St. Croix, Virgin Islands – Senator Carrión’s bill to update and strengthen the Territory’s Bilingual and English Language Development programs is soon to be implemented.
I am focusing my efforts on improving our quality of life and addressing the needs of our residents through forward-thinking legislation, aggressive oversight of our government agencies, and by forming enhanced and new alliances with local businesses and non-profit organizations.
Health: In the face of this global pandemic, our top priority must be to protect the health and well-being of all Virgin Islanders. We must continue to prepare for living with COVID-19 in both the short and long term. As an island Territory, we have more control of our borders and the opportunity to eradicate the virus locally with strict screening protocols at our air and sea ports. As your Senator, I will advocate for these strict screenings, improved health care facilities, homecare visits for our seniors, increased mental health services, and for steps to be taken to protect the public and workers at our government buildings.
Hurricane Recovery: The Territory desperately needs the new schools, hospitals, roofs, recreation areas and other infrastructure improvements promised to us after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Virgin Islands in 2017. Things are moving forward far too slowly or, in some cases, not at all. As your Senator, I will insist that the Legislature play a greater role in overseeing these efforts and fight to change any policies or personnel that are holding back progress. Not only are these major projects instrumental to improving our quality of life, but their construction will provide a much-needed boost to the Territory’s economy during this challenging period.
Workforce Development: We must immediately establish and support educational programs for the jobs available at Limetree Bay, as well as in the construction trades, alternative energy, hospitality, and marine industries. The former HOVENSA training facility is presently being used for storage, while workers are brought in from outside the Territory. Vocational training is critical to our economy and the lack of quality employment opportunities contributes greatly to crime and other problematic behaviors. As your Senator, I will support legislation to put viable training programs in place and to establish new partnerships with the private sector to create new economic opportunities for our people.
Energy: As your Senator, I will propose legislation that seeks to advance clean and renewable energy efforts for homeowners and at our government agencies. We must also remain cognizant of efforts at the national level to eliminate fossil fuels as a primary energy source. I will support a full restructuring of the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s operations, with the salaries of upper management set based on performance. Transparency and new efficiency measures must be implemented to reduce overall operation expenses. WAPA’s high rates and unreliable service continue to drive up the cost of living and prevent meaningful economic growth. As a public instrumentality, WAPA’s management must be held accountable to the people of the Virgin Islands.
Crime: It is imperative that we take a more aggressive, grassroots approach to addressing gun crimes and domestic violence, while forming stronger partnerships between local law enforcement and the community organizations and federal agencies that can assist us. With a greater emphasis on conflict resolution, economic and educational opportunity, and support for struggling families, we can work to prevent crime and violence in our neighborhoods by addressing many of its root causes. This is a community problem and, as your Senator, I will work to engage the entire community in finding solutions, to include revitalizing the Virgin Islands Clergy Peace Coalition and partnering with the non-profit groups that have a track record of success in crime prevention. We must also establish viable rehabilitation programs for those in the criminal justice system and steer these offenders toward a better life.
GERS: Restructuring is necessary at the Government Employees Retirement System to reverse decades of poor policy decisions and safeguard solvency. We must designate a new, dedicated funding source for GERS, ensure we have a board qualified to make these important financial decisions, and institute reforms, such as increasing the current cap on contributions for those making higher salaries – providing an immediate infusion of funds into the system. We cannot allow benefits to be cut for our retirees and working collectively to address our retirement system must be the 34th Legislature’s highest priority.
Small Business: Our Economic Development Authority and RT Park programs must be required do more for local and small businesses in terms of tax incentives and support for new enterprises, particularly in the technology sector. As your Senator, I will also work to further streamline the Government services necessary to do business here in the Territory and to advocate for greater assistance to small entrepreneurs navigating the complexities of bidding on government contracts.
Environment: Environmental protection and beautification efforts have fallen by the wayside, especially since Hurricanes Irma and Maria. We must do better to protect our rich natural and cultural heritage to include, strengthening partnerships with local non-profit organizations, supporting source separation recycling programs, pushing for enforcement of litter and Coastal Zone Management laws, cleaning up debris and other eyesores, and ensuring compliance with the mandated cleanup efforts associated with the former refinery operations and our landfills. I will also support better land use planning initiatives to assure property is appropriately designated for housing, recreation, hotel development, industry, and conservation.
Progress for all! ¡Progreso para todos!