Dear Delegate Kilili, Gov. Torres, Sen. Palacios, and Rep. Demapan: My name is Benjamin Byers. From August of 2016 through January of 2018 I had the honor and the pleasure of serving as the law clerk for Justice Perry B. Inos on the Supreme Court of the Northern Mariana Islands. During my time working for the Supreme Court I had the opportunity and privilege to interact with some of you personally, as well as your colleagues and members of your staff on projects ranging from the establishment of the CNMI’s Drug Court, to Law and the Freshman Legislator, to government-wide events like the Labor Day Picnic.
Along with my work for the Judiciary, during my time on island I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the warm and welcoming communities that makes up Saipan. I spoke in classrooms as part of the Judiciary’s Judges in the Classroom program, I coached middle school and high school mock trial teams at Grace Christian Academy and Saipan International School, I volunteered with Saipan Cares for Animals. Yet among these varied experiences, perhaps the most impactful for me was my volunteer work with the Saipan Swim Club and their new water polo team, which I developed along with coach Jacoby Winkfield. This program continues today under the coaching of Jacoby and Hessel Yntema.
As a volunteer for the Saipan Swim Club I officiated swim meets, including the annual all-schools swim meet. I watched as students, young and old, came together not only to push themselves as athletes, but to make connections with students from other schools and villages that they would never have otherwise met. As the coach of the water polo team, I spent Saturday mornings watching children from ages 8 to 17 learn a new sport and develop teamwork skills that will have lasting benefits in their lives. Working with volunteers like Emma Perez, I watched adults conquer lifelong fears and learn to swim.
I was therefore distressed to learn about the fate of the Marpi pool, which I understand that, without government intervention, will close on Sept. 30. As you are all aware, the Marpi pool is the only pool on island capable of hosting large-scale swim meets. It is the only pool which provides adequate lane space and scheduling for programs like the Saipan Swim Club, the Saipan Water Polo Team, and the Tsunami Swim Club. Without the Marpi pool, I am concerned that swimming, which for decades has provided a positive outlet for children and adults alike, will no longer be an accessible sport on island.
I know I am not alone in my concerns. An online petition has already garnered nearly 7,000 signatures at the time I write this letter. Articles in both major island newspapers have highlighted the importance of this facility. There is a deep and obvious community desire to maintain the facility.
I urge you to work together from your respective governmental positions to craft a solution which will save the pool and allow every person in the community to continue to reap its benefits.