Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, November 20th

Back Pats All Around

Congrats candidates
Our collective thanks should go out to all candidates in the recent election. Not just those chosen by the voters to have a part in our self-government over the next few years, but all those with the courage and conviction to offer themselves for office.

It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and either cheer a favored candidate or boo one whose stance we don’t like. It is much more difficult to get off one’s duff and get out there in the fray battling for a coveted legislative position or putting forward a citizens initiative or trying to be part of the solution by being on a Board or other high responsibility office.

It is also easy to say ‘well, they are only running for the salary or the perks or the prestige or because they like working in the shining citadel atop Capital Hill’ (obviously joking there). Yeah, maybe so, but where were you and where was I when it came time to put a name in the hat and put in the work, take the political punches (sometimes dirty), take the personal risks and spend the money only perhaps to not be selected? We were sitting on those previously mentioned duffs.

Every one of you, good, bad or indifferent deserves a heartfelt thanks for taking the plunge and having the guts to hold yourself up for public inspection and possible ridicule. You have my utmost gratitude as of today for fighting the good fight. If you were elected, however, I reserve the right to ridicule you later…that too comes with the territory.
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Congrats Rota

With the passage of the Rota Casino Act is appears that our little economic brother, Rota, may become the economic powerhouse of the CNMI someday. Or maybe not. There is a huge amount of work to do. The task is immense and difficult but it can be done.

Since the Rotarian citizens are starting with a nearly clean slate they will have the chance to make their casino operations just right for their own sense of island cultural integrity and will be able to make those cash producing businesses fit the mold of their own image of themselves. Architecturally they can choose to approve those styles that meet the cultural criteria they want tourists and visitors to feel when they visit Rota in ever increasing numbers.

With Guam right next door boasting over a million tourists a year and having a large and growing military population to draw from, Rota should have a jump start on the problem of ‘who do we want to attract?’. They should go after those groups and should set up a transportation system as soon as possible to get them there. Boats to ferry passengers and planes to deliver them to Rota’s front doorstep should be a high priority.

Infrastructure will have to be revamped, organizations and regulations put into place and lots more, but build it, promote it and they will come. Congratulations to all of you on the beautiful island of Rota.
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Congrats Tan Holdings

35 years in the region and 25 years right here in the Northern Marianas is quite an accomplishment. Only a few other businesses can boast of a similar longevity, and only a tiny handful has been serving the community longer. The Tan group of businesses take a lot of heat, as do most large enterprises. No business can operate without making mistakes and I suppose they have made their share. But no business can stay in business that long without doing things right far more often than wrong or without being useful not harmful to their customers and neighbors.

The question I ask myself is ‘ How much better or worse would we be off right now if they had not been around all those years? And as a corollary ‘ What if Tan Holdings had chosen to pull their investments and their critical support out of this market a few years back when others did? The answers are obvious. We would have a much poorer economy and have far fewer goods and services available to us right now without them.

The array of goods and services provided by Tan holdings is really quite amazing and we, as a small island community owe them and other long established businesses here a debt of gratitude. Sure they have profited from it, if not they would not and could not remain here.

Before you grouse that I am sucking up to the Tan organization because they provide the newspaper vehicle that this column arrives on your doorstep in, let me say that over the time I have written this drivel, no matter the subject, no matter whether it praised or attacked their interests, no attempt has ever been made to guide or censor anything I have ever wanted to say in this column. An open and competitive press is another one of the things we can thank Tan Holdings for.

So thanks Tan Holdings and thanks Tan Family and all your employees for your foresight and your perseverance in adversity.
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Mud Bogging
Well the Judiciary, already the highest paid government workers in the country, have exempted themselves from the coming ‘unpaid holidays’ wage reductions. Nice of them to feather their own bed instead of recusing to have the question answered by a non affected party, say a judge from Guam. They say they might volunteer to teach at NMC as a way to help the government save but can’t (or won’t) voluntarily reduce their constitutionally protected salaries.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think they should be receiving high salaries. It hedges against possible moneyed influence. Higher pay also attracts higher caliber people. I do have a problem with them being able to say unilaterally that they cannot be part of an across the board cut in pay. They could, and in my opinion, should volunteer to take a salary cut if indeed an across the board cut is mandated.

We all see the need to keep the Legislature from being able to thwart the Judiciary by completely cutting off its funds or by reducing their salaries to zero in order to force them to rule in a particular way. That separation of powers and that Judicial freedom from coercion is absolutely needed to keep that Branch and its rulings fair and balanced. That said, I repeat the reasonableness of a voluntary reduction in pay if all the other government workers are required to take one. It shows their solidarity, their human side and their sense of fair play to do so. It will show the opposite to refuse.

I don’t begrudge the Judges a nice high salary. I’m not too happy, however, with an unpaid for court building that looks like (and costs like) the Taj Mahal and is kept solidly frozen by air conditioners at taxpayer expense. Maybe I’m aggravated because I only get to go there and gaze on its splendors while picking up a $15 police clearance so am not getting a full feeling of user paid gratification. By the way, have you ever wondered while standing there in that line why the Police drivers license computer can’t talk to the Police convicted criminals list computer or the Police traffic violators computer?

One last observation while we’re on the subject: I don’t quite get the connection between adjudicating in a clean well lit courtroom sequestered inside a marvelously paved parking lot; and the free use of big, V-8 engined 4 wheel drive Suv’s paid for by the taxpayers. I might feel better about that if they would bring ‘em out to the annual car show or over to the Marpi mud bogs on occasion just to let us see them in action.
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Quotes of the week:
Remember, “A Judge is a law student that gets to grade his own papers”. H.L. Mencken.

Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time. Chinese Proverb

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