Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, April 29th., 2008

5 ul get ya 10
There has been a movement afoot to force CNMI Judges to accept a pay cut along with other government employees. You might think that Judges are earning too much, but without question they could be earning a lot more in private practice. To attract and keep reasonably talented persons as judges we need to offer them reasonable incentives. Salaries in the very lowest six-figure range seem fair compensation for such work. We rely on them to be fair and to make difficult and often unpopular decisions for us. They should be paid well to keep them from being too easily swayed by outside influences.

Our CNMI Constitution forbids, and rightfully so, the reduction of a sitting judge’s salary. If the legislature or the executive branch was allowed to reduce salaries of the Judicial Branch, judicial independence would be lost and the basic tenet of separation of powers would be lost. Without that separation too much power would devolve to the other branches leaving the citizenry open to more exploitation.

Contrary to some opinions, I see no reason why a Judge cannot voluntarily act to reduce his own salary as a show of solidarity and equality with his fellow government workers should they have to have their pay cut. A judge could opt to donate 10% of his salary to the general fund, a particular Agency or to some favorite charity if he so chooses. It is extremely important, however, that he or she makes that decision without forceful intervention from other branches of government for the reasons outlined above.
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Twenty more lashes
On another subject, maybe that public job/private job salary difference is what has caused Judge Govendo to jail the Malite estate attorneys for 30 days because he thinks they were paid too much for their services. They got a million-two for their work and he only got a buck twenty for his. They were released after serving their ‘contempt’ time as stipulated. Now he apparently wants to jail them indefinitely without even a hearing, not to mention a trial, until they make him feel better by coughing up the fees. How long can he keep them in jail without a trial? I’m not an attorney, I don’t even play one on TV, but I seem to remember something about due process being required to incarcerate people.
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Bring your DD-214

As a reminder to all veterans of the US armed forces, the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs urges all Veterans to register with that office as a CNMI resident Veteran. It costs nothing but a few minutes of your time and might just lead to getting a VA sponsored clinic on island if there are enough vets to warrant it. Call Ruth Coleman at 664-2650.
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Book ‘em Dano

Our new DPS department head, Clyde Norita, seems hell bent on enforcing the laws around here. I don’t agree with some of them, the taxi sting, where private property is confiscated without due process as an example …but that is not the point. Clyde’s job is to enforce the law and that is what he is doing. Others have the responsibility to make or change the law. Still others have a responsibility to point out inconsistencies or injustices and try to get lawmakers to amend existing laws or to generate new ones.

Fair, even handed and equal enforcement of existing statutes is vital to keeping the social fabric intact and gaining the respect and cooperation of citizens in abiding by our laws. Mr. Norita seems intent on making the presence of the Police visibly known and making sure they enforce as fairly as possibly. He and his officers should be commended.
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Advertisio Flagranto

A case in point would be false advertising claims. A matter for the Attorney General rather than the police. We see a lot more of the ‘bait and switch’ tactic advertisements published around here than would be allowed in a US market or other world markets. In this scheme, an item is advertised, when the customer arrives it is not in stock and no ‘rain check’ is allowed for later purchase. It is of course suggested you buy the higher priced item they just happen to have.

Airlines seem to be among the most flagrant violators of false prices advertising. You know the drill, the $329 to Hong Kong fare emblazoned across the newspaper ad really adds up to a $740 ticket when all the fine print is read and they are finally ready to charge your credit card. In fact there is a phrase called “plusplus” currently in use here that describes this, I’m sure you have heard it many times. “How much is the new airfare to Hawaii?” goes the question. “$1200 plus plus plus plus plus.” Goes the response.

Others similarly guilty would be grocery stores, department stores and others offering sales on items they actually have in very limited stock. Another area that could use some enforcement is price tags on merchandise. The law clearly stipulates that all items will carry price tags. They are actually found on less than 30 % of the items in stores here. These gripes fall pretty far down on the priority list of enforcement when budgets are cut to the bone and affected agencies are short of personnel.
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Bigamy gets expensive
While I am a proponent of user fee based charges for government services, one that rankles is the ‘police report’. A couple of years ago one stood in 2 different lines at the Guma’ Hustisia, paid $5 and came away with a sheet of paper that said you had no adverse police record. Now we still stand in the lines but pay $15; the fee has tripled. If the House of Representatives has its way, we will soon pay $30 for the same 4 milliseconds of computer time and 1 minute of personnel time. Can we say gouge?

HB 16-90 seeks to increase user fees for a variety of licenses, permits and services offered by or enforced by our government. In a couple of months you will be paying more, a lot more, for your drivers license, your car and boat registration, your copies of public documents and a many more items required by government fiat. Even marriage licenses are due to go up in price. Try not to get more than one.

Hidden inside 16-90 are some other ‘fund raising’ ideas. It calls for a reduction from 18% to 11% on co payments made by the government to employees retirement fund benefit plan. Considering that no, nada, zero payments have been made into the retirement fund the last two years and darned few in the last 8 years, it is hard to conceive of how any money will be saved by paying less in the future. Less than nothing is….well, still nothing.

Some reprogramming of funds by the Governor and the Legislative Councils will be allowed if 16-90 passes into law and CUC will be allowed to spend, yes spend the deposit money it holds in trust for its customers. Additionally, a few million here and there will be shuffled around, mostly to benefit and subsidize CUC so it can buy fuel. Why does CUC need money to buy fuel? Because the Legislature restricted how much they could charge. This sounds a bit like the revolving door principal at work.
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Quotes of the week:
REPRESENTATIVE, n. In national politics, a member of the Lower House in this world, and without discernible hope of promotion in the next. Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914)

Moses dragged us for 40 years through the desert to bring us to the one place in the Middle East where there was no oil. Golda Meir (1898 – 1978) former Prime Minister of Israel

1 comment:

KAP said...

If a few thousand less in salary makes them vulnerable to outside influences, we've got the wrong judges. You're not talking about Third World traffic cops.

It's not the amount, except in comparison to everyone else and the sacrifices they're making. Besides, their retirement would still be a sweet little boondoggle.