House in Christiansted which has three bedrooms on the third floor and a ballroom on the second floor which is also used for entertaining and public functions.
While no one is asking the Governor to move out of his private house or telling him where to stay, the Revised Organic Act dictates that the Governor shall maintain his official residence in Government House on St. Thomas during his incumbency”. We want to inform the public that with so many properties at his disposal, Governor Mapp could have chosen to occupy a government owned property, rather that claiming that he is homeless.
The Governor is not homeless. Sometimes we don’t know “how good we got it”. There is no other Governor in the fifty states and territories under the U.S. flag who has so many residences to choose from, and still claiming they are homeless.
We must govern efficiently and effectively with truth, fairness and prudence. Let’s not squander or waste the taxpayers’ dollars in these times of hardship and scarce resources. The real “homeless” are the many Virgin Islands residents who aimless roam our streets and occupy our abandoned buildings, our veterans and others with mental illness, who deserve a home and treatment facility, and the attention of the current administration.
Let’s make the VI nice, nice by building together and being nice to one another first, and let’s move forward realistically with truth and fairness while creating new and better opportunities for all, not just a few. We must focus more on the real business of governance and solving the people’s problems, growing the economy and creating jobs etc. In the administration’s effort “to build,” it must first consider repairs, renovation and reconstruction where and when appropriate and establish better relationships with everyone. It’s all about the economy and the people. Let’s encourage and invite the investors to do business here.
Together, in unity and with respect for one another, we shall achieve much more!
Editor’s note: Cecil R. Benjamin is the state chair of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands.

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