Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, August 14th

Treat Christensen with the respect she deserves.

Changing Times
Big Changes in Garapan and Beach Road

There is a movement afoot to radically alter the way central (western) Garapan looks and how it works as a commercial space. The same initiative also seeks to change the look and use of Beach Road properties all the way from Garapan down to about the Microl Toyota intersection.

The plan, if approved, is to be implemented and enforced through the use of direct government intervention via the Zoning Board. The proposed strategy is called the Garapan and Beach Road Revitalization Plan.

There will be a public meeting held tonight, August 14th at 6:30 PM in the Multipurpose Center in Susupe. There are probably thousands of Saipan citizens who will be impacted by this rule making system including those who live or work or own businesses along the several mile swath to be rezoned and reconstructed. Your chance to discuss the draft proposal and comment on the impact it will have and to offer any ideas you may have will be most visible tonight.

I urge you to attend the hearing this evening and express your views and ideas. This plan has the potential to turn the affected areas into a world class tourist destination. There will be costs, of course, including coming up with the money to implement it. There may be costs in personal or business displacement or increased cost to your business, leasehold, home or property. While there are costs there are also considerable benefits to be derived. Balancing those is the challenge.

You owe it to yourself and the community to learn about this plan and to offer your input tonight. While written comments will be accepted until Aug., 27th. your personal presence and voice is far more likely to be regarded in any decisions to alter or modify the draft plan.
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Zoning Regulation Law
On a related but different topic, it should be noted that the whole concept of zoning regulation and zoning law still sits on very shaky ground. The original Saipan zoning regulations and enabling legislation was originally passed back in 1993 but was repealed a couple of years later in ’95. The current zoning board and the department being put in place to administer and enforce the old zoning regs hinges solely on the ‘opinion’ of a past Attorney General who opined that even though legislatively repealed, the regs could still be used.

If the movement to have central government control of zoning on the island is to continue a new zoning enablement law will have to be enacted and soon. Then a new zoning code and the attendant regulations can be drawn up with assurance that they are legally enforceable. At stake is the way new construction is built and sited, which businesses can locate where, retroactive changes to existing buildings and possibly homes and a host of other important and life changing rules. Right now Steve Tilley and his department of 1 forge ahead gamely trying to generate ideas and plans to better the island, but they are walking around on legal quicksand. If you support this concept you should be talking to your Legislators.

Sugar King Bling
Saipan Mayor Juan B. Tudela has done a great job carrying the responsibility given to him by the then MPLA to develop, operate and maintain the Sugar King Estate in Garapan. The recent completion and opening of the phase one amphitheater at the Park is a notable accomplishment. Organizing the designers and the builders, acquiring and focusing the funds necessary, and keeping the whole thing from bogging down is a big job and the Mayor has done it well.

The project has 3 more phases to go before it is completed. The design looks great, except for fencing the entire Park. Fences are built to keep people out. Parks should be built to attract people in. There are other ways to deal with vandalism and crowd control other than fences. That is my only gripe, and is pretty unimportant when compared to the value of the new Park as a themed attraction.

By stressing ‘heritage tourism’ this project is a prime example of how our tourism industry can best be improved by showcasing how we are different culturally and historically, from other destinations. Lots of places have sun and sand; no others have the unique history and cultural diversity that we in the CNMI do. This project to improve our attraction infrastructure should be followed by other improvements in other areas. The results will be more people visiting to see the new attractions who then go home and tell their friends about the interesting and entertaining things they saw and did here.
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Change your own laws
I have been perplexed as to why many CNMI residents who are originally from the mainland or have spent a lot of time there are such big admirers of the movement that seeks to federalize our system and wrest control away from the local population to whom local governance was promised via the Covenant.

In a lengthy conversation the other night with a group of these individuals it came to me that some of them don’t rally like the CNMI. Their arguments weren’t for federal takeover as much as they were against local governance. They don’t like the cultural diversity here; they want the ‘stability’ that a one-size-fits-all set of laws imposes on them. It makes them comfortable. In short, they don’t want to see the CNMI continue, they want this to be America. They don’t want to see the CNMI strive to be better, different culturally, but still aligned voluntarily with the US. They want this to become Omaha, or Sandusky or Tulsa. They want this to be a pea in the American pod. Voluntary local identity and governance scares them. They cover that fear with vague statements about human dignity, forgetting that political slaves or colonies are not very dignified.

We must keep a sharp eye on maintaining our cultural identity or the US will swallow this wonderfully diverse place up and spit out Iowa, corn and all, in its place. The coming hearing on Wednesday will focus on a variety of contentious issues, but the very real issue of whether the CNMI is to be forced into a US jello mold of conformity will probably go unmentioned.

It is claimed that the reason the feds are so zealous in their bid to assume command here is out of fairness or security, but I think the real reasons are they want to staff the coming military build up in Guam with thousands of workers from the CNMI since their own immigration laws won’t allow for the importation of that many foreign nationals. I say let them change their own worker visa and immigration laws to allow more workers in rather than decimate local self government here to hide their own inadequacies. If workers here or elsewhere would rather leave and go to Guam, let them do so, as immigrants under a special US visa program. There is no need to kill the growing democracy of the CNMI to accomplish that. There are plenty of other people in those home countries that would jump at the chance to come here and work under vastly better conditions than they have at home as replacements for those who want to leave. There is another reason the feds want to rule the roost here, but that will have to wait for another time as we are out of time and space and you, dear reader, are probably out of patience.
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Quotes of the week: Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks. Doug Larson

All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Bruce A. Bateman writes Sour Grapes when the moon is full and the mood strikes. Stay tuned for each exciting episode.
“Yes, he is opinionated.”
Email: bbateman@pticom.comBlog: http://saipanuvian.blogspot.com/


BoReGo said...

I appreciate your comments about heritage tourism. Like many others I wish we could just accentuate what's good and beautiful about the CNMI, these things draw tourists. Why turn an island into some urban boonies?

Jeff said...

Bruce, my man, this comment is especially off:

In a lengthy conversation the other night with a group of these individuals it came to me that some of them don’t really like the CNMI. Their arguments weren’t for federal takeover as much as they were against local governance. They don’t like the cultural diversity here; they want the ‘stability’ that a one-size-fits-all set of laws imposes on them. It makes them comfortable. In short, they don’t want to see the CNMI continue, they want this to be America.

Bruce, they think the wages are exploitative, and that's about it. They feel bad for people with American children trapped here on $3.05 and now $3.55. They've read the garment factory horror stories, and others, and they don't trust this government, which can't keep the power on, to do much of anything right. I don't particularly trust this government to be effective on anything. That is their track record, sorry.

I loathe with every fiber in my being the Bush Administration and everything it has done. That doesn't mean I dislike America.

Anyone who doesn't like it here tends to leave. I've seen lots of them.

I also don't have a clue where you get the, they hate cultural diversity thing from. I really don't.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

You're right Boni. "Developing" the north half of Saipan, paving it over and inducing urban sprawl there will only detract from our tourist revenue. Parks, cultural activities and like projects will enhance tourist traffic....and make Saipan a better place to live as well.

Jeff: For the group I was talking about, the comment is not 'off'. These particular folks I was having a discussion with the other evening could care less about the human rights issues you bring up in your post, or in our conversations. I know that you are not opposed to cultural diversity or self governance nor is the group of bloggers, divers etc, but I assure you the folks I was talking with over at Bobby Cadillacs the other evening are.

As my column indicated I had been puzzled over some period of time as to why they were so vehement in their hatred of things local, and I finally was able to recognize the real basis of their arguments and it sure looks to me like they want good old comfy America right here in Pacific Asia. The sneers on their faces as we discussed local people and their right to self governance gave away the underlying hatred as did their words.

As to trusting local government or Federal government...I 'trust' neither, but I think local has a better chance of being receptive to local needs and can be counted on to be more flexible. As to believing that the US will keep our power on, or be effective in what they accomplish, I need only point out the pathetic track record they have in immigration/labor relations/foreign exploitation etc right in their own back yard.

You err when you think the US cares about this rock...they will use it as self interest (or revenge, or greed) dictates and will cast us off like an used kleenex when it does not.

I'm not claiming that all mainlanders share this anti-diversity, 'fear of others' belief, far from it, but there are some, no quite a few, of them who do. They feel threatened and they feel jealous that some locals have succeeded in improving their lot.

This post is getting too long, so I'll close, but I ask you to try to identify this strange mixture in those you talk with. You won't find it often, but it is abhorant when you do. It was for me the other evening when I ran accross it. Hate glared out of their eyes.

Jeff said...

I thought you were talking about us liberals. If the good doesn't outweigh the bad, I don't know why they would stay. It still does for me, despite my critical nature.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Me too, Jeff. I love it here, all the negative hype to the contrary notwithstanding.

I, and a few others, would like to see this place go all the way and declare it's Independence. Chances? Zero. But it's fun to hypothecate.

Either way, I have moved here for good. I'll stay until they scatter my ashes.