St. John Community Activists at Convention

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By Tom Oat 

“In you, Mrs. Barry, I see Queen Mary. You, Mr. Jones, are Budhoe. And you, Mr. Devine, are Gen. von Schlitz — er, von Schloten,” Constitutional Convention President G. Luz James II told three intrepid public speakers, comparing them to historic Virgin Islanders leaders in a bit of hyperbole.

James, a former V.I. Senator and Lieutenant Governor, obviously was impressed by the testimony of the St. John community activists at the Monday, March 19, hearing of the convention’s Committee on Government.

Youth sports leader Paul Devine and parents Ronnie Jones and Myrtle Barry spent much of the three-hour session detailing their concerns about numerous island issues.

“We have to keep working as a community,” said Jones, who returned to St. John four years ago after a business career in the states. “Municipal government can be done.”

“When all of us come together it’s about fixing this place,” agreed delegate Violet Anne Golden of St. Croix.

Local Government and Taxes
Barry, a self-described “local Virgin Islander raised on St. John,” admitted she was emboldened by the testimony of Devine and Jones and addressed the committee on island concerns about property revaluation and island government.

“I live on St. John. I shop on St. Thomas. I vacation on St. Croix,” Barry explained.

“The government ought to be user friendly,” Barry told the committee, although she stopped short of endorsing municipal government.

“We are now expected to pay the highest taxes,” said Barry. “We need a feedback system that listens to the people.”

“We need to have an administrator that functions municipally,” Barry added.

“Our Virgin Island people want the government we have to work,” agreed Jones. “Why can’t our government work?”

“They are hoping something else will work,” Jones said of advocates for municipal government. “The real cry of the people is ‘Why can’t we make it work?’”

Delegate Clement Magras, a former senator and commissioner, had a question for the trio of testifiers about the committee’s work.

“Should we mandate municipal government and allow the design to come out?” asked Magras.

“If you are going to give the legislature the right to write it, they may not do it,” answered Devine, who presented a detailed proposal for municipal government. “I believe it has to be in the constitution and written by you (the committee).”

Several other St. John residents were also well received when they addressed the committee.

“People on St. Croix are clamoring to have government closer to them as well,” agreed delegate Rena Broadhurst, publisher of the St. Croix Avis.
“Take this idea of municipal government back to St. Johnians and let them know this is alive and possible,” said St. Croix delegate Atty. Richard Brady.

“Continue doing what you’re doing because we will do our part,” Convention president James told the testifiers. “We need your support.”