The definition of a politician is a person who is involved in the politics and activities associated with the proper and beneficial governance of a country, state, or any other governing area.
The paradox pertaining to a politician is that he or she may also act in a manipulative and scheming way to gain advancement and retain future membership in a governing organization.
A paradox is a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition that, when investigated, may prove to be well founded or true.
Therefore, as citizens of the CNMI we should examine the actions of our current politicians to see if he or she falls into the category of a politician’s paradox. Do they use their office for the betterment of their constituents, which most likely guarantees their political advancement and re-election, or do they resort to manipulation and scheming attempts to gain popularity with the voters for re-election?
Please consider the following examples of political paradoxes with a open mind and I accept any criticism of my opinions and observations:
First on the list of paradoxical politicians is Gov. Ralph Torres, who has attempted to lead our islands through very difficult times and has spent many millions of federal dollars and traveled all over to spread the success of his work.
However, he has been widely accused of misspending public funds for himself and for his party’s benefit, which is currently being litigated in court. For example, he has apparently ignored CNMI public law and flew all over in first/biz class instead of economy. The law could be amended to allow the governor’s office to fly business class for long flights to eliminate debilitating jet lag, but hey, it’s easier for the governor to have his assistants stamp “island okay” on his travel request.
In a case of “double political paradox,” even the governor’s accuser in the above court action, the CNMI attorney general, has flown n business class. The Attorney General’s Office has stated he was given a complimentary upgrade, but the action of him being seated in business class would appear to unaware onlookers as a violation of the legal issue of an “appearance of impropriety” scenario.
Gov. Torres also shows concern for our NMI residents’ welfare and economic well-being. But he has ignored his mandated duty, per P.L. 15-35, and failed to appoint qualified members to the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission, which is a very important commission that regulates the public and private utilities and telecommunications of our islands.
Consequently, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has no oversight in its unregulated raising of our costly utility bills, and CUC blames this on that they are mandated to raise rates. But who actually mandates CUC and who really double-checks the mysterious calculations for the doubling of rates since January?
The big problem is that the CPUC has been non-existent for several years and there is NO excuse to not appoint CPUC members, except to possibly “control” CUC’s operations via the governor’s office.
It is appreciated that the Senate recently passed a resolution to ask CUC to give the struggling NMI residents a break on the rising utility costs (Fuel Adjustment Charge fees have doubled since January) and, furthermore, a legislative hearing was recently held to find solutions. But what is really needed is to have the governor pressured into legally appointing the necessary members to the CPUC and allow the CPUC to take care of justifiably regulating and controlling pricing and services for the CNMI people.
In early July, CUC raised its FAC 19% due to MOPS (Mean of Platts Singapore) calculations, when Mobil and Shell lowered their gas due to the ongoing global lowering of crude oil. So, what the FAC is going on? The CPUC is needed now!
Even telecommunication companies that fall under the purview of CPUC like IT&E and Docomo aren’t currently being legally regulated by the CPUC.
Next on the paradox list is the Commonwealth Casino Commission that is also an NMI political organization with members appointed by the governor, and which is managed by an executive director.
According to Title 175 (Commonwealth Casino Commission Regulations), the CCC and its executive director have the responsibility to supervise, monitor, and investigate the Saipan’s only casino, IPI, to ensure its business suitability and financial capabilities in order to protect the public’s interests, i.e., fees and taxes to provide extra economic revenue to our government’s treasury. This revenue in turn would provide more economic security for our health, education, retirement, and other needed CNMI programs.
However, it seems the CCC executive director is mainly concerned in collecting the exorbitant IPI annual fees to keep the costly CCC in business, instead of following the fiduciary mandates of Title 175 and support IPI’s economic stability.
The CCC executive director keeps threatening IPI with the immediate revocation of its license without the CCC offering a casino backup plan or even giving IPI its due process. The CCC revocation plan was stopped by the federal court that basically said that IPI should have at least a chance to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, etc., and be allowed to secure funding that will pay any legitimate bills and complete its construction. As a constructive help to this situation, why doesn’t the CCC and its executive director offer IPI some relief and waivers to reduce part of the $55 million fees owed the CCC.
IPI casino operations have been closed since the summer of 2020 and what has the CCC done in that time to warrant the whole $55 million?
A final note to some NMI residents and political leaders, who keep trashing IPI in various news articles and comments: I’m still waiting for any one of you to come up with an alternative and realistic tourist and business idea to replace the tourist casino industry.
When I drafted the original Saipan casino bill several years ago for the Saipan Northern Islands Delegation, I organized public hearings with SNILD members attending in all the Saipan villages, in order to gather valuable information for the future of the casino industry on Saipan. The recorded responses and input from the public was 90% in favor of the casino industry and to create better self-reliance for the CNMI, with of course the 10% usual critics complaining but offering no tourist or business alternatives.
Recently, Tinian is opening its new casino operations to its medical and scholarship resources for its residents. Saipan and Rota are allocating still existing IPI casino fees for needed programs and scholarship funding. So where are the complaints about these actions?
The remaining political paradoxes involve the two new gubernatorial election teams who will challenge Gov. Torres this coming November.
The first tandem of gubernatorial challengers is the team of Reps. Tina Sablan and Leila Staffler, who are both young and intelligent.
However, in reviewing their legislative records I fail to see a constructive platform of business-related activities for the betterment of the CNMI. It’s good to wave the flag for more social programs and gender equality programs, but these added programs could be costly and where are the sources of revenue to pay for these programs?
Regarding gender equality in the CNMI, I’ve lived here for over 40 years and have witnessed the overall island acceptance by the vast majority of local people and the tolerant island culture in regards to people of different colors, beliefs, and gender selections.
Over the years, there have been numerous government employees and private sector members on our islands who embrace different ethnicities and gender identities without denial of opportunities or danger to them. Haven’t you ever seen or heard of the popular and annual gay and cross-dressing events on Saipan?
Frankly, the NMI doesn’t need similar U.S. mainland government-type interference and potentially costly laws and regulations to guarantee gender equality here.
There’s also one other issue that bothers me about Rep. Sablan in regards to the retirement bonus saga.
After the delaying tactics by the Legislature over who gets the credit for helping the man’amko retirees, who some years ago had their COLAs ironically removed by legislative action, Rep. Sablan, according to the legislative records, didn’t join several House members who signed House Bill 22-95-SS1 to finally approve the bonus. This apparent lack of retiree support, along with her adamant proclamation to have IPI’s casino license revoked immediately, whereby the hospital, schools and the retirees will suffer from the lack of extra government revenues, has me worried about the plans of the Democratic Party. As added information, Rep. Staffler did vote for House Bill No, 22-95, SS1.
Last, but not least of gubernatorial challengers, is the tandem of Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios and Mayor David Apatang, who fall into the category of elder statesmen who can still ably govern with the well-being of the NMI people in mind, young and old.
However, Lt. Gov. Palacios did commit a “grievous” offense for flying in business class one way from Saipan to Guam some years ago–personally I really can’t tell the difference between economy class and biz class on the short flight to Guam.
He is also guilty of being elected to a position that really has no power or duties in the governor’s office. All the special assistants and staff in the governor’s office are hired and appointed by the governor and answer to the governor and his policies. Except on occasion when the governor leaves the CNMI after all important gubernatorial actions have been already accomplished, and the lieutenant governor fills in as acting governor for a while and signs a proclamation or two and poses for few photo-ops.
As for “Sergeant” Mayor Apatang, after he honorably served in the U.S. military and the NMI Legislature and has currently done a good job as mayor, it’s rumored that the usual Saipan complainers have adamantly supported removing Mayor Apatang from office for wasting public funds by planting too many flowers around our island.
Apparently, flowers make the complainers sneeze or sprain their brain cells trying to complain about something nice for once.
Well, good luck to all the November candidates. Biba, CNMI!
Dr. Jack Angello
Navy Hill, Saipan