Saipan Mayor Donald Pangelinan Flores formally took office yesterday during the inauguration ceremony held at the parking lot of the Saipan Mayor’s Office in San Antonio that was witnessed by hundreds of community members and supporters.
Flores, the Republican Party candidate who emerged victorious in the Nov. 7 mayoralty race, outlined 12 priorities for his administration.
Topping the new mayor’s list is the timely processing of all applications for the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance, SHEFA, and increasing the $3 million scholarship funding by tapping the assistance of the Legislature.
SHEFA is a scholarship program ran by a board appointed by the mayor of Saipan.
“I will task the board to ensure that all applications for scholarships are processed in a timely manner and decisions made in the shortest possible time. I will work with the Legislature to identify new sources of revenue to increase funding level of the program,” Flores said.
Because Saipan has over 30 villages and each is as diverse as the other in terms of needs, population and size, Flores believes that the needs of each village will best be addressed if each one has a representative to coordinate their concerns with his office.
He also intends to address concerns on littering, junk cars, scrap metals and unsightly debris.
“I will aggressively pursue a program that will link all permitting agencies to better coordination and service. I believe that the mayor’s office is the right base in our community to oversee the coordination of the enforcement of various laws and regulations pertaining to the environment,” he added.
To better promote the island as a prime tourist destination and encourage travelers to return to the island, Flores said there’s a need to enhance and preserve the history, culture, and important historical sites on island.
Flores described this objective as both “realistic and attainable” and vowed to partner with private landowners to be involved in the promotion.
The lack of a sports program for children in the villages as well as the building of social halls or community centers for the youth were also identified as major concerns that Flores said he will seriously consider.
The new mayor also outlined a plan to make the Chamolinian Village be operated and maintained by local children and elders where art demonstrations will be showcased.
“It’s my vision to make the Chamolinian Village be community-owned,” he said.
A partnership with the Department of Public Works’ Roads and Grounds Maintenance Division to keep roads safe, clean, and free of unwanted vegetation was also identified among his priorities.
Because trash disposal seems to be a problem in many villages, Flores cited that big containers for trash will be located at designated trash collection centers to help reduce the dumping of trash and other debris along public roads and unauthorized places.
“Providing low cost convenience for our residents is not only doable, but achievable with the right combination of planning, control, and outreach. We will work closely with the private sector on this,” he said.
The new mayor also vowed to improve school bus stops for the safety of children by offering “ownership” of these shelters to community members. This way, he believes, ugly graffiti and destructive vandalism can be drastically eliminated.
Finally, Flores said he is committed to resolving the stray animals problem, which not only poses a health risk but threatens the Commonwealth economy by chasing away tourists.
“Getting this statutory responsibility off the ground and moving along is my top priority. I say enough is enough. Desired funding may not be readily available [but] this is not excuse to just sit and do nothing. The problem is real and it affects all of us,” he said.
Flanked by family members, Flores took his oath of office, as administered by presiding judge Robert C. Naraja yesterday. Among the guests in the inauguration ceremony were CNMI Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan, former Saipan mayor Juan B. Tudela, Youth Congress Speaker Alana May Leon Guerrero, Tinian mayor-elect Francisco Cruz, and senators and congressmen from various districts.