St. John Needs Leadership, Solutions

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Editor:

There are always so many problems identified and solutions lost within the present system of government that we have here in the VI.

As a former restaurant owner on St. John for 14 years, I have had to constantly identify and reassess my “systems delivery” practices, asking myself questions like: How do I get the food out faster? Do I need more staff in this area? Can I afford it? Where can I cut back on costs?

I have had to deal with the bottom line to get more food sold — use the perishables to make soup to sell to minimize loss — become the cleaning staff and daily dish washer, when I had no choice if I was to stay in business; pay purveyors and staff, rent, utilities and gross tax receipts.

It was never easy and I spent years being exhausted, working 12 hour days because it is not easy owning a business in these islands, especially during slow season or the aftermath of hurricanes. This is what is required to balance money in and out, stay in business and identify problems and solutions.

The same kind of “juggling” is needed to run our government. Leadership, vision and a certain amount of sacrifice and hard leadership decisions must be made. I believe that our governor is trying to do this. I wish our Legislature would follow suit.
There are the same sorts of problems that must accurately be identified, with solutions found at the grass roots level of the problem as offered by those people most affected.

I knew the direct problems that affected my business. I had to solve them to stay in business. I believe that our island of St. John must be able to identify its problems and have more say in offering solutions and implementations to those problems.
Case in point: the crime on St. John. The problems: increased violent crime, guns and illegal drugs. How do guns and drugs get here? This is a very important question that has not as yet been answered. Why is that? I believe that primary, important and vital infrastructure systems quite simply are not in their proper place.

Just like I, as owner and manager, needed to look deeply at whether my restaurant had “systems” that would prepare the food, get it out on time to ensure customer satisfaction and thus keep my business operating, those in leadership positions are responsible in doing the same.

Case in point: admirably, our St. John Police Deputy Chief Darren Foy honestly admitted, in a spring town meeting,  that there was a past practice of punishing “bad cop behavior” by sending them to St. John. We were a quiet little island with nothing going on. Not the case now. I believe that this seeded a lot of the problems that we now are facing: more crime, distrust of police and little evident policing.

There is little police presence (a funding issue — let’s not jump in and start pointing fingers because I do not believe that Commissioner James McCall is to blame for this ongoing deep-seated problem) and absolutely no one paying close attention (except many concerned citizens) to the many potential illegal activities from the waters “out there.”

The 80s and 90s saw many drugs floating in to our Coral Bay shores. This is a well-known fact among long-timers, as we also saw many leaving for treatment programs because of this out of control drug use.

The police (remember that many of them were sent as a punishment; how committed or interested could they have been in solving problems over here?) deemed as “incompetent” and “not to be trusted” were really not a part of the solution. How could they be? Few knew our island players or the going-ons. And we wonder why there are deep seated police trust issues; why our criminal element has a strong-hold?

It almost seems laughable that there is a big gate and security at the dock in Cruz Bay, when the Coral Bay area has no one paying attention to the open seas. Only last year there were many Coral Bay citizens deeply concerned and meeting in attempts to get answers to and about the many illegal aliens finding their way to St. John via Coral Bay.

These issues can not be blamed on our present administration. I believe that the system of grouping St. Thomas-St. John together does not work! St. John’s problems continue never to be addressed, no matter how many meetings are called, or serious these problems get.

Our voice is rarely heard. The senator at large position does not serve our island. St. John needs to have districting. We need to identify our problems and implement solutions, not constantly beg for needs. We can no longer send our crisis issues to St. Thomas and watch them disappear along with the coffer money that St. John collects.

It is simply unacceptable to St. Johnians, whether it is the lack of police presence, property taxes, parking needs (still!), transportation issues, the need for a decent school for our children, the need for youth programs; the list is very long and solutions to them almost non-existent to date. The citizens of St. John are also tired of years of going to meetings looking for these solutions.

The system must be changed if we are to have true representation. This must be addressed in the Constitutional Convention. I would venture to say that our sister island of St. Croix feels the very same way!

Please, pay attention to what we need to do and how we need to make major changes so that we can be the best that we can be! This can only happens with a system that allows the people of each island more of a direct voice in solving its individual and unique problems.

Back to guns: Guns get here because our outdated system of governing makes it possible and easy. Let’s change that — now. How? This is the important job of our Constitutional Convention delegates. I hope that they understand how important their job is to our future.

Bonny Corbeil