With the COVID vaccine being dispersed worldwide, hope of new things to come for us all has become real. Few can disagree that 2020 was the hardest year of our lives. We still have a way to go, perhaps longer than we want to admit, but now we can actually begin to dream about getting back to our old lives.
However, all Virgin Islanders now have to think about how much of that old life we really want back. With time on our hands right now, it may be a good idea to plan what we want to leave in the dust, kick to the curb and just plain get rid of.
Do we really want more of the old? Or do we, as a community seeking betterment, move forward with newer ideas?
The old includes Virgin Islands problems we have hoped to fix for decades and have had no success. Do we continue with false promises to GERS members that their pensions will continue or do we enact a reasonable fix to the entire broken system? Do we have a newer, brighter, tourism plan? Will we promote the V.I.’s history and natural beauty, and provide amenities to visitors or do we continue to lose our tourism base due to basics such as lack of clean restrooms? Are we going to hold accountable those in official capacity who let our grants expire unused, fail to report on time and just don’t do their job, or do we ignore it all due to nepotism? Will we aggressively collect property and business taxes, or complain when we have no public money?
Are we finally going to insist that taxis and safaris queue up for passengers in our city centers, as most historical cities require, or do we continue with the old screaming and trolling of “back to the ship?” Will aggressive barkers be back on the streets or will visitors stroll down our shopping district peaceably? Have we enacted rules and regulations on wild, selective government spending or will we let credit card use go unchecked as in the past? Are we going to insist that owners of historic properties maintain them or forfeit them? Will we put on the market our government-owned abandoned buildings that are deteriorating and bringing in no revenue to our public purse, or do we sell them? Will we get our act together once and for all with WAPA?
Are we moving forward with determination for more inventive ways as a community, with prioritizing our homeless, mentally ill, and children, or is it going to be more of what we have now? Will we support our nonprofits or outlaw lavish inaugural parties, cars for senators, meals, travel and government waste such as additional days off? Will we hold the V.I. Division of Festivals accountable?
Now that Zoom meetings have become a reality, will officials resume flying back and forth to St. Croix for meetings, earning additional daily stipends and meal vouchers or will they meet via computer screens? Will we all move together as a whole, rather than as individuals, with power grabbing the best of what is, to the detriment of the many?
Change takes courage. As a community who has survived a hundred-year pandemic together, we should be able to choose change. We should be capable of throwing out the old. Sticking with the outdated and unworkable ways is not the way forward. And while change may be difficult and frightening, with many resisting, it’s now time to throw out the old and bring in the new.
— Maria Ferreras is a longtime St. Thomas resident and community volunteer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.