Editor’s Note: This is being published in two parts due to its length.
Second of two parts
Outreach and community engagement
One of the most rewarding parts of this job is the chance to regularly meet and interact with constituents, share information and listen to ideas, and collaborate with other agencies, nonprofit groups, and volunteers in community projects.
Over the last two years, our office has partnered with legislative colleagues on both sides of the political aisle, as well as government agencies and departments, nonprofit groups, and volunteers in conducting multiple cleanup and beautification campaigns in and around Precinct 2. These efforts have targeted Sugar Dock Beach, Lali 4 Beach, WSR Elementary School, Hopwood Middle School, and residential areas in Chalan Kanoa and Susupe.
Together with our partners, we have planted hundreds of trees, flowers, and edible crops, picked up thousands of pounds of trash, and coordinated the removal of junk vehicles and illegal dumpsites in the villages. Most recently, we helped jumpstart Susupe’s first community garden, in coordination with area residents, the Board of Parole, Division of Forestry, Division of Agriculture, NMC CREES, the Saipan Mayor’s Office, and DFEMS.
In August 2019 we organized the CNMI’s first Opportunity Expo, showcasing opportunities in employment, vocational training and higher education, small business financing and development, health services, vocational rehabilitation, assistance for people with disabilities, and addiction recovery. Approximately 40 different government, nonprofit, and private sector partners participated in the expo, and more than 300 residents attended.
We have additionally led and participated in community planning initiatives. Our office hosted the “Our Sense of Place” community mapping forum for Precinct 2 early last year, and worked with our Precinct 2 colleagues and representatives from CUC, DPW, and Zoning to conduct a follow-up town hall meeting. We compiled the feedback received at these community forums and incorporated them in comments submitted for other planning exercises with the Office of Planning and Development, including the updating of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.
We also issued a letter to the Department of Public Works identifying the priority infrastructure projects that had been highlighted at community meetings and for which local funding had already been appropriated. We inquired about the progress of these projects in the letter and in subsequent meetings and phone calls. These priorities include Sugar Dock’s architectural and engineering design, flooding and drainage issues in the villages, crosswalk improvements and replacements of street signs and streetlights, repairs at social halls and basketball courts, and the demolition of an old, condemned municipal building in Chalan Kanoa. Many of these projects are still pending and require continual follow-up.
I have always believed in the importance of showing up and participating in public meetings, especially on issues that greatly impact the community. I have done so regularly as a concerned citizen, and continue to do so as a legislator. Over the past two years, I have attended and commented at meetings of the Commonwealth Casino Commission, the Lottery Commission, the Board of Education, and the Zoning Office. In the Legislature, when major bills appear to be on a fast-track to passage, I have urged for public hearings and other opportunities for affected community members, agencies, and other stakeholders to review and comment on proposed legislation. Sometimes my colleagues have listened—most recently, in the case of a proposal to rezone the area from Sugar Dock Beach to Lali 4 Beach and beyond from village residential and village commercial uses to tourist resort. I reached out to constituents to notify them of the legislation, communicated my concerns with my colleagues and Zoning staff about the bill and the need for more public awareness, and attended a subsequent community meeting where residents expressed their concerns and objections.
Throughout the years and during this term, I have taken every opportunity that I could to promote civic engagement, particularly among local youth and women. I have been a guest speaker on government and current issues for students all over the island, including Northern Marianas College and public and private schools. I have also presented at various community events for women, including the CNMI Women’s Summit, the H.E.R.S. panels on women’s representation, and the Soroptomists’ forum. The next project I am working on is a civics education program for social media to encourage and empower citizens to better understand our government and learn how to find information and more effectively participate in decision-making to improve our community.
I work for you
As your representative in the Northern Marianas Legislature, I work for you, the people of Precinct 2 and the Commonwealth. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve, and I take seriously my responsibilities and the public trust I have been given. I also welcome feedback. For questions or comments, to share ideas or concerns, I can be reached by phone at 664-8829 (office) and 285-3935 (cell/WhatsApp), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or on social media @reptinasablan.
Christine-Marie Sablan (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Christine-Marie Sablan is a member of the CNMI House of Representatives of the 21st Legislature, representing Precinct 2.