“It’s our island, `nai”


Since four decades ago, I’ve heard local expressions of our rights to self-government. It encouraged a sense of optimism, strengthening our democratic institutions.

This year it was disheartening to learn of oversight issues raised in the recent Murkowski Senate committee hearing.

It seems we took another slide into mañana as if rectifying oversight issues is tertiary. We seem forgetful. Or is it a case of a misunderstood concept? Haven’t we been self-governing for 40 years now?

Favoritism: Remember when Best Sunshine was freed from agency regulatory review while all others must follow the law to the letter? Isn’t this a show of policy instability and isn’t it a violation of the Hatch Act? Wasn’t this an issue with the Murkowski Senate Committee hearing?

Merit: I have the highest respect for teachers who work long and hard to secure their degrees. Moreover, they had to pass Praxis tests to qualify as teachers. Beginning salary is about $33,000-plus per year. Has this been rectified?

At the same time, the requirement to run for public office is basically limited to age and residency. How about imposing credentials, you know, academic and professional experience so we could feel comfortable that these guys meet reading proficiency and capable of articulating issues in educated fashion? A standard merit system is a must!

Demoralizing: Have we revisited declared principles (policies) on health, education, and other basic issues to work on refinements or did we “Leave It To Beaver?”

Sometime it’s hard striking a sense of equilibrium (balance) amidst the fray of meaningless spouts. Or is this indigenous forte?

Land: Learned that DPL has sent IPI/Best Sunshine a letter of “award” for the Garapan land about two years ago. Has an agreement been signed formalizing the award or has it been delayed? If it is the latter, is there a reason for it?

The Marpi land is another interesting issue. What’s the score on this deal? Has someone been pulling heavy strings to delay it? Purpose of the delay and is it a matter of a favorite applicant over firms that lack political connection? The rumor mill is loaded!

Then there’s the rumor of instructions from without to delay land exchange until the person secures land of his/her choice. Really? No worries! We’re guarding too!

Extension: The idea of extending public land leases from 40 to 55 years should be soundly defeated. In fact, the term should be shortened to 25 years!

Short-term leases grant both sides the opportunity to realistically assess use of the land. If the tenant or lessee uses it for business he gets the opportunity to review the prospects of making more money or incur losses when the venue loses its attraction.

Across the country, McDonald’s signs 25-year leases with landowners. At the end of the term it reassesses if continuing would still translate into healthy profit margins. Or has the area lost business traffic because people have relocated to greener pasture elsewhere.

The short-term deal is a plus for the landowner given the opportunity to make a bit more from his property when renewed for another 25 years. The term is short and gives the owner a little more income. Forty years is too long a period for reassessment.

Opportunities: The number of locals relocating to Guam, Hawaii, and across the fruited plains continues to this day. What’s the missing link behind the phenomenon?

Our people, especially those who could afford the one-time cost of relocation are looking for opportunities for their families. It focuses on jobs, good school and health systems for their children and upward mobility beyond college degrees. It’s an issue that requires meaningful reassessment and leadership. But we seem to have missed the boat as it leaves the harbor.

It’s all about finding the best opportunities. Does this ring a bell here? Anybody seated at the navigator’s chair ought to be wary of this vital issue.

Observations: The elected elite took an oath to guard and fulfill their obligation guarding the interest of the people, including how their hard-earned taxes are spent. If you’re an incumbent, how do you rate your performance on this score? If you’re a newcomer, do you understand the mess that could be an entrapment?

Did you raise an issue in the expropriation of $400,000 engineered by Biktot Hokog that violated constitutional mandate in the expenditure of public funds? Isn’t it that all funds require legislative appropriation mandated by the Constitution?

Junket: The NMI spends millions of dollars on useless and unnecessary junket trips abroad as though an accepted culture in the ill disposition of taxpayers’ money. Do the globetrotters know there are advances in information technology that avails of Skype” conferencing? It cuts travel expenses to zero!

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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