Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Island Spirit
Off Broadway offering
The cast and crew of The Play Buffet put on a great evening of entertainment in their opening performances last weekend. I was pleasantly surprised by the good scripts and generally excellent performances. Segments ranged from a convoluted plot murder mystery to a heart rending retro childhood piece and a lot of other interesting stuff in between. The nearly full theater at American Memorial Park gave the performers a rousing ovation at the surprising conclusion. It’s the best 5 bucks I have spent in a long time.

I recommend that you go see one of the last two performances. This Thursday Mar. 13th and Friday March 14th again at the AMP Theater, 7PM. The Saipan Swim Club is on hand to supply your snacking needs at intermission. The cookies and fruit snacks are great and the proceeds benefit the team and it’s hard training member’s travel fund.
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Numbskull-nomics II

A couple of months ago I razzed Ron Hodges for his ill-advised threat letter to the editor. In fairness I will now praise him for a smart move.

I saw another letter to the editor from classroom teacher Ron Hodges last week in which he formally resigned from the Chamber of Commerce. I got a pretty good laugh out of it (breath exhaling smirk-wise) and asked myself the obvious question: what took him so long?It reminds me of the unbalanced, and of course anonymous, birdbrain who posted repeatedly on Jeff Turbitt’s blog a while back about how he disliked it and how badly it was written etc. Jeff answered the guy by stating the obvious; then why do you keep coming back to read it? Jeff went on to ask the guy if he repeatedly went back to restaurants he didn’t like. At least the unhappy blogger wasn’t paying to attend Jeff’s Hypercritical Thoughts blogsite as Ron was paying dues to flagellate himself over membership in the Chamber.

Ron, who disagrees with most everything the Chamber does and says, is probably far better off as a non-member. The Chamber (which I also belong to) may miss out on an important opposing viewpoint from time to time but I’m sure Ron won’t be too shy to post that view in some other forum.Good move, Ron. You’ll feel better now.

With, or without Ron, the Chamber does a lot of good on our small island. From sponsoring a variety of charity events to providing a large number of deserving student scholarships to focusing the attention of the government and the public on many important business related issues. Saipan Chamber of Commerce meetings are held once monthly, usually in a large hotel meeting room and are often highlighted by an interesting keynote speaker. The public is invited and I would recommend you attend a meeting now and again even if you are not part of the business community. Why? Because it is almost always interesting and you will probably learn some interesting facts….the food is usually pretty good too. Membership is open to all but you do not have to be a member to attend meetings or presentations. Contact Kyle Calabrese, the Chamber’s Executive Director at 233-7150 about membership or about monthly meeting times and places.
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Unfair Advantage

A good friend of mine is having a problem with our government. I’ll not reveal his name so as not to embarrass him but I will relate his difficulty because it highlights a recurring problem many citizens on the island face right now. He owes the government but can’t pay because the government owes him.

Last year legislation was passed that allowed for monetary offsets, both consensual and unilateral between citizens and the various government agencies to which they owed funds or from which they were owed monies. That seemed a pretty good idea and a reasonable one. You owe Pocket A and Pocket B (same government pants) owes you; simply offset the debts and move on. As I understand it that legislation was modified, then repealed and the truth is, I don’t know what the status really is now. Perhaps legislative legal council will write in answer and advise citizens where things stand.

In my friend’s case, he owes CDA for a loan granted him. The loan is secured by a piece of property that was taken from him back in the early 90s and for which he has not yet been compensated. So DPL, of which CDA is a part, owes this man money and has made a written offer to finally pay which has been accepted by the owner. Problem is CDA does not trust DPL to pay off and won’t accept the assignment of a written promise of payment from its fellow agency. To make matters worse, 40 million bucks of the land compensation monies were held in trust by, CDA itself making it seem really odd that it didn’t just pay itself the amount outstanding since the owner had already assigned any money owed to him, back to them.

CDA now want to foreclose and take my friends property from him in five years if the other agency (DLA) which took the land and has not paid for it does not do so within that 5 years. My friend says, and I think rightfully; You guys over there in Pocket A go collect from my funds already located in Pocket B and leave me alone.

This is beginning to sound confusing. It isn’t. My friend has assets and has offered them in payment. The government agency in question won’t accept his payment because payment is coming from its own parent agency, which they apparently don’t trust to pay. The same agency that took the land to begin with and has not yet paid for it. If that sounds fair to you, you must have taken your Economics 101 course from the Attila the Hun College of Slash and Burn Technology.

This is just one example of the many ways in which offsetting debts seems reasonable and should be made available to government agencies and to citizens alike. Not all are this clear cut, not all involve large sums like this. Not all are as easily solved as this one could be but all deserve a reasonable and just resolution. The Government should get its due, as should its citizens.

I don’t have a particular axe to grind in this respect and don’t owe CDA or any other government agency any money. But if I did and they also owed me some money I would think it reasonable if we just swapped paperwork and both went on our merry way. I think my friend and the possibly hundreds of other people who find themselves in the same predicament should be able to do it the easy way instead of the hard way.

Could you folks at the agencies in question please talk with each other and try to settle this? Thank you. I am sure both sides are reasonable and just need the right enabling laws and circumstances to the right thing.
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Island Spirit
I would be remiss if I did not mention a few words about the moving Dedication Ceremony held in honor of local diver, entrepreneur and friend ‘Ben Ki’ Concepcion at Marpi’s Grotto dive site over the weekend. Attended by scores of friends and well wishers the dedication of a monument to his memory was a heartfelt outpouring of thanks by many on this island and elsewhere around the world that were touched by Ben. Ben always had a smile on his face and had an aura of generosity and kindness about him.

Almost single handedly he was responsible for finding and developing the scuba dive sites tourists and residents alike still use today. He, more than anyone, is responsible for developing that part of the tourist experience here on Saipan, Tinian and Rota. Ben will be and is now sorely missed by many who knew and loved him. The Monument is a fitting tribute to a life well spent.
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Quotes of the week:
Promises make debt, and debt makes promises. Dutch Proverb

What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt and has a clear conscience? Adam Smith (1723 – 1790)

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