THE HONORABLE MELVIN H. EVANS
GOVERNOR OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS OF THE UNITED STATES
STATE OF THE TERRITORY MESSAGE
JANUARY 11, 1971
Mr. President, distinguished members of the Legislature of the Virgin
Islands, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
This is the first time in history that an Elected Governor has
appeared before this body to deliver a State of the Territory Message.
All of us are fully aware of the significance of this occasion. It is
therefore an appropriate time for us to change somewhat the format of the
State of the Territory Message.
We are now in an era when our gaze is forward and upward and I
deem it most appropriate that instead of the usual State of the Territory
Messages which concerned themselves so greatly with a recounting
of past developments that we use this opportunity to outline clearly
the goals for which we strive during the coming year. Full acknowledg-
ment is made of the necessity to study and evaluate the past in order
that our present position and course of direction might be accurately
charted. But in the moments I shall take to speak to you this afternoon,
our vision shall be directed to the year ahead of us and years beyond that.
One week ago today, immediately after taking my oath as your first
Elected Governor, I expressed to you my conviction that "It is given to man
to strive endlessly for a better life, but to achieve his goals one by one."
All of us have dreams for our Virgin Islands, but I want to discuss with you
today not dreams but a clear, practical blueprint for progress which we can
follow for the coming year.
Since it is given to man to achieve his goals one by one, I cite goals
now which I truly believe are attainable within one year, or the beginning
made within the year. New legislation which I shall propose to you today
is basic to achieve some of these goals. Others can be achieved through
greater use of modern technology--greater cooperation from the Federal
But, in my judgment, no legislation, no amount of Federal funds,
and no technology can help us attain our goals unless we make the quality
of excellence meaningful in our government. I shall propose to you specific
steps for streamlining various departments, for eliminating waste, for
increasing action and performance. The Government of the Virgin Islands
can, however, only improve to the degree that each man and woman working
in government--at every level improves in his job. So I urge all of us to
approach his job with vigor, with imagination, with excitement. Only
then shall we have a government with vitality, style, efficiency and
A more efficient government structure has a definite bearing on the
problem of tax increases since better performance at every level of
government will, in my judgment, allow us to control the rapid expansion
of government payrolls. Some increase in the number of government
employees will be necessary to serve the real needs of an increasing
So, to me, our most important goal for this new year will be
a modernized, streamlined government operating with greater efficiency
in all areas. To achieve this goal, we must create a government in
which excellence is rewarded and poor performance is penalized--where
job security is not a haven for indolence and indifference. If we do
not have this, we shall surely have a government of mediocrity. The
past policy has been to reward tenure and longevity instead of performance.
As your Governor, I have studied closely the economic picture
today and indicators of what we may expect. Based on these studies I
plan to return to this Legislature with a comprehensive economic message
shortly. However, let me briefly review where we stand.
Our growth in revenue has been the result of growth in business
and population. As long as this growth continues, our revenue increases.
In many cases the relative benefits were more apparent than real. Thus,
we have been able to avoid new taxes or increase tax rates. There is
no intent to do either of these things at the present time. But since
revenues depend on economic conditions drastic cuts in costs become
necessary and we may still need additional revenues. Since our strongest
economic ties are with the United States, and since the mainland is in
an economic slowdown, we have to be extremely guarded in our plans
for the immediate future.
Let me now look to the attainable goals which we can achieve,
one by one, during the next 12 months.
We are all concerned over the rise in crime even though this is
related to increased population and increased business and commercial
activity. It is not an acceptable development to us here in the Virgin
Islands; it is not one to which we have been accustomed, and it is a
development which can and must be attacked with every resource at our
control, recognizing it to be the pernicious cancer which it really is.
To this extent I am assigning top priority to strengthening the Department
of Public Safety. This strengthening shall include a reorganization of
the Department and a probable doubling or tripling of its manpower
together with such facilities and equipment as would be necessary or
needed for the efficient performance of this department. Obviously, this
will require considerable budget expenditures and, just as obviously,
will require curtailment in other areas of budgetary expenditures to which
we have attached lower priorities. Nevertheless, the continued existence
of this community in the manner that all of us love can only be ensured by
stamping out, hopefully, once and for all this rising tide of crime.
Recognizing the deplorable condition of the Richmond Penitentiary,
steps have been taken to correct it, and architectural designs and speci-
fications are being rushed to completion so that actual construction of the
reformatory complex could be begun at an early date.
Education is a major challenge and our goal for this year should be
expansion of our educational plant and great improvement of our Department
of Education. I say we can expect to complete two new schools on St.Croix
within the next eight months, and two schools in St.Thomas are presently
nearing completion. It is interesting to realize that in 1963 an enrollment
projection by Professor Roscoe Brown of New York University anticipated an
increase to over 12,000 children by the school year 1973-74. In 1970-71
the school population has already reached 17,289. Despite this tremendous
increase, the pupil-teacher ratio has steadily decreased, numerous services
have been added, and curriculum revisions and additions have constantly
Much has been discussed about the educational system in these islands
There is no question that the problems are serious and education must continue
to be a priority area. There is no question that the quality of product is not
as high as it should be or as it must be. Nevertheless, a proper perspective
requires that we acknowledge the improvements which have occurred.
For one thing, as recently as 1963-64, a study of the teacher-pupil
ratio in the elementary schools showed that this ratio averaged about
38.5 to 39; whereas, this year the maximum is 30 in kindergarten, 35 in
grades 1 to 6, and 30 in grades 7 to 12.
We can expand our bilingual program and strengthen our voca-
tional program. We can, most significantly, restructure and streamline
the administration of the entire department of education to make our
system more relevant, more exciting, more attractive to the youth of
The College of the Virgin Islands should also continue to strive for
both excellence and relevance. In the year ahead, we should emphasize
vocational training at the college level while expanding the entire
academic program. I specifically and urgently suggest that the Department
of Nursing be enlarged and emphasized. I also urge the introduction of
a "crash" program in teacher education to produce a larger portion of the
teachers we need so badly. Spearheaded by the "Virgin Islands and the Sea"
program, I believe that the entire marine science field should be explored
in greater depth and that we should pursue our course of making the
College an international center for marine research and development.
This administration will continue to push the "Virgin Islands and the Sea"
program and our specific goal this year will be to involve more of our young
men and women. We believe that the exploration of the sea is as great
an adventure for man as the exploration of space, and we want to create
programs which will give our youth key roles in this adventure.
In the area of Conservation and Cultural affairs, we shall continue
adding to our public recreational facilities--new beaches, swimming pools
and playgrounds will be dedicated during this year--but we will also push
vigorously for expansion of our libraries, making them more modern, more
vital, more complete.
During the year 1971, we need more careful control of dredging
projects. The Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs must be
diligent in allowing dredging only when the public good is served and only
in areas where such an operation will not endanger our environment.
The sewage system program has moved forward rapidly and construction
is on schedule. However, additional expansion will be planned this year
not only to meet the needs but to anticipate them.
Our islands are growing at a dramatic rate and the public utilities
which serve them must keep pace. As you know, bonds and notes for the
Water and Power Authority have been sold in the amount of $25 million.
Both our water and power capabilities are adequate now and capable of
meeting demands for the next three to five years. But our goal for 1971
should be improved distribution facilities and improved employee
performance. The best generating facilities are of minimum use without
skilled operations and I suggest intensified formal training and on-the-job
training for the men and women who operate these facilities.
Telephone service is a second public utility which must be improved
and expanded. Every step must be taken to reduce the enormous backlog
of orders for service and every step should be taken to improve the speed,
efficiency and reliability of telephone service. The Public Utilities
Commission whose responsibility it is to regulate these services will be
required to be more vigilant in the years ahead.
Year after year we have been faced with the recurrent problem of
a severe water shortage necessitating the barging of water from outside.
Not only was this practice generally unacceptable but it was extremely
costly since the water thus barged in cost us more than twice what the
government in turn sold it for, and realistically viewing this matter it
would have worked a hardship to pass on this entire cost to the consumer.
At the present time the bottleneck is not so much in the production of
water, since under normal circumstances we have a production capacity
of about 50 per cent over our daily needs, but in the extremely limited
storage capacity. I propose that we expand our storage capacity to
approximately one hundred million gallons in St. Thomas and take similar
steps in St. Croix so that inevitable occasional breakdown of equipment
does not each time post a major crisis.
The cost of build ng increased storage capacity in the long run would be
far less than the previous cost of barging in water from the outside.
All of us recognize the need for improved airport facilities in
St. Thomas--improvements to affect the safety, convenience and attractive-
ness of the airport. A decision must be made swiftly on whether or not we
should have a new airport or expand Harry S. Truman Airport. Whatever
decision is made, reality dictates improvements must be made at Truman
Airport since operations cannot begin at a new airport for several years.
During those years, the present airport must be improved and made safer.
Housing must be removed from the approaches to the airport. Flammable
liquids and high tension wires near the end of the runway must be cleared
away. A decision as to whether extension of the runway for temporary
use would improve the safety factor must be made and action taken.
Our ports also must be improved and enlarged to serve for today
and for tomorrow. Work must be started now on improving ports at the
Submarine Base in St. Thomas and at Cruz Bay in St. John, and development
must be launched on creation of a port on the south shore of St. Croix.
There is the possibility of losing cruise ship traffic if they must be
anchored outside the harbor.
When we discuss these vital travel and cargo facilities, we should
reaffirm our determination to a re-evaluation of the organization and the
functions of the Port Authority which affect the life, health, safety and
economic welfare of the people of the Virgin Islands.
In the area of health, I recommend that we set out to achieve three
major goals during this year. First, the expansion of present health facilities
is showing great progress but while this is going on, the machinery for
financing new health complexes must be set in motion. Second, more
personnel including but not limited to doctors, nurses, nurse's aides,
pharmacists, medical technologists, and other paramedical personnel must
be recruited, trained and put on the job. Here, again, I urge the College
of the Virgin Islands to move quickly to expand its courses for all those in
the paramedical field. The third goal is to encourage and inform our citizens
to make maximum use of third party coverage, such as medicare, medicaid,
veterans coverage to reduce costs to them, and cut the hospital deficits
which must be met by all taxpayers.
During the past year the government employees in many sectors
have organized and bargained collectively. The process of collective
bargaining is a fundamental right of labor. The administration has recognized
this and conducted itself accordingly. However, it has become abundantly
clear that the present approach is not compatible with the continued
existence and implementation of the merit system. During this year it is
therefore of paramount importance that this problem be attacked vigorously.
The Legislature will have to decide, and decide shortly, as to whether the
merit system under which we operated since the middle 1940's will be
improved, implemented, and revised periodically--perhaps every five years--
in order to keep it current, or whether the labor relations of the government
would be relegated to the collective bargaining table as it is in private
The entire fiscal management procedures of the territory are in need
of intensive review and strengthening. No longer can we permit the excessive
time required to meet bills and make payments, nor can we continue to operate
without having more ready information available as to the status of our finances
at all times. Additionally, the drive to enforce tax collection and decrease the
tax delinquents must be continued.
Let us now consider the industries of these islands--the endeavors
which produce our income and generate revenues to operate this government.
Here, I suggest to you two goals. Today, the United States Virgin Islands are
virtually a "one-industry community" and that industry is tourism. The goals
I cite to you now may seem contradictory, but they are not.
One is to intensify our efforts to diversify--to decrease our dependence
on the travel industry. For as long as ours is a one-industry economy, we shall
be extremely vulnerable to any ills which befall the travel enterprises--strikes,
weather, or mainland recessions. So diversification in industry must be one
But while we are primarily a tourism economy, let another goal be to
become the best travel destination in the world. Providence has given us
great natural resources--ideal climate, beautiful beaches, great waters--and
our first concern must be to preserve them. But the travel product we have
to sell is also man-made and this we must improve dramatically.
The jet age has put these Virgin Islands in competition with the world
to get its share of the world's biggest business-the travel business. We're
not just competing with other Caribbean islands. We are competing with the
beaches of the Riviera, the exotic islands of the Pacific, the charming cities
of South America. To compete aggressively we must have a superb travel
product and market it with fresh, imaginative approaches--new, sparkling
advertising and promotion campaigns--more skill and energy in our dealings
with other facets of this industry.
Our travel product must be improved with better service, competitive
prices and our traditional courtesy and concern for guests. But our job is
also to take a new and thoughtful look at our entire tourism effort in order
to eliminate the old, the trite,and use the best marketing techniques to
increase our share of the billion-dollar tourist market.
We must expand our small business development program in order that
a larger number of our residents, especially young people, will be able to get
into their own businesses and, hence, participate in a bigger piece of the
Emphasis will continue to be placed on supply, expertise, and mana-
gerial help, as well as providing loans. An all out effort to get the Federal
Small Business Administration to set up an office here and to enter the field
is being made.
More miles of roads were constructed in the islands during fiscal 1970
than were built here in the past several years. We must continue this pace.
We shall, during the coming year, take full and immediate advantage
of the funds to be provided under the Federal Disaster Program and these
funds, combined with local funds, shall be used to replace roads properly.
This will take a little longer and the program may seem to move more slowly
than emergency repair jobs would. But it will bring us good, permanent
roads--not temporary patches which would be washed away with the next
heavy rains. Your government will be receiving more than $2 million
annually from participation in the Federal Highway Act for the next three
years. This $6 million will be used to rebuild major roads on all three
islands and to start a new arterial system of highways.
Another important and attainable goal for this year is to increase our
share of the fast growing market for rum. Here, too, we must both improve
our product through quality control and improve our marketing with fresh
ideas, modern marketing methods and more effective advertising and
Our goals for our agricultural progress include a program of "A
GardenWith Every Home"; expansion of our dairy and livestock industries,
upgrading the quality of our local fruits and continuing assistance to truck
In fiscal 1970 more low and middle income houses were started
than ever before in the history of the Virgin Islands, and we can take
pride in this fact; but, again, there is much to be done. A major goal
for 1971 should be to start construction of a minimum of 2,000 additional
low and medium priced houses. I know we can attain this goal--possibly
surpass it. To do this, we should seek and use creative approaches
to both private and public financing of these homes and we should use
creative modern techniques.
Let us learn from the past and from others the types of housing
developments we build. We must avoid the large one-class housing develop-
ments which are ghettos even before they are completed. Instead, we must
plan and build more small developments fully integrated economically into
the community, consisting of offers to multiple economic classes and
complete with the necessary recreation facilities, shopping areas, and other
Despite the production and assignment of increased housing units
to low-income families and those in the moderate and middle income brackets,
the housing shortage still remains acute with approximately 50 per cent of all
families living in substandard dwellings.
During the calendar year 1970, a total of 776 units of housing were
completed by the Department of Housing and Community Renewal and the
Virgin Islands Housing Authority. At the same time, some 1,537 housing
units are in various stages of completion including two projects by the
Virgin Islands Urban Renewal Board. Another 2,000 units are in the
planning stage. In addition, to the government sector,, the private sector
is providing 544 units under various Federal programs.
During the present administration a new technique was developed
for speeding up the construction and financing of much needed houses
for moderate and low middle income families in the United States Virgin
Islands. This new approach became necessary because the $2 million
seed money which was provided for the program was found grossly
insufficient to meet the need for present and future housing.
The new technique consists of getting developers to build homes on
a turnkey basis, providing paved roads, sidewalks and curbs, and using
their own interim financing. The Virgin Islands government then promotes
the sale of these houses based on the list of applications for moderate
income housing and investigation of the family income.
In the area of legislation there are many problems to which this
Legislature must address itself. From time to time, I shall submit
proposed legislation to cover these areas. I feel strongly that needs
should be anticipated and action taken before the problem has decended
and make solution more difficult.
At the present time I will outline four bills which I earnestly believe
are necessary for the year ahead. By no means do these bills cover the spectrum
but are presented merely as a starting point. I urge the Legislature to
evaluate these proposals carefully and to act favorably on them.
The first applies directly and forcefully to the proposition of
excellence in government. It is a strong, clear-cut Conflict of Interest
Bill. A bill was introduced in the Eight Legislature. I shall submit
another and urge swift and favorable action. This bill will forbid any
public employee to use his office or job for personal profit--direct or
indirect--and will apply the same standard of conduct to the Virgin Islands
as is embodied in Federal law by acts of Congress and by "Conflict of
Interest" statutes in most of the 50 States. I want a strong law and a
pledge that it will be strictly enforced.
The second bill which will be submitted to this Legislature also
relates to our goal of creating a government of excellence and integrity.
It will be a "Corrupt Practices Act" designed to control spending and
insure fair practices in all political campaigns. This bill will call for
limits on campaign contributions for any candidates and provide for a full
and open accounting by every candidate.
Third, I will resubmit to this Legislature a comprehensive Drug
Abuse Bill. Once this is enacted, we can truly tackle the great social,
moral and law enforcement problems created here and throughout the
mainland by drug addiction. The bill which will be presented will cover
all phases of the drug problem including but not limited to prevention of
drug addiction, narcotics control procedures and treatment techniques
for drug addicts.
The fourth bill which I shall submit will be an Industrial Safety Act
which will require all industries to provide safety training and safety
equipment--goggles, gloves, hard hats, safety shoes--which will
hopefully minimize on-the-job accidents. The waste and the sorrows
created by unnecessary mishaps must be stopped.
These four measures will be presented to you in due course.
I trust you will judge them carefully, debate them openly, criticize
them candidly, and then act swiftly and wisely to benefit all of the
people of the Virgin Islands.
Concerning our relations with the Federal Government and the
Congress of the United States, we must continue to push for action by
the Congress in several areas:
The Land Grant status of the College must be obtained.
A delegate to the Congress of the United States to represent the
people of the Virgin Islands must be vigorously pushed.
The ceiling on the General Obligation Bonding Authority must be
Restrictions on the Internal Revenue Matching Funds must be eliminated.
These are the goals which I think we can attain in this new era in
Virgin Islands history--this first 12 months of an administration wholly
accountable to the people of the Virgin Islands.
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I know that it has been traditional for the Governor in his annual AMERICA
message to review past accomplishments of his administration. But, to
me, this is not a time for looking back, even with pride, and it is not
a time to follow old patterns. It is a new era--a "Now" era--a time to
look at today, to the work to be done this year, if we are to reach our
And now, the time is here. As you and I begin to work together,
let us agree that our future greatness lies not in the opportunity but in
performance--let us set for ourselves the highest standards. When we
disagree, let it be open, honest, honorable difference; when we agree,
let us then move on to action. When we call for excellence in
government, let it start in our own day to day service to the people who
have entrusted us with our roles in this era of our history.