By Tom Oat
St. John businessman Paul Devine spent a lot of time in front of the St. John session of the Fifth Virgin Islands Constitutional Convention including testifying before three committee meetings on March 10 and 11.
The retired electrical contractor and youth sports organizer was quick to praise the convention delegates for their effort, but he criticized the lack of public education about the constitutional convention process.
“I appreciate your fortitude and perseverence,” he said as he began the first of three appearances as a testifier before delegates.
“My concern is apathy,” Devine told the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday morning, March 10. “I think that stems from education; I don’t believe there’s been a large enough effort.”
“My second concern is about the future of our youth,” said Devine, who heads the St. John Youth Committee and has developed several island youth sports programs. “I think this constitution will change their lives.”
“Local government is very important here,” said Devine, who told the committee the public “did not appreciate” the importance of the constitutional convention effort.
“Municipal government is not another level of government. The opposite is true,” Devine told the Committee of Government. “The fiscal autonomy of municipal government is less government and it is good government.”
A change to municipal government would provide on-island control of “the services we desperately need, but are sorely lacking,” Devine added.
“It all boils down to not trusting the central government,” Devine continued. “You have control of your own life.”
“I still see the issue of people fearing that change as the greatest challenge,” the businessman added.