STATE OF THE TERRITORY MESSAGE
GOVERNOR RALPH M. PAIEWONSKY
SIXTH LEGISLATURE OF TH3 VIRGIN ISLANDS
REGULAR SESSION, 1965
January 11, 1965
Mr. President, Honorable Members of the Sixth Legislature, my fellow
Just one week ago, President Johnson told the Congress and all Americans
that "we seek to establish a harmony between man and society which will allow
each of us to enlarge the meaning of his life and all of us to elevate the quality
of our civilization."
Those of you who heard our President's State of the Union address must
have been pleased, as I was, that our efforts during the past four years are moving
in the direction of the programs outlined by the President. Education has been one
of our major concerns, as President Johnson has put it first on the program of
The Great Society. The expansion of housing, the development of health facilities,
the advance in human relations, the increase in personal incomes--these have
been some of our main aims, and all our people know that we have made
We Virgin Islanders welcome President Johnson's call to a Great
Society, in which every American citizen will live in peace, freedom and dignity,
with good homes, good schools, good health and good jobs for all.
We pledge to work together, and with the Johnson Administration, to
help achieve the Great Society here in our Virgin Islands.
Forty-eight years ago, the United States purchased these islands
from Denmark. The price was $25, 000,000. It is a dramatic sign of the
progress we have made that, during this session of the Legislature, you will act
upon a budget for one fiscal year alone which calls for the expenditure of almost
the exact amount paid for our islands.
That we can and do spend some $25,000,000 to enlarge the meaning of
life for our people is important and necessary to the aims of the Great Society.
But this concept of the President's "asks not only how much, but how good; not
only how to create wealth, but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but
where we are headed."
Today, we in the Virgin Islands know we are going fast. It is our
responsibility to make sure that we are headed in the right direction.
It seems to me that we are at a point of both completion and beginning.
In the past few years, we have completed the foundation of economic, social,
cultural and political progress upon which we shall build. This foundation is
strong and enduring like the masonry of our c.d Danish buildings. Today, we
begin to build the main structure of our society on that foundation.
Just what, then, is this foundation like? What is the state of our
Let's start with the state of education. We find that in the past four
years 83 new classrooms and 22 special facilities, such as gymnasiums,
vocational shops and libraries, have been added. The pupil-teacher ratio has
been reduced by almost two-thirds. Our two principal high schools have been
accredited by the Middle States Association of Secondary Schools. And today, the
Virgin Islands rank just behind the twenty-seventh State, New Hampshire, in
per-pupil expenditure for education at the level of $420 per year.
In the field of higher education, the College of the Virgin Islands is in
its second successful year, with a total student body of 488. A second campus
has been established on St. Croix, where continuing education classes are being
The master plan for building on the St. Thomas campus of the College
has been approved, and architects are preparing plans for the first new buildings
to be constructed. These will include the library and additional dormitory
Turning to the state of housing, we find that more than 7,000 Virgin
Islanders have been relocated in new, modern, sanitary and safe homes provided by
Federal and local programs. That is approximately 20% of our population.
Continuing government and private plans are now projected to provide 1, 000 or
more new housing units per year until all blight areas are eliminated. This is a
Until now, housing projects have been largely concerned with the needs
of low-income families. From now on, however, emphasis will be placed on
housing for professional and middle-income families. Home ownership will be
stressed by making homes available on long-term, low-interest mortgages.
Generally speaking, the state of health in the Virgin Islands has been
excellent. There have been no epidemics in recent years, and our mass
immunization program is being continued to forestall the outbreak of preventable
diseases. Public health programs have been broadly expanded, and our hospital
and medical services have been enhanced by the addition of many competent
specialists to the staff.
Judged by any criterion, the state of the economy in the Virgin Islands
In the 1964 fiscal year, local revenues totalled $17, 200,000, an increase
of 42% over fiscal 1963. At the same time, the internal revenue matching fund
reached $8, 400, 000, as compared with $7, 600, 000 the previous years. The trend
of increased revenues has continued through the first half of fiscal 1965.
Almost half a million visitors came to the islands during the past year.
They spent some $48, 000,000, as compared with some $41,000,000 the year before.
This economic well-being is being spread over a broader and broader
base of our community. And today, per capital income is conservatively estimated
at more than $1, 700 per year, almost double the level of 1959.
In short, we have a firm foundation on which to build the structure of
the Great Society in our Virgin Islands.
I shall provide the members of the Legislature with a more detailed
report on the various departments and agencies of the Executive Branch in a few
days. However, I want to devote the remainder of my message to a discussion of
where we are going from here.
While we have made significant progress in public education, we must
provide the facilities that will enable every Virgin Islands child to develop his
mind and skills to the fullest.
To that end, we have embarked on a long-tage master plan for school
construction. As a start on that plan, we are going to build a new central high
school in St. Croix and a new junior high school on St. Thomas. The architect
is now working on the design and plans. Construction will be put on a "crash"
basis, and we have been assured that we will be able to complete these schools
in time for the opening of the next school year.
Our long-range plans for education are well advanced, and the three-
year program, in cooperation with New York University, is showing excellent
profits in the form of better instruction and currtfulums for our schools. We are
embarking on a new program of pre-school and adult education which will make
more complete our public education system.
As you know, we are planning a massive attack on illness and diseases
of all kinds through the building of two multi-million-dollar health centers, one on
St. Croix and one on St. Thomas,
The architectural and engineering firm which was selected to design these
centers is expected to present the plans in March. A site has been purchased for
the St. Thomas center, and land will be acquired from the Virgin Islands
Corporation for the center on St. Croix. Each new health center will include a
250-bed general hospital, a 60 to 75-bed wing for long term chronically ill patients,
and a new public health clinic. Provisions also will be made for a school of
nursing and a student nurses' residence.
As we study together the governmental problems of our community, let
us heed the words of President Johnson, when he said a government must be "modern
in structure, efficient in action, and ready for any emergency."
The tremendous growth of our community calls for a continuing review
of the local Government's role and responsibilities. Therefore, I am studying ways
and means to make the executive branch more modern in structure and more
efficient in action.
From time to time, I shall propose to you legislation necessary for more
efficient fulfillment of our responsibilities.
One such piece of legislation will provide for separate De of
Labor and Agriculture.
This is necessary because of the future needs for highly specialized
services in both areas.
The industrial growth of the Islands, coupled with the increased use of
collective bargaining, has resulted in th need for a labor service to be administered
by well trained and experienced personnel. In order to mediate labor problems and
keep our industry moving ahead, we must use the most modern and effective
techniques in this field.
Similarly, we plan to equip the Department of Agriculture to handle a
program for the beautification of our islands through landscaping and maintenance
gardening in all public lands. This program will include a vast expansion of our
parks and recreational facilities.
The Department of Agriculture -also will be called upon to redouble its
efforts to promote the growing of food crops, especially on St. Croix, where
sugarcane is being phased out. The pilot program in this field conducted by the
Department has proven successful. We now must make it practical for small
farmers to engage in such production profitably. In this regard, plans are well
advanced for the creation of farm cooperatives to help private growers pack and
distribute their produce.
On my last trip to Washington, I discussed at length the reorganization
of procedures in our Department of Property and Procurement. In a conference
with the General Services Administrator, we made arrangements to have specialists
from that Agency to advise us. Among projects which we will propose are the
setting up of a motor pool and the purchasing of supplies through the General
Services Administration. This last idea probably will save between 20 and 40 per
cent on most local government purchases, effecting a savings of hundreds of
thousands of dollars each year.
For a long time now, we have been aware that our streets and highways.
are utterly inadequate to the needs of our community. In the past, such things as
schools, housing and hospitals have had to take precedence. Now, however, the
time has come when we must plan and engage in a comprehensive development
program for streets, highways and parking areas. I have been conferring with
the proper officials in Vashington, and very soon I shall submit a request for
legislative action on this matter.
In this regard, we are studying a major overhaul in our Public Works
Department to bring it up to date and make it better equipped to handle its fast
One of the objectives of our planning will be to effect a complete
cleanup and beautification of our islands. This is a program which is sorely
needed, if we are to maintain our attraction for the visitors who are our main
source of income.
It is true that the Department of Public Works has been working hard to
meet the skyrocketing demands upon it. But 7 must say that I am not wholly
satisfied with the results, and I do not believe the community is satisfied. I have
repeatedly declared that it is my administration's policy to restore the reputation
of these islands as the cleanest in the West Indies. That goal still is much too far
off and, at this point, it is beginning to hurt us. The Virgin Islands are in
competition for tourist dollars against other islands which are increasing their
attractiveness in every possible way. The natural beauty of our islands, the
warming architecture, the perfect climate, the free port shopping--all these things
are in our favor. But these advantages can be destroyed, and we can be knocked
out of competition for this vital trade, if our islands get a reputation for being dirty.
It is intolerable that we should spend large sums for tourist promotion, only to have
litter and garbage put a blight on our landscape and our name.
I pledge to you that I will make the cleanliness of these islands a top
priority concern of this administration. I am going to call on community leaders
to begin and sustain a large-scale voluntary campaign of education, monitoring and
patrol to get our islands clean and to keep them clean. I am going to instruct the
police to enforce strictly the anti-litter laws. And we shall see that the Public
Works Department improves its garbage and trash removal efforts until they equal
the best that any visitor, from any part of the United States, is accustomed to see
in his own home town. When the Good Lord made these islands, he created one of
the garden spots of the earth. I now call on all public officials and all private
citizens to join me in a crusade to restore these islands to the gardens they once
were and should be again.
While on the subject of tourism, I believe it is appropriate to say that
competition from our Caribbean neighbors is becoming more and more intense.
In order to keep our tourist industry competitive in price and services, we may
have to make some changes in our tax structure and in other governmental
incentives. This matter is now being given serious study.
I want to speak a word of caution. Our expansion and prosperity have
brought many newcomers to our shores. The vast majority of them are people of
means and skills, who are a welcome addition to our community. We are glad they
have come. We want them to stay and become part of our lives, our institutions
and our ways, and we want more to come. We hope they will remember, as they
mingle their lives with ours, that this is an old and stable community, with some
strong and cherished traditions. It is easy to talk about drastic changes, and I am
all for the most rapid progress that is possible. However, there often is a good
reason for things as they are--a good reason going deep into our tradition. Take
the matter of legalized gambling, for instance, about which there has recently
been a flurry of talk. To our people, these islands are their home, the home of
their parents, the home of their children and their children's children. To them,
quiet and peace and the absence of criminal elements usually associated with
gambling are far more important than anything that could ever be realized from
legalized gambling. I, for one, am and always have been opposed to gambling in
any form. The changes we should work for are those which we know will benefit
all the community. The changes we should be very suspicious of are those which
alter the very nature of the community to provide prosperity for a very few.
I am pleased to announce that the first Virgin Islands project under
President Johnson's anti-poverty program has been approved, with a grant of
$70, CCO in Federal funds.
Under this program, selected recipients of public assistance will be
given vocational training and other help to improve their work habits and skills.
The project will be designed to prepare workers for occupations currently in
As other elements of the anti-poverty program are developed, the
Virgin Islands will participate fully. In the very near future it will be necessary
to appoint a coordinator for this activity.
I am highly gratified to be able to tell you that plans for setting up a
permanent training center for the Peace Corps in St. Croix are nearing completion.
Land owned by the Virgin Islands Corporation will be made available for this
purpose. The Peace Corps will train three groups of up to 200 teachers each
year. These teachers then will be assigned to various developing nations in
Africa and elsewhere to work in English-sr makingg schools.
The Peace Corps has been so well pleased with its many projects in
the Virgin Islands that it plans to use our community as a sort of laboratory in the
development of volunteer groups.
You will be glad to know that the transfer of Navy property in St. Thomas
to the local Government is imminent. Most of the problems concerning leases of
various facilities included in this property are being straightened out. When
title to the land is secured, we will be able to go ahead with our plans for the
development of industrial, recreational and housing projects in that area.
As you know, ground has been broken for a new power and water facility
in St. Thomas. This will provide up to 7,500 KW of electric power and one million
gallons of desalinated water per day. It is, of course, only the first segment of
three important additions planned for the St. Thomas plant through 1971.
Simultaneously, we are making rapid progress toward ordering the first segment
of an entirely new steam generating system for St. Croix. Price negotiations
continue for purchase of the present power facilities of the Virgin Islands
Every effort is being made to provide the Virgin Islands with transportation
facilities necessary to maintain our competitive position in the tourist trade. In
this respect, the most important step will be the construction of a new jet airport
in the Lagoon Area of St. Thomas. Conversations are being held with the Federal
Aviation Agency to implement our application for aid in building this facility.
In the field of human relations, the Virgin Islands continues to be a
leader among all parts of the United States. Visitors who come here return to
their homes with firm evidence that men of all races, creeds and national
origins can live and work together in peace and friendship. I am happy to report
that the past year has not brought up one single problem in the field of civil rights.
As members of the Virgin Islands Convention, as well as of the
Legislature, you should know that the people on the mainland are taking an
intense interest in the political future of the Virgin Islands. This has been
occasioned by publicity .given the recommendation of a united Nations committee
that the islands should be given their independence.
The job our Convention is doing is an extremely important one, not
only to us, but to the United States Government as well. If the recommendations
of our Convention can res- -t in greater self-govefnment and, at the same time,
closer affiliation with the Federal system, we will have accomplished a great
deal in defeating the efforts of Communist propagandists.
I believe the time is ripe for us to receive such rights as that to vote
for Governor, to be represented by a delegate to Congress and to vote in national
elections for President and Vice President, I also believe that, if our proposals
are properly presented, they will receive favorable action in the present Congress.
I know, from having talked with many Representatives and Senators, that the
appropriate committees will view any reasonable requests with great sympathy.
During the course of this session, I will request your consideration of
a number of important pieces of legislation. They will include:
1. An Act for the protection, conservation and development of the
water resources of the Virgin Islands.
2. A new condemnation law which would allow the Government to
take possession of land and buildings being condemned without
paying rent, while cases are still being weighed in court.
3. A condominium law which would clarify the ownership of
4. A new public utilities law which would improve the procedures for
determining fair rates.
5. An act to transfer the functions of the Territorial Marshal from
the Department of Public Safety to the Municipal Courts.
6. An amendment to the Industrial Incentive Act making possible the
granting of partial tax exemption.
7. A request that the Legislature study and propose a new
8. The Virgin Islands mental retardation facilities and Community
Mental Health Centers Construction Act.
14 91 aI1%avJL
V ,8 ns5.
9. Any legislation needed for our participation in the
Anti-poverty Program, the Per se Corps Training Programs,
and projects under the Manpower Development and Training Act.
10. An act to provide a new schedule of medical fees in public
hospitals and clinics.
In conclusion, let me again quote from President Johnson's message
in which he described his dream of The Great Society: "We build this Nation to
serve its people," the President said. "We want to grow and build and create, but
we want progress to be the servant and not the master of man."
To this end, I pledge to work jointly with the Legislature and all Virgin
Islanders, that our progress shall be the servant and not the master of our people.
Finally, I can also truthfully say, as the President said of the Nation, that
the state of our Territory is free -- it is restless -- it is full of hope.
May God be with you in your deliberations.