There are many alternatives to casinos but our governor and few others continue shouting their claim that only casinos can save us and he is killing anything that gets in the way of casinos like the ferry service and now the legalization. The people are not stupid and I’m not going to stand still and let the governor kill this chance for economic recovery like he did the ferry because in reality we are still no better off than we were two years ago when Inos took over.
The problem has always been that no one in the Legislature has been willing to present an alternative to Fitial’s and Inos’ casino plan in over 10 years. Our leaders are kadu ku if you think the people are going to trust you in November again when you couldn’t find one alternative to casinos in 10 years. Voters in the CNMI and the mainland can see the great economic potential in legalizing pot and we are sick and tired of casino talk that has held us like political hostages. Enough is enough!
I will be the first to say yes, some people did change their minds to accept casinos but they are even mad as their decision was made under the pure duress of our past and present governors’ unwillingness to offer any alternative to casinos. The people have been bamboozled for the past 10 years and I know why. FYI readers, I can remember having a conversation with Gov. Fitial when I was trying to help the Fund. I asked him, why didn’t the Legislature follow him on the simple fee sale? His exact words were, “They are a bunch of cowards” which he also told them in a meeting with the Legislature. His words are proving to be prophetic as they have failed to present one alternative: The simple fee sale with a property tax offered over $400 million to the Fund’s solution and the only thing that would change is that the lease payments would become tax payments because the government would still retain virtual ownership of the property. So the simple fee sale, Article 12, the ferry service, the CNMI-owned lottery for Micronesia and now the legalization of marijuana with hundreds of millions on the line are all excellent alternatives to casinos but not so much as a whisper from the Legislature—just casinos! Are voters supposed to believe that no one in the Legislature supports any of these alternatives, because if you do you need to speak up now before Election Day.
We are supposed to have an adversarial government with representatives on both sides of the aisle to get the best solutions. A primary reason we endured the casino talk for over a decade is that no one was on the other side of the aisle, meaning they all ( or at least most of them) came from the same GOP tree and want the same thing—casino—and not a Democrat in sight to hold the GOP accountable. This is the phenomenon I referred to us having a sick democracy with only one party, which is like trying to run a marathon with one sick lung. Political scientists refer to this phenomenon as checks and balances, which explains why we haven’t progressed—no checks and balances within or by the Legislature. The only check on our leaders is on Election Day but I’m sure there are going to be some Democrats elected to finally place a check in the Legislature and on the governor.
P.S.: On a personal note, I’m really just feed up with our malfunctioning Legislature. But believe it or not, I actually like many of our leaders as some of them are my uncles and my friend. But for me, the people and the welfare of our Commonwealth comes before any personal relationships. I hope that none of them will take this personal but as constructive criticism to start leading. Do your job and hold the Executive Branch accountable. It is clear the governor doesn’t want the people to even have a chance of legalizing marijuana because it will kill his casino push. But I will share with our leaders what Dr. King asked me and others in a gathering during the civil rights movement: If not you, then who (in the Legislature) and if not now then when will one or more of our leaders take a stand to lead on the legalization of marijuana? Do we really have to be last in America on this too?
Ambrose M Bennett