Fifth Constitutional Convention should learn from Rothschild Francis
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This letter on behalf of VI-ABC (Virgin Islanders for a Better Community) is to commemorate the work and dedication of civic leader Rothschild Francis, who was born on Oct. 5, 1891 and died on April 25, 1963.
Francis was the first V. I. legislator to introduce a bill to create a permanent form of civilian government. His foray into politics was born of consideration of the plight of the people. To address the needs, he engaged in the diligent study of various government ideals from people as diverse as Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Karl Marx.
His design was founded on the idea of greater self-government to address social oppression and economic development. It was to minimize the inherent autocratic political powers in order to maximize the social and economic well being in the islands.
In comparison, the current constitution initiative, which appears to be void of ideals and due diligence, failed to perform critical needs assessment that considers the social, historical and cultural, as well as operational, organizational and economic factors that need to be resolved in the process of improving the government.
Consequently, many difficult questions have not been identified or resolved. Therefore, Constitution Conventions 5 and 5.5 should be laid to rest.
The new constitution should not be a frivolous endeavor. Therefore, professionals in the field of public administration should assist with the development and presentation of constitution options that are suitable for the current and future Virgin Islands.
The constitution design teams could objectively evaluate the economic, social and political needs by assessing the history and culture, island logistics, population demographics, intergovernmental relations, budgeting, taxation, human resource management, natural resource management, zoning, environmental protection, planning and efficiency and effectiveness in government operations. The complexity of issues in the Virgin Islands requires a comprehensive approach.
Due to a legacy of colonialism in government, the current system is unable to produce an objective process. The new constitution should include all provisions necessary to establish a government that is capable of responding to current and future internal and external dynamics that may occur in the progression of globalization.
The current approach to developing a constitution is misguided because it lacks adequate preliminary research, objectives and guidelines that come from a needs assessment.
Adequate consideration of Virgin Islands history and culture, as well as evaluation of the failures of the previous conventions, could have provided valuable insight for the successful development of a new constitution.
Policy analysis is a tool that enables organizations to learn. Five failed constitution conventions confirm that the government is not learning.
The organization of the Fifth Constitutional Convention did not include the input or guidance of organization design and change, and policy analysis professionals.
According to modern public management standards, it was an amateur attempt to produce an official document that represents the Virgin Islands.
Surely, a government with more than 100,000 people, complex island logistics and historic baggage would start such an important initiative with research and development performed by public policy institutions such as state research universities or qualified county or city management staff.
However, the Virgin Islands' colonial government format has no county or city management system. It operates without research, development and planning systems.
The Fifth Constitutional Convention only considered the political aspects of government and the legality of implementation. Government is much more than a political and legal system. The political and legal authority should be secondary to the desired social and economic structures and framework. In other words, they "put the cart before the horse."
In sum, the Virgin Islands already has a constitution named the Organic Act. A new constitution should be significantly better and be free from unintended harmful effects.
Rather than perpetuating political symbolism, it would be better to change the name of the Organic Act to the Constitution until there are elected officials who are willing and able to address the complex issues in the interest of the people of the Virgin Islands. In colloquial terms, the 5.5 is a 6 for a 9.
Unfortunately, 5.5 would only provide a dose of nostalgia for doing what the founding fathers did more than 200 years ago, and provide the political symbolism that comes with having a constitution. It does nothing to move the Virgin Islands forward out of the era of colonialism. It revisits it.
If 5.5 passed the low level of scrutiny it has been given and is certified legal by the squad of lawyers, it would do more harm than good. There would be far-reaching and irreversible negative social, political and economic impacts for the foreseeable future. The 5.0 convention failed to perform proper impact studies and assessments on the applicable initiatives in the document.
Finally, 5.5 is a waste of government funds that could be better used to contract research universities to produce the research and development needed to create viable constitution options. Hopefully, the politicians would see it fit to stop the tail chasing protocols.
The ideals of greater self-government to address social reform and economic development championed by Rothschild Francis cannot be achieved via the 5.5 Convention. As the elders would say, let sleeping dogs lie.
- Dale Francis, of St. Thomas, is a management consultant/public policy analyst with Virgin Islanders for A Better Community. Contact him at: Thequelbemethod@yahoo.com.