In case no one noticed the fine print 

POLITICIANS opposed to this administration now run the House of Representatives where all revenue-raising, tax and budget-related measures must originate. The majority bloc members are in charge of standing committees that review bills pertaining to the CNMI government budget, public health, public education, public safety, the utilities, the gaming industry, the cannabis industry, etc., etc.

Those who were “out” in the previous Legislature are now “in” House leadership positions. They can set the House agenda and — depending on their Republican ally (who may or may not have committed political hara-kiri) — they can pass most if not almost all of the measures mentioned in their campaign platform. These include “legislation that puts the people of the Commonwealth first above all special interests” — a political pledge that NMI voters have heard since the TT days and probably even earlier, and whose meaning depends on who’s saying it.

They also promised to “work to improve the fiscal responsibility, performance, and efficiency of our government”; to “support increased investments in our Commonwealth's healthcare system, and work to expand access to affordable and quality healthcare for all CNMI residents.” They likewise vowed “to work to develop a diversified and sustainable economy that will improve the standard of living for all of our people,” and “support the growth and development of locally owned small businesses.”

Notice, however, the lawyerly placement of what the uncharitable would call “weasel words”:  work and support. They will “work” and they will “support.” They didn’t exactly say, like the Lord in the Book of Genesis: Let there be improved government efficiency; or affordable and quality healthcare; or diversified and sustainable economy; or improved standard of living; or growth of small businesses.

No. They said they will “work” and “support” all those lovely things. Talking about working and supporting is still work, right? So there you go.

If the new House leadership will continue to do what they, as minority bloc members, did in the previous Legislature, which was to talk, a lot, then that’s probably for the good of the CNMI. We wouldn’t have to deal with more ill-advised but “popular” legislation introduced by politicians who think that passing laws is the same as enforcing them or producing the intended results with no unforeseen consequences.

Now if any of the current lawmakers truly believe — like previous elected officials believed and said out loud, repeatedly, through all these many years —  that the government spends too much; that education (PSS, NMC, NMTI) and public health need more funding; that the economy must be diversified; that agriculture or raising unicorns, etc. has potential — then introduce the necessary legislation. Walk the talk, for once.

Like Max Aguon

LITTERING and illegal dumping are persistent problems in many places all over the world, but Saipan community volunteer Max Aguon says he has noticed that most people who gather at beaches and their pavilions are using trash bins or taking their trash with them.

Of course, illegal dumping continues in certain areas, but the preferred “solution” of some politicians — which is to, what else, create yet another government program — could be worse. To cite a more recent example, transforming  NMTI into a public entity has not resulted in more funding for the trade school (spoiler alert: funding comes mainly from revenue generated by the economy and collected by the government). Yet some politicians are actually talking about saddling the government with yet another financial obligation. Who’s paying this time? How much? Will the new program require the hiring of (government) personnel?  And equipment? And an office, among other things? Again, who’s paying?

Let’s say the government decides to hire a private entity instead to perform island-wide trash collection. What if the bidding process results in the filing of protests and/or lawsuits? And if the contract is finally awarded and implemented, will the contractor get paid on time? And what happens when the government can’t afford to pay or has stopped making payments, and the contractor refuses to pick up the trash?

Littering and illegal dumping are serious concerns — which is why there is a law against these activities. Why not enforce it instead while encouraging more cleanup activities, and commending and celebrating community volunteers like Max Aguon who walk the talk.

Editor

Zaldy Dandan is the recipient of the Best Editorial Writer Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the CNMI Humanities Award for Outstanding Contributions to Journalism. His three books are available on amazon.com

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