STATE OF THE TERRITORY MESSAGE
GOVERNOR MELVIN H. EVANS
EIGHTH LEGISLATURE OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
REGULAR SESSION, 1970
January 12, 1970
Mr. President, Honorable Members of the Eighth Legislature:
I am pleased to have this opportunity to appear before you today
to deliver this message on the state of this Territory. I need not remind
anyone that this is my first such message.
At the outset, let me emphasize that the state of any area is a
complex matter and to be truly presented and understood must be considered
in its various facets.
Economically, the rapid rate of growth which these islands have
experienced for the past decade has continued. All of the indices of
growth confirm this. Revenues are up 9.37 million dollars or 19.2 per cent
over last calendar year. The general economic outlook continues good.
There are, however, some soft spots and a few warning lights appearing.
Last year the Virgin Islands played host to 1,122,312 visitors, up 305,102
or 37 per cent over the previous year; but reports from the hotel industries
suggested a less than full summer ahead. We must, of course, be aware
of the intense competition in this area, the competition coming not only
from other Caribbean islands but from Europe where the low air fares
and package deals have made it very attractive to go. The pent up
demand for European travel, built up summer before last when foreign
travel was discouraged, exploded this past summer in travel to Europe
and away from the Caribbean and this phenomenon seems to be con-
tinuing this coming summer,.
Since a great portion of th.e revenues we receive is influ-
enced by the Federal tax structure, we look with concern at the changes
in the tax structure considered this past session of Congress. Assum-
ing the Bill as finally passed by the Congress as being the final Bill,
we are at present calculating what effect the changes in such areas as
exemptions etc, will have,
However, the number of permits for new construction and other
indices continue to look good There is no question that the attempts
to control inflation which have included a tightening of the money market
have been felt here especially in such areas as private home construct on
necessitating home mortgages, but there are signs on the national scene
that there is an easing of this situation and, of course, the effect will
be felt here also.
The tourists who visited these islands last year spent an esti-
mated $112,268,000; up $11,373,000 over the previous year. The con-
tinued expansion of the cruise ship schedule and the advent of the
Boeing 747 into service on the New York-Puerto Rico run in the immediate
future should have a very salutary effect on this picture.
Recent proposals to the President to eliminate the system of oil
import quotas in favor of a selective tariff structure are being studied
to see what effect this would have on our petrochemical industry which,
at present, enjoys an import quota.
The per capital income has increased from $2100 to $2200,
making the Virgin Islands still among the highest in the Caribbean. It
is important to note, however, that this represents less than a five
per cent increase while the cost of living has increased more than five
In the interest of all of our people I am immediately establishing
a Governor's Committee on Consumer Interests. President Nixon has
sent his advisor on consumer interests to advise me and the committee.
She is here with me now -- Mrs. Virginia Knauer and her assistant,
Miss Elizabeth Hanford. I shall refer to this again.
One of the areas of most concern at the present time is the
condition of our roads. Even though the rainfall this past year has been
heavier than usual with corresponding effect on the roads, it is quite
obvious that the present deplorable condition of the roads is a matter
of long standing, becoming worse. These roads were not constructed
for the volume of weight of traffic which now use them. Their con-
struction, for the most part, with inadequate drains, makes them easily
destroyed by rainfall. Patching must be, and is being done but the roads
need thorough engineering studies if they are really to be better.
The axle weight of many of the vehicles which use the roads
is often excessive and this is why I submitted to the Legislature a bill
to limit such weight. I am again submitting such a bill and hope it
will receive favorable consideration.
In all frankness, I must point out that the present system of
appropriation for roads is wasteful and relatively unproductive. This
year almost $3,000,000 will be spent for a jumble of pieces of roads.
The individual appropriations are unrealistic, usually too low to do
the job and result in waste. I recognize fully the political effect of
this method but I entreat you to consider the overall public good in
writing a broader road appropriation bill.
I am pleased to report that the Secretary of Transportation has
sent to the Congress a report on the Virgin Islands highway system.
The Secretary visited these islands, saw the roads at first hand, and
discussed the matter at length with me. Their report to the Congress
envisions Federal assistance chiefly in the form of technical and with
financial help to follow. It will undoubtedly help us to improve our
roads but we cannot escape the responsibility for our main road system.
It is really disconcerting to discover, for example, that with all the
miles of roads to maintain the Government does not even own its own
Probably the main reason for the failute of the roads is the
lack of good engineering in planning and building the roads, and it is
precisely this aspect that is being studied now to make sure that the
roads will stand up better.
Department of Social Welfare
The Department of Social Welfare has undergone some
reorganization. It has been possible during the first six months of
this fiscal year for one of the new divisions to strengthen its program
of surplus food distribution, expand the home delivered meals program
to St. Croix and to effect better cooperation with the Health Department
in improving services under the Medical Assistance Program. The
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation was transferred to this Department
in November for more efficient operation.
The Office of Civil Defenses has intensified its operations
and has done yeoman service in emergencies created by heavy rainfall
during the past year. A major weakness involving communications was
alleviated with the purchase of mobile radio equipment to provide
communication in times of emergency. These have already provided their
worth and when the system is completed the entire Virgin Islands and
the neighboring British Virgin Islands will be connected in one system
for the mutual benefit.
Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs
The Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs is the
newest of the Executive Department and administers the funds produced
by the oil royalty. It is charged with the acquisition and development
of recreational facilities, conservation and beautification of the natural
environment, operation and maintenance of recreation facilities and
parks, sports promotion and development, libraries and museums, and
culture and the arts.
Recognizing the great need for recreational facilities, it has
been engaged in acquiring and developing recreational areas. Many
areas have been cleared and graded to permit immediate use pending
the development of permanent facilities. These areas include but are
not limited to Smith Bay, Estate Tutu, Estate Whim, Estate Profit,
Estate Nadir, and the Altona Laggon.
Programs involving bringing professional athletic teams here,
both for general entertainment and also to improve the quality of local
participation have been underway.
In the areas of libraries and museums, however, the need is
overwhelming. The library in Christiansted is,frankly speaking, a
disgrace both in size and physical condition, and credit must be given
to the people who work there under those conditions. Since library
facilities are an integral part of the education process, top priority
must be given to developing adequate library facilities in all the three
The decision to use the available oil royalty funds to
combat pollution whichwould certainly destroy the environment
is a natural one and will bring great results.
Department of Housing and Community Renewal
Over the past it has been repeatedly stated that housing was
the number one problem in the Virgin Islands. I have no quarrel with
that statement except that there are several number one problems.
Additionally, it is necessary to state frankly that thousands of housing
units have been built over the past decade. What must also be stated
quite frankly is that the slums and substandard areas are as vast and
as bad as ever -- in fact, much worse. Therefore, our evaluation
of how we are meeting the housing needs must not take the form of
a recounting of how many units we have built but what magnitude of
problems still remain.
It has become painfully obvious that we have been losing
ground in the housing race. Not only is good housing usually difficult
if not impossible to find, but any housing available is usually priced
so high as to work a hardship not only on the general public but
particularly so on those people who we find it necessary to bring in to
perform essential services such as nurses, teachers, technicians, etc.,
to the point where many are forced to give up and leave. Additionally,
a chief justification for the increase in wages constantly being
demanded has been the high cost of housing. This problem involves
not only the low income group but also the middle income families,
sometimes to a greater degree since they are not eligible for low
cost federally assisted housing. The adverse effects of this housing
situation on the overall life of the community have been already
At this time the Government has almost 3,000 housing units
either under construction or in advanced planning stages. These would
house between 12,000 and 15,000 people. In addition, numerous
projects involving turn-key procedure are actively being sought and
the number of housing units will increase. However, it is apparent
even now that all this will be insufficient to supply the needs of those
now here and, additionally, the needs of the newcomers. Thus, the
Government is forced to solicit and require the assistance of the private
sector in meeting these needs. There will be no rash proposals to
work hardships on people, but action must be taken now to bring under
control this condition which is a powder keg of trouble. We don't
know how long the fuse is.
The Department of Housing andCommunity Renewal has a total
of 460 emergency housing units. During the past six months--30 were
completed in St. Thomas and 26 units, 98 per cent,completed in St. Croix.
Mobile homes, prefabricated homes, conventional homes are
all being obtained or built. Also, attention is being given to
many of the problems which delayed occupancy in some of these projects,
problems caused by failure to provide water, sewage disposal, sidewalks,
power, etc. Regrettably, this poor planning and implementation have
resulted in most unfortunate delays.
The business and commercial interests, whose very existence
depends on an adequate supply of labor and in whose interests it is to have
proper and decent housing for its employees, must become more involved
in this problem if it is to be solved. Since all understand the problem,
all must work together.
Department of Agriculture
In the field of Agriculture the time has come for a very serious
reappraisal of the role of the Department of Agriculture. Gone are the
days of the sugar cane fields. The cost of land, the scarcity and
cost of labor, the eccentricities of the rainfall, the small size of the
islands, all operate against agriculture as it used to be. But a careful
review and study of the problem shows that there is a very definite role,
although somewhat altered for this department.
In the first place there is need to encourage and expand the
dairy industry to ensure a good supply of fresh milk to the communities,
improving the quality of the herds, fostering improved methods of pro-
ducing the milk, assisting the dairy farmer with the many problems of
feeding and providing veterinary services must be fostered and expanded.
While large scale agriculture may not be feasible for
the reasons cited above, fruit production using small areas of land
such as yards and other small and otherwise useless areas to produce
fruit crop must be developed. After the initial planting and early
care, the attention needed by these trees is small as compared to
other crops. The present scarcity and high cost of all types of
fruit demonstrate the need for this type of program. The citrus
program in Florida is an example, although this does not imply
one way or other that citrus itself will do well here.
For many years I have been concerned over the high
mongoose population in the Virgin Islands, especially St.Croix.
Apart from the adverse effect which these animals have on other
types of wildlife and domestic animals, they constitute a potential
pool of rabies. We have been fortunate and blessed with the
absence of this dread disease from these islands but we are no longer
isolated and the best precautions taken to prevent its introduction
may at some time fail. Such an unfortunate occurrence would be a
disaster. Thus, this predatory pest must be controlled for economic
as well as health reasons. While on this subject note must also be
made of an obvious increase in the rat population in the towns.
What the reason--and there may be many--we are studying the steps
to be taken to meet this problem.
We are pleased that the efforts to control the Bont Tick
in St. Croix and the screwworm in St. Thomas have both been very
successful despite the natural tendencies of both these conditions
to spread like wild fire. Surveillance and controls will be continued
for some time with some selective relaxation of restrictions as the
conditions warrant. No cases of screwworm have been reported from
St. Croix, and on St. Croix only one case of Bont Tick has been found
recently with negative results from the mongoose and deer examined.
This bodes well.
Department of Health
The general health of these islands is excellent. The long
emphasis on public health measures has paid off so that the vital
indices are excellent. It is noteworthy that foresight and energy in
eliminating the aedes egypti mosquito prevented these islands from
having dengue fever when there was an epidemic in the neighboring
islands. Similarly, the implementation of immunization programs
protected us from the last big epidemic of polio.
But as we look around there is still so much to do. In
the area of public health our lack of a complete potable system and
the use of nonpotable water in homes poses a constant threaaC. The
incompleteness of the sewage system poses another threat to our
health and its discharge into our harbor causes pollution of the
gravest kind. Examination has revealed that the present system
as a result of long continued use of salt water is in a condition
perilously close to collapse. The continued necessity for using
archaic and unsanitary means for human waste disposal offends
not only the esthetics but poses another health danger.
Additionally, the expense of operating this 18th Century program at
20th Century rates has become significant. The correction of these
problems is long overdue and must be accomplished by a proper
establishment of priorities. This we have now done.
I am pleased to inform you that the working drawings and
specifications for certain phases of the work of putting in a
completely new and adequate sewer system have been completed and
bids will be invited in the immediate future. The money has been
made available and its release by the Secretary of the Interior is
being awaited. The working drawings and specifications for the other
phases of the work are expected in the next few months and bids will
be invited immediately thereafter. The entire project is estimated to
cost about fifteen million dollars with the cost split approximately
55 per cent to 45 per cent between the Federal and local governments.
I was pleased to be able to announce a few days ago that the Federal
grant of 1.9 million dollars for part of the project had been approved
and sent to the Secretary for his signature. I had been successful in
convincing the Secretary that pollution control is an integral part
of conservation and qualified for the use of conservation funds. I
might add,parenthetically, that the Secretary did not need much persuasion.
These projects, however, are huge projects and the
construction time is estimated to be between two and three years.
It is regrettable that these programs were not implemented years
ago. At any rate, when these projects are completed, our harbors
will again become clean.
I am also pleased to announce that a determined effort
during the past few months has practically succeeded in eliminating
the previously mentioned method of human waste disposal from the
entire island of St. Croix. The town of Frederiksted had been able
to discontinue this practice for some time and during the past few
months vigorous work on Christiansted has just about succeeded.
All property in Christiansted is now within connecting distance to
water and sewer lines. Vigorous attention is now being directed to
bring about this same result in Charlotte Amalie. I am aware of the
problems involved especially in serving superficiary homes but the
time has come when the public good must be the overriding factor.
We believe we shall be able to do this.
The area of hospital care is another matter. Even though our
hospitals are not as old as hospitals go (they were built in 1958),
they were built for a population less than one third of the population
they serve now. Not only has the permanent and bonded labor
population increased, but a percentage of our visitors always need
medical care. That is why when I was connected with the Health
Department so much time and effort was directed toward the planning
of the new health complexes. What appeared as a grandiose plan
then almost seems to be modest now. As is common knowledge, the
proposed cost of building these facilities was greatly in excess of the
estimated cost and far more than could be funded. A review of the
matter revealed that while certain changes could be made to reduce
cost without any serious adverse effect on the centers, this was
relatively small and the main reason for the high bed cost seems to
have been some uncertainty over the details of financing the
construction. Certainly a project of this magnitude should have
retained the interest of numerous construction firms instead of
ending with only one firm making an offer. Because of the problems
of financing and the daily increase in cost due to the inflation of
construction costs, attention was directed to all possible ways of
financing. One promising avenue being explored is that of a turn-key
proposal with a lease purchase arrangement. Preliminary discussions
have occurred and we are awaiting definite proposals which I hope to
be able to present to you in the near future.
In the meanwhile, as the pressing need for more medical
facilities intensifies, I requested, and the Legislature passed funds
to enlarge the present facilities for interim use. You may be assured
that this construction will not only be pushed, but that the planning
is such that there will be full utilization potential for these facilities
regardless of what their assigned use will be later.
There has been, however, a very serious problem in the
operation of the accounting and billing sections of the hospitals.
With the advent of medicare and medicaid in the later part of 1966,
demands for cost accounting were made by these programs as the basis
for reimbursement to the hospitals. The hospitals have been unable
to provide the basis for its services and furthermore fell woefully
behind in its billing. As a result, hundreds of thousands of dollars
which could and should have been billed and collected, have been
lost. At one time, billing was almost a year behind, but vigorous
work has closed the gap somewhat. At any rate, this was the reason
why I requested, and the Legislature granted, an appropriation of
$50,000 to set up a modern cost accounting and billing service.
The proper functioning of this service will result in a great increase
in the earning power of the hospitals and prevent our taxpayers from
subsidizing the insurance carriers and Federal agencies for medical
At this point, I would like to inject that I am hopeful that the
Health Insurance Bill will be passed, as it will be submitted again this
time, and that private industry will be encouraged to provide hospital
benefits for its workers so that the percentage of bills collected by
our hospitals would increase as they should be.
However, a new and completely different approach toward
the billing and paying of medical fees is needed. The cost of hospital
care over the country is increasing at the rate of 9 to 11 per cent
per year. The various third party carriers such as Blue Cross and the
other companies recognize this and take proper steps to meet it. To
have fixed fees year in, year out, with no regard to actual costs not
only places an unreasonable burden on the taxpayer who must sub-
sidize the care by supplying the difference but it also allows a vast
amount of money which should be collected from the carriers and
Federal agencies to be lost because there is no legal way of assign-
ing true costs.
Department of Public Safety
As is true in general throughout the country, especially
so in changing communities, there has been an actual increase in crime.
The increase, however, must be considered on the base of a population
which has been more than doubled. This was to be expected. There
has been a strengthening of the police force and an increase
in mobility by providing motor scooters for patrol in the towns.
Increase e in patrol of high hazard areas and the operation of a
plain clothes squad since mid-November have definitely reduced
the incidence of violent crime over the past six months. The
Investigation Bureau has also reported that with the exception of
burglaries, most of the major crimes resulted in the arrest of the
perpetrators. The record is not nearly so good. However, in
burglaries, robberies and larceny, and further strengthening of the
force with emphasis on the investigative force is planned.
In-service-training is being intensified and recruitment
efforts increased. Shortly after assuming office, I took the position
that the patrolmen were underpaid in relation to their responsibilities.
We have this month increased the pay of the lower ranks and, hope-
fully, we shall be able to attract and hold the men better as well
as improve the morale.
The report of the International Chiefs of Police has been
studied and is being implemented stepwise. There is serious
consideration being given to proposals for extensive reorganization
of this service. As is true, generally, over the country there is the
constant need to get the police to be closer to the people to open up
better channels of communication and to develop better cooperation
between the force and the people it serves.
There should be no hysteria over an actual increase in crime.
Rather, the causes must be ferretted out and removed. Not only do we
have more people than we did before, but the causes of crime are
everywhere around us. Inadequate housing with its disastrous
effect on family life, inadequate educational facilities, with each
juvenile who is out of school a prime candidate for getting into
trouble, inadequate recreational facilities, all contribute to this
problem. We are not unaware of the beginning of a serious drug
problem here and much study and effort toward prevention and
control are being expanded. Again, there should be no surprise
at the spread of this problem here. It is reliably estimated that 50
per cent of all college students in the United States have used
marihuana at some time and that 16 per cent of high school students
have done similarly. The figures for the use of other drugs are also
bad. Thus, what we have here is a part of a national problem. We
must neither become hysterical nor sweep it under the rug. It calls
for vigorous considered action in which parents and teachers as well
as law enforcement officers cooperate.
Nowhere is the adverse side effect of growth and prosperity
so evident as in the increasing traffic congestion. Clearly, the time
has come for an integrated attack on the problem spear-headed by an
enlarged and revitalized traffic division. The projected improvement
in roads obviously will help greatly, but, realistically, there is a
limit to the help from this source. Planning to relocate heavy centers
of congestion such as the Government offices and schools out of
town must be done. There are physical limits to which the narrow
streets of our towns can be made to accommodate the number of
vehicles which increase annually by 12 per cent.
The time may be here when we must begin to provide
improved public transportation into and throughout the towns and
discourage the parking of automobiles in the congested downtown
Department of Education
"No man can reach his full human potential unless he can
communicate appropriately with his fellowmen, can choose wisely
between alternatives offered, and can distinguish properly between
real and apparent good and between real and apparent evil.
Education in the arts and skills of communication--reading, writing,
speaking, listening, and calculating--and in some understanding of
the world around us--as it was, as it is and as it might be--are
essential to all who would be fully free and who would be truly human.
"We believe the responsibility of the state for education
is one of its greatest responsibilities. In meeting this responsibility
the State must offer, but not impose: must support, but not confine:
must obtain funds equitably and distribute funds justly: must demand
value commensurate with cost and effort: must protect individuality
and must reject confirmity. The state is an instrument of the people
and the people must judge the performance of their state. Education
can help the people judge well.
"In short, an independent and educated citizenry is democ-
racy's life force. The vitality of our society and, indeed, the survival of
our democracy, will, thus, ever depend upon the strength of our educational
system and the wisdom with which it is directed. -- (Preamble to report
of the Governor's Commission on Educational Reform the State of Michigan;
Governor William G. Milliken, Chairman).
This statement embodies our hopes for Virgin Islands
children, as well as our fears that the system of education which has
existed in the past is now in need of urgent repair, if it is to meet the
unprecedented challenges of these times.
You will recall that just a few months ago, approximately
fourteen thousand Virgin Islands children returned to our public schools to
find that more than seventy new classrooms were available for their use.
These classrooms were manned by a corps of more than six hundred teachers
and aides. Books and other instructional materials were available in great-
er numbers than ever before. Bus routes were expanded to facilitate many
more children, and hundreds of additional means were served to meet the
needs of the expanded school population.
You will also recall that the June graduating classes at
our two public island high schools broke all previous records, as close to
four hundred students received high school diplomas. Of these graduates,
the number enrolled in colleges and universities, both here and in the United
States was greater than the total number of students leaving our high schools
twenty years ago.
The ban against non-citizen children was lifted and many of
these children who were headed for the social graveyard, are now being
Ground has been broken for one school in St. Croix and prepara-
tions are well underway for three additional schools, two in St. Thomas
and one in St. Croix.
The Teachers' contract provides more meaningful salaries and
better working conditions for this class of professionals.
These traditional measurements seem to indicate that all is well
with our educational system. But the moment one begins to take a closer
look at the products of our schools, it becomes painfully clear that the
traditional ways of reporting our educational progress are meaningless
and dangerously misleading. For, while we have an accurate picture of
the resources used for schooling, little information is available on the
extent to which these resources have achieved their specific purposes.
It is disconcerting to find that in competition with their peers,
our young men entering the armed services score significantly below most
of the rest of the country.
It is distressing when we learn that many students at our own
College of the Virgin Islands, find it necessary to enroll in non-credit
remedial courses before achieving full matriculation. It is painful to
become aware of the fact that students from the lower social and economic
brackets of our society find that their schooling has done little to lessen
the gap between them and more fortunate students.
It is alarming when we consider the degree to which linguistic
and cultural differences act as formidable barriers to success, especially
with respect to our Puerto Rican students.
Failing, disenchanted, alienated, our students are leaving school
before graduation, almost completely useless, in a society which is de-
manding broader, more acute skills simply for survival. I regret that
only now is a serious effort being made at determining the extent of the
The great challenge facing us is to find effective ways of help-
ing all children learn the basic skills so that they can be more successful
in school and compete more successfully for jobs and rewarding positions
in the community when they become adults.
To achieve this goal, we must pay more than lip service to the
concepts of "individual need" and "individual growth." Instructional
programs must benefit children; they must arise from the needs of children.
Programs of individualized instruction are, therefore, high on our
list of priorities. This is what our children need; this is what our children
desire; this is what our children deserve; this is what our children will get!
The solutions to our educational problems are as elusive as they
are complex, but vigorous action along a broad front is indicated, and the
need is immediate.
We must take steps to improve the child's home environment so
that it may exert a positive influence on the child's ability and motivation
to learn. This will require improved incomes, housing, health care, and
education for those adults who form the intimate inner ring of the child's
Opportunities for social intercourse among the various socio-
economic and ethnic groups must be improved, perhaps with the arts and
recreation serving as the vehicle. (And without beleaguering that point
I might add that what is developing into a de facto segregation school
system must be reversed.)
Of course, we also need more resources for education, but we
cannot simply buy more of the same programs, nor can we buy more of
the same services. We need programs and people to make the educational
process one of constant experimentation, evaluation, and change, with
the results communicated to the public in clear, precise terms. There
must be strict accountability to the Legislature and the Governor, and
through them, to the people of the Virgin Islands.
The educational functions must, therefore, be decentralized with
St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix district units, coordinated, supported,
and evaluated by a territorial education agency. This reorganization must
be pursued and formalized by appropriate legislative action.
Fiscal planning, control, and reporting is unrealistic and archaic.
Work is progressing now on a system of budgeting by program as a supple-
ment to the line-item budget.
(At this point, I would like to mention that not only in
education but in all fields the time has come for us to become involved
in a system of performance program budgeting rather than the old fashion
line-item where we would merely look at what is spent for a given person
under a given category. We must develop some cost efficiency budgeting,
and I have already instructed several departments to develop ancillary
budgets, using the performance programming budget system with cost
efficiency ratings alongside of their present budget, to make sure that
we're getting our dollars worth for money spent.)
The Federal-local partnership needs considerable strengthening,
and we have already made our growing needs known to the United States
Commissioner of Education. Hopefully, he will decide to invest more
heavily in Virgin Islands education.
Information and reporting systems are being developed to
overcome the dearth of information available to the public.
Expensive school plant and equipment must be used more
efficiently and effectively, and we are looking into such things as
extending the school day, not necessarily for any individual child but
to permit more use of classrooms. Other school systems are
experimenting with year-round schools with excellent results, both
in plant use and expanded opportunities for students. New approaches
to scheduling and placement will have to be found if we are to ease
the financial burden associated with the construction of new school
It seems logical not to have to use classrooms which are
expensive to construct for 30 hours out of a 168-hour week. We
are experimenting with ideas now to prolong this use and thus,
improve the educational system at less cost.
Expanded opportunities for higher education is a matter
of vital concern to my office. Many more of our youth need to
continue their training beyond the secondary school level, either
at colleges and universities or at technical schools. The territorial
scholarship program is being reviewed, and should be revised to
meet the new needs of the islands.
The many youths who have left school before graduation
represent an important pool of human resources. An expanded
evening school program will be launched to effect their rehabilitation,
as well as to provide improved educational opportunities for adults.
A cursory survey of jobs reveals that many of the
opportunities for employmentcreated by our economic growth are not
being grasped by Virgin Islanders. This condition exists at all
levels--from the professional to the technician's assistant.
But while we have emphasized training in law, medicine,
engineering, economics, and business administration, there seems
to have been a de-emphasis on construction technology, food service,
retail merchandising, lower echelon medical services, and a host of
other areas in which the para-professional renders valuable services.
There can be no stigma attached to the technical and
service trades in an economy which is creating needs for services.
In fact, the financial rewards are substantial and improving.
Opportunities for gaining in these areas must be expanded
immediately, and the vocational-technical arm of our educational
system will shoulder this responsibility.
The non-public school system is receiving careful
attention. Faced with acute financial problems, these schools
which serve an important need in our communities, are the subject
of studies being conducted by the educational authorities. (In some
cases their very survival is threatened by financial crises.)
With regard to the fine cultural diversity of our islands,
we are determined to reinforce the individual's pride in his heritage,
his language, and his culture, with a view to improving the individual'-
self-image and broadening his understanding.
We have taken the position that all children can learn, that
all children will learn, that all children must learn--that equality of
educational opportunity is as significant as quality education--that, in
fact, we jeopardize the stability of our islands when we fail to meet
the educational needs of our people.
Department of Labor
In the area of Labor, the most dramatic development, anc
the one which required the most immediate attention was the sharp
upturn in union activity in the public sector. Of the more than 6,000
to 8,000 Government employees, more than 75 per cent are represented
by labor organizations. Steps leading to negotiated contracts are
either in progress or about to begin. The fact that work stoppages
were down to no more than a total of four days in the entire Government
sector attests to the Administration's recognition of the rights of public
employees to engage in collective bargaining.
Definite steps were taken to implement the Executive Order
by the appointment of a committee responsible for defining and
clarifying certain provisions with the result that collective bargaining
will now proceed in an atmosphere conducive to peace and harmony
and the mutual benefit of the employee and the Government of which he
is a part. This relationship is most meaningful where the public
employee recognizes his responsibility and accepts his role as a full
partner in the relationship.
Similarly, efforts of the Department of Labor have kept the loss
of man hours due to strikes in the private sector to under 200 hours.
But no mention of the labor situation could be realistic without
noting the fact that approximately 51 per cent of the entire work force
of the Virgin Islands is comprised of non-citizens--a fact which brings
to the surface all the ancillary problems as housing, and so forth, that
we discussed before.
Two noteworthy steps were taken to cope with this situation:
on December 3, 4, and 5, 1969, the Commission on the Status of
Non-Citizens and the Governor conducted a conference in St. Thomas
at which were represented officials of the Departments of the Treasury,
State, Labor, Interior and Health, Education and Welfare.
Among the recommendations endorsed by this Conference was
that a system of pre-clearance be put into effect. Upon my directive,
the Commissioner of Labor and the Attorney General took immediate
steps to implement a program of pre-clearance on islands based upon the
British West Indies (or BWI Plan) to which the Immigration Service had
agreed in principle, having itself advanced such a plan.
Just last week, here in St. Thomas, this Government was host
to the Ministers and Commissioners of Labor from a number of States
south of us. Their expressions of understanding gave promise of success
in the program of pre-clearance on their home islands where checks
of work qualifications, and police and health records will be made and
will certainly tend to reduce, if not eliminate entirely the many problems
which beset us.
Further, the cooperative area manpower planning system, known
as CAMPS, has been set up as an Independent secretariat to coordinate
the work of the several departments, eliminate duplication, and with the
assistance of the U.S. Department of Labor, direct manpower efforts in
the most useful and effective channels.
Water and Power
The demand for electric power increased in St. Thomas 26
per cent last year, and in St. Croix by 29 per cent. The generating
capacity has thus been increased and is keeping apace.
There are numerous unsolved problems, however, in the
distribution system, and attention is being given to this. Present
directions are to form loops so that individual line failures will not
knock out entire sections of the islands as heretofore. Additionally,
a concept used almost universally on the Continent in providing a grid
so that one source of power could supplement another, is being considered
by investigations leading to the possibility of submarine cables to
Puerto Rico and St. Croix.
Turning to a more general and overriding subject, let us
consider the overall expenditures of the Government.
The total operating budget for this fiscal year is $66,345,614.
Of this, $42,306,246 or 64 per cent is spent in personal services.
However, this represents 67 per cent of the estimated revenues of
$63,305,049. Quite clearly, then, the remaining 33 per cent which
has to provide all materials, equipment and services is totally inadequate.
Furthermore, whenever there is any curtailing to do it is at the expense
of the materials and equipment money. Still further, there is a built
in escalation in the presonal services, since there are annual increments, etc.
The time is here when there must be a re-evaluation of the services
rendered and the personnel required.
If this is to be more than an exercise in futility it must be
recognized that there has to be reassignments and, in some cases,
reduction in force or, at least, in reduction in rate of new employees.
At some point here statesmanship for the overall good has
to transcend partisan politics. Despite the rise in revenues the
present structure and direction would certainly demand new and
increased taxes if not altered. The reorganization report now being
studied and which will be considered by the select commission on
Government reorganization in the immediate future must be approached
objectively if it is to be meaningful.
Finally, we have come to the time when grave and
fundamental decisions must be made concerning the future of these
I shall ask the questions -- we all have to supply the
Are we striving for bigness, or should we be concerned
with improving the quality of life here ?
Shall we continue to try to attract any and all business
regardless of size or compatibility, or shall we become more
selective in attracting only those businesses which blend more
fully into our pattern of life ?
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Shall we modify our industrial incentive law to accomplish
this, or shall we just hope for the best?
Shall we continue to emphasis ze growth for fear of losing our
competitive position, or shall we devote more of our resources to the
obvious needs of roads, water, schools, health facilities, etc. to
provide for a better life?
Shall we now approach planning from the long-range view or
shall the short-term economic gains continue to be the dominant and deciding
These are not rhetorical questions. They go to the heart
of our problem and unless we rise above petty partisanship we may
be dooming our future.
As mentioned earlier, the rise in cost of living, for example,
exceeded the rise in per capital income.
The message is clear. Let us consolidate our gains, improve
our services, streamline our operations, place the common good above
the individual good, the permanent good above short-term benefits.
Let us meet the challenge by forthright statesmanship. I know we can.
The facts indicate we must! As we then enter this most decisive year
of 1970 with the increase in political autonomy in sight, let us rise
to the occasion and prove ourselves worthy by meeting and solving