An endorsement of Tina for governor


Upon moving to Saipan last year, kindly locals repeatedly told me three things: Don’t go into the ocean alone, never drink what comes out of the faucet and, most importantly, avoid getting involved in local politics. Thanks to all those offering what is sound advice. Two out of three isn’t bad, right?

So I gave up my nearly 40-year Alaskan residency (and Permanent Fund payments) to become a permanent resident of the CNMI. As for local politics, let’s just say that the past year has afforded me a curious and often infuriating education.

Who am I to offer political insight and advice? During part of my military service, I was a spokesman, public affairs specialist and on the staff of multiple admirals that commanded the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District (Alaska, Bering Sea, Arctic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean). I’ve served as a press/public affairs director to an Alaskan governor. As a journalist and stringer, I often covered the Alaska Legislature and governors for the Associated Press and Anchorage Daily News. I’ve volunteered and worked in the campaigns for U.S. Senate and governor of Alaska, ran multiple times for the office of mayor of Juneau (the capital of Alaska) and I was chairman of the committee in Juneau dealing with urban wildlife (mostly black and brown bears) and solid waste disposal ordinances. As to my political affiliation, like many Americans, I’m a nonpartisan independent and have voted for candidates of multiple parties.

I tried, I really tried to ignore the malfeasance, corruption, waste and abject lack of will and ability than passes for senior Commonwealth leadership but I am, unapologetically, a political animal (or should that now read  “political Saipanimal”?). What can I say? It’s my nature.

Honestly, I don’t have much insight or any endorsements for any of the village, mayoral, or legislative races as all the campaigns seem to go out of their way to avoid addressing actual problems, policy matters, or their specific and concrete proposals as to govern and effect meaningful change. I’m hardly the first political observer to note that CNMI politics is dictated by personality, popularity and family/social ties rather than being concerned with—or being oriented toward—generating sound policies and real, effective governance. The main goal of politicians here seems to be the transfer (mostly and ultimately) federal funds to people through government jobs, payouts, and retirement pensions and to then make those citizens beholden to said politicians to ensure that they stay in office in order to keep Uncle Sam’s gravy train rolling.  Guess it’s nice work, if you can get it.

Mind you, don’t take my assessments and criticism as an insult or as an indication of a lack of respect.  It’s the way things currently are. Our current system of political patronage isn’t much different than Tammany Hall, Chicago Machine politics or the way things work/don’t work back in Alaska, where endemic corruption has been fueled for decades with tens of billions of dollars in oil, mining, timber, and fishing revenues, along with often steered and padded government construction contracts. 

However, just because “things are the way they are” doesn’t mean that the choice for real change and a better and more sustainable collective future eludes us.

Lt. Gov. Palacios and Mayor Apatang have my respect for their many years of combined public service. I mean that. But they offer nothing new in terms of willingness to make government better or more responsive to resident needs, nor have they offered any detailed plans that would make the lives those who call the CNMI home safer, more sustainable, and secure. From one old guy to two older gentlemen and admired elders, I respectfully suggest that now is the time to stand aside for the younger generations to move into senior leadership positions. Considering Palacios was/is so closely connected with the current governor suggests poor judgement on his behalf at the very least and his unwillingness to take Gov. Ralph Torres to task for his transgressions and inactions makes me wonder if his candidacy might be some sort of gambit to divide anti-Torres voters. That Torres recently rewarded him with an exceptional and likely lifesaving emergency military medevac to Hawaii strikes me as payback for the favor. Perhaps Palacios and Apatang will continue their public service by being the respected elder statesmen that they are, as informal community leaders through volunteering, and as much needed mentors to younger Commonwealth leaders and those who aspire to leadership positions in government and business.

Not going to mince words here, but Gov. Torres is quite possibly the worst, the most indolent, incurious, and willfully incapable governor the CNMI ever saddled itself with. Did Torres not know that the entire IPI casino debacle was part of “The Plan” formulated by the Chinese Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China to insinuate itself throughout the Western and Southern Pacific? The goal of The Plan is to discredit the U.S., sow discord among allies and friends, establish puppet political and community leaders, to make Pacific  islands and island nations into PRC supplicants and/or make them into clients/client states that would lead to the basing of military assets to counter the United States, Japan, Australia, France, U.K., Taiwan, and others. As long as his reflexively-outstretched hand gets greased, Torres didn’t and doesn’t care about national allegiance or the wellbeing of the Commonwealth. The derelict and rapidly-moldering/crumbling IPI casino is nothing more than a gargantuan insult to the citizens of the CNMI, the residents of Garapan and to the United States. Torres also opened the doors wide to accommodate (without even visas) rude and abusive PRC tourists who delighted in trying to mar and deface the natural beauty of Saipan and blast around the island in rental cars like maniacs without real drivers licenses and any regard for the safety and wellbeing of locals. He embraced birth tourism that confers automatic and unearned U.S. citizenship to PRC infants. Whose side is he on? Certainly not the side of the United States or of his constituents. I could go on and on and on. Multiple federal and local law enforcement investigations and raids, COVID-19 mismanagement and inaction that likely led directly to the deaths of CNMI residents, diversion and loss of typhoon/super-typhoon and pandemic recovery funds, buying fleets of gas-powered cars (as political gift handouts) when we need to transition to electric vehicles, no preparation or even a basic understanding of the challenges that climate change presents, undrinkable tap water, a hospital that is a medical embarrassment and doesn’t even have an MRI or comprehensive diagnostic capabilities, repeatedly avoiding U.S. and local customs at the airport, personally living a lavish lifestyle (first-class airline tickets, high-end hotels, sunset cruises, $15,000 a month electricity bills, etc. all on the government’s tab). All this and more all the while a third of Commonwealth residents are considered “poor.” 

He should be ashamed of himself and his long, abjectly dismal record of repeated failures as a so-called leader. But that would be asking too much, wouldn’t it?

Rep. Tina Sablan offers another way. She represents cogent thought, mindful consideration, compassion, empathy, and reason, along with deep respect for the rule of law and a record of good governance. She worked her way up and served in the legislative and journalistic  trenches. She is well-versed in the language of governing and the legislative process. Whip-smart, strong, brave and resolute, she is also capable of changing her mind when presented credible evidence that runs contrary to her previously established positions. Tina possesses excellent conflict-resolution abilities and, unlike so many other contemporary politicians, is capable and willing to listen to and aid constituents and residents. Though a Democrat, I know she is willing to work across party lines and with independents to achieve meaningful change. She’s willing to do the hard work and heavy lifting that is required to govern and to lead. I also sense in her the ability to acknowledge when she is wrong (as all of us often are). I respect that in a leader. I respect her and am pleased to stand with her and her many supporters. 

I’m proud to support Tina Sablan. I ask that you consider giving her your vote for governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Thank you and thanks to all those who put themselves forward to participate in the democratic political process and those who exercise their rights and privileges in order cast their votes.

Note: I contribute to the Saipan Tribune as a volunteer citizen journalist/photojournalist. Given my journalistic ethics and in the spirit of full transparency, I disclose that I contributed to the Sablan-Staffler 2022 campaign and volunteered my time to the campaign.

Mark Farmer
Garapan, Saipan

Contributing Author
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