Invisible Pitchforks to the V.I. Tourism Department and to Tourism Commissioner Joe Boschulte for either doing nothing to promote tourism or doing it in a way that’s invisible. Are there any fresh initiatives? Any innovations? Is there any outreach to potential sources of new tourists? To be blunt: Is there any effort? Our Tourism commissioner seems to have taken a seven-month mental vacation and is just relying on the tired old “we built it and they will come” plan. But that concept was ceasing to work even before the COVID-19 shutdown. Industry experts and V.I. business leaders have been warning for several years that “we built it and they’re not coming.” That’s because other destinations not only have beautiful beaches, they have added a bounty of enticements, and they’re busy working to take away what we’ve taken for granted for decades. Predators are circling the napping elephant.
Barbados is a perfect example. That island’s government has recognized opportunity in the crisis and is using this time period to transform itself into the hub of tourism in the southern Caribbean. Their efforts may well turn them into the hub of the whole Caribbean. Barbados’ Tourism Ministry is working with the cruise lines to turn the island into the homeport for cruise ships, meaning itineraries would begin and end in Barbados — thus boosting hotel overnight stays. The Barbados government is also positioning the island as the southern regional hub for air travel, making the island an ideal stopover for travelers passing through to other destinations. Those are just a few of Barbados’ big plans in progress, and to the west, Jamaica is coming up with plenty of its own ways to not only recover from the shutdown but to lure tourists away from the Virgin Islands.
Meanwhile, it looks like the V.I Tourism Commissioner has virtually put a sign on the department’s door saying, “Don’t Wake Us Until It’s Over.”
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Halo to The St. John Committee of the Coastal Zone Management Commission for unanimously saying “No!” to a request to put a 120-foot floating bar-restaurant and eight moorings in a pristine area of Pillsbury Sound between Grass Cay, which is a wildlife sanctuary, and Mingo Cay, which is a turtle nesting site. Over the years, the various CZM committees have not always made environmental and safety concerns the top priority, so the decision on this application is to be applauded.
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Pitchforks to V.I. government leaders for ignoring needs of the elderly and their families, now in the COVID-19 pandemic but also in years past. The government has procrastinated taking any effective action to address the lack of skilled nursing facilities. The elderly who are sick, fragile and unable to fend for themselves have no place to go. Their families have no means and methods to provide care at home, but the families have no other options. Nearly every politician idealizes senior citizens while campaigning — and then forgets them.
Can anything be done? Yes. Right now, applications have been submitted to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority to access federal funds for the construction of two skilled nursing facilities. So what’s the holdup? Human Services can’t make progress until the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (them again!) supplies necessary information. The governor needs to see this situation for the tragedy that it is and use his position to stir the VIHFA into action. Now, not later.
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Halos to the animal rescue volunteers who had accomplished the monumentally difficult task of getting many homeless cats and dogs from the Virgin Islands to stateside shelters and adoptive homes. The logistics of just arranging the air travel is astounding, not to mention organizing the people involved in getting the animals to the right places and to the right people.
The territory’s three shelters are still impossibly crowded with abandoned pets and those pets’ inevitable offspring, which are the result of animals being left in the wild.
Pitchfork to owners who won’t spay/neuter in the ignorant belief that it robs the animals of “pleasure.” That’s a classic example of projecting human traits and physiology onto animals. Vets all know what a cruel mistake it is for a man to think his male dog is a “man” or for a woman to think her female pet wants to have babies.
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Pitchfork to Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. for removing David Silverman from the Coastal Zone Management Commission’s St. John Committee just three weeks before his term was set to expire. Silverman is a well-qualified, respected and experienced asset on the committee. The governor said he sees a conflict of interest in Silverman’s past and present opposition to a planned mega-marina, Summer’s End in Coral Bay. Meanwhile, the governor himself has failed to see any conflict of interest issues in the hiring of his wife for a custom-made, high-paying government job or in the fast-tracking of his daughter’s company for a $1 million government contract. Hypocrisy starts to loom large in the scenario when you consider that the governor was quick to pounce when, according to Silverman, St. John CZM Committee member Brion Morrisette reportedly asked him to remove Silverman on the basis of “conflict of interest.” Did the governor forget that Morrisette has done work for the Summer’s End Group, or does the governor need to look up the term “conflict of interest” in the dictionary.
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Dumb Desperados Award this week goes to the Gang That Couldn’t Think Straight, robbed a St. Thomas jewelry store in broad daylight, then totally botched their getaway. Even though one of the suspects told police he and two others had planned the caper the night before, apparently they failed to notice that in all famous heist movies — “Ocean’s 11,” for example — success requires finesse. Instead, these masterminds parked a noticeable white Vitara in front of the store, right where a surveillance camera could see it and see the occupants. They stormed in, wearing black ski masks and brandishing guns, and demanded that the safe be opened. When an employee did not know how to open it, they just did a quick smash-and-grab and ran out, jumped into the Vitara and sped away. They still might have gotten away with the crime, but they chose to ditch the white Vitara on a heavily traveled road and jump into a red Toyota. This caught observers’ attention, and police were called. Now the chase was on. In Bovoni, the police saw men jump out of the Toyota and run off into the bush “dropping numerous items,” as the officers’ report put it. Sealing the robbers’ fate was the ample evidence they left behind, including a black ski mask, jewelry with the store tags still attached and, guess what: the ignition key to the white Vitara. In the end, the gang didn’t end up with gold and silver, but they sure did deliver themselves to police on a silver platter.